February is the best month. February is the worst month. In February (and, to be more specific, the first half of February), anything you want to dream about is still possible and creeping disillusion hasn't yet settled in with regard to any aspect of your team, because the opportunity hasn't yet materialized for anything to go wrong. No catastrophic fluke injuries during an exhibition game or spring drills, no missing velocity or wonky mechanics, no tabloid-style rumors of clashing personalities or the like. The baseball itself is still absent (hence the "worst" part), but you can wishcast to the fullest and not have to witness any of it blowing up in your face -- not yet, at least.
In the spirit of wishing to the fullest on a day when the wishes of virtually every little kid throughout North Texas are being granted by another generous blanket of sleet/snow, here are three completely randomized baseball wishes relating to the upcoming season that hopefully read as a little more interesting than "I hope the Rangers win 95 games and Josh Hamiton wins another MVP and-":
- C.J. Wilson? Probably going to walk after 2011. Josh Hamilton? Probably going to demand more than what the Rangers are justifiably willing and able to pay given the inordinate amount of risk, and if you had a gun pointed to my temple and told me to peer into my crystal ball, I'd predict that he's going to walk after 2012. But Nelson Cruz? If you're a believer -- as I am -- that he can stick as a .280/.360/.540-type hitter with above-average defense in a corner outfield spot over the next four or so seasons (spanning ages 30-33), then you have to be at least somewhat on board with the idea of locking in his final three arbitration-eligible seasons at a set price, and then his first free agent-eligible season as well.
To put it another way, I guess what I'm really doing here is wishing that Cruz would be a guy that Texas elects to lock in beyond his current window of club control, with the key distinction between him and Wilson/Hamilton being that I perceive the circumstances to favor such a commitment actually materializing in Cruz's case more so than I do in the other two cases.
- Let's go ahead and acknowledge something right off the bat -- Ron Washington is going to say or do at least one thing (and probably more than one thing) during the 2011 season that infuriates the more saber-educated sect of the Rangers fan base. That isn't a knock on the manager's capabilities so much as it is mere recognition of an inevitability across all 30 teams. He's going to make and/or approve a questionable call that doesn't conform with sabermetric (or common) sense, it's going to blow up in his face, and people are going to be upset. And I hope that when that happens, I'm able to rein in my instantaneous reaction, remember what I wrote last October about the tactical imperfections inherent to every baseball manager, and provide a level-headed and objective take, rather than fly off the handle.
Because when you really sit down and think about it, the anger just isn't worth it. And I hope that when criticism is levied towards Washington by the Rangers community as a whole for whatever it is that he might have screwed up, that it can be intelligent and reasoned and direct, and not trail off into unconstructive attacks on his person or epithets. That said, I don't advocate sanitizing your opinions, or tempering your emotional investment in the games -- but then you shouldn't have to, anyway.
- It may be completely irrational, and I have no scientific or quantitative data to back up my gut feeling on this, but I really can't help it -- Josh Hamilton in center field scares the living hell out of me. The current composition of the roster basically dictates that he'll get a decent share of starts out there as a back-up, but if the incumbent at the position (Julio Borbon) limps out of the gates again in April, it's going to necessitate that much more playing time for Hamilton in center field, or the expenditure of money/trade assets to find a workable stop-gap measure. Every projection system that has issued 2011 forecasts to do has pegged Borbon in the .700-.715 OPS range, which is good enough. I'm desperately wishing that he hits that target, because I really do fear the consequences if he doesn't.