The Dallas Mavericks lost Game 6 last night in the 1st round of the NBA playoffs. The loss was a historic one as it was the first time a number one seed had been upset by a number eight seed in a seven game series? So why am I writing about the Mavs on a blog about the Rangers? I believe that these teams have a lot in common. Yes, I understand that the Mavs have been to the playoffs for the last few years, and even the NBA finals last year. Yes, the Rangers haven�t been to the playoffs since 1999, but these teams are facing the same questions and I think the answers are the same.
The Mavericks are a team that have gone as far as they are going to go. They are a team on the decline. With several players that won�t play defense, the team with the NBA�s best record needs to trade several of their key players in order to win an NBA championship.
The Rangers haven�t had near the success of the Mavericks, but they are in the same position. The Rangers have built a team around a core set of players like Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock and Michael Young, but the team and it�s individual players have only declined in their performance in the last few years. As the Mavs should strongly consider trading Dirk Nowitzki in the off-season, the Rangers need to consider trading their key players. This team has a culture of losing, and even the hiring of the inspirational, yes-man, Ron Washington as manager has not been able to change the aura of this team.
The Rangers need to have a meeting with Michael Young and inform him of their decision to attempt to rebuild this team. If Young wants to stay, he can do so by enacting his no-trade clause. If Young disagrees with the idea of the rebuild, he can waive his no-trade clause and spend the next few years with a different team. Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock need to be traded between now and the trade deadline. Tex�s value should start to increase as he seems to be pulling himself out of a slump. Some team will think that they can squeeze the potential out of Blalock and will give up a good prospect for him. Other older players such as Otsuka, Sosa, Lofton, Cat, Padilla, Mahay, Wilkerson, and others are not going to be part of this team next year and should bring a handful of good prospects back in deals.
The team doesn�t need to rebuild its talent as much as it does it�s accepted culture of losing, but the only way to rebuild the culture of attitude on this team is to tear it down and build it back up. There are some pieces of this team that should stay. Ian Kinsler, Rob Tejeda, Nelson Cruz and the gaggle of young relievers are the positives for this team right now. What the Rangers really need is a clubhouse full of kids that don�t understand that they are supposed to lose. The Rangers need a team full of youth and vigor that play for the love of the game and not the money.
As I mentioned in a previous article, this is a team that needs to be build around speed, defense and hitters that work the count and get on base. If I�m the general manager, I hold a fire sale with all of the players mentioned above available for the highest bidder. I trade players over the next couple of months as to maximize their value as we get closer to the trade deadline.
The Rangers have got to find out what they have in some of their AAA players. There might just be a little bit of Tony Romo in Jason Botts or Patrick Crayton in Drew Meyer, but we can�t find out if we don�t try. As painful as it would be to watch, I would love to see the following lineup and rotation by the all-star break (obviously, this would be impacted by trades).
CF Freddy Guzman
SS Michael Young
2B Ian Kinsler
1B Jason Botts
RF Nelson Cruz
LF Marlon Byrd
DH Victor Diaz
C Gerald Laird
3B Tug Hulett (can he switch to 3B?)
Brandon McCarthy (after a stint in the pen)
Zeke Astacio or John Koronka or someone acquired in a trade?
One of those trade targets should be Red Sox uber-prospect Jacoby Ellsbury. We have got to find a way to trade for this guy. Surely the Red Sox would be interested in Akinori Otsuka and someone else. Ellsbury is in AA for Boston and his hitting an insane .452 / .518 / .644 line with a 1.162 OPS in 73 AB. Pretty incredible, but know that he hit .308 / .387 / .434 in 2006 in AA last year. Ellsbury is a classic CF with great defense, and might be ready for an August call-up if he were with the Rangers. The only knock on Ellsbury is his below-average arm.
Atlanta Braves GM John Schuerholz wrote a book in 2006 called �Built to Win� which chronicled his turn-around of the Braves from perennial losers to 14 consecutive division titles, 5 World Series appearances and 1 World Series between 1991 and 2005. I highly recommend reading it as the book explains how Schuerholz and Braves Manager Bobby Cox were able to take a team that had lost 90+ games four years in a row, to the World Series in 1991. The following is a quote from his book concerning his first meeting with all of the staff, coaches and players as the new GM of the Braves:
I left them with one of my favorite sayings, "Winners make commitments.
Losers make excuses." I reminded the people at that meeting there
had been enough excuses offered to the Atlanta area and our great
fans about why we haven't succeeded, why this team hasn't won,
why the seats were dirty, why the ballpark food wasn't very good,
why the ushers and parking attendants weren't more attentive or
pleasant. Why, why, why . . .
I pledged we were no longer going to offer excuses for those things.
Instead we were going to make commitments to fixing all of it. After all,
winners make commitments.
Good advice for a Rangers team that doesn't seem to have any direction at this point.