"... Believe you me son I hate to do it just as bad as you hate to see it done ..." - Jay-Z, "Friend or Foe"
I'm finding myself in a very strange place right now, caught between two competing mindsets -- one holding that the Rangers are still in a comparatively good place and will prove themselves to be just fine if they ever attain a reasonable level of health, and the other driving me to succumb to my reactionary temptations and hold my quivering hand over the panic button. The time may very well arrive when panic and defeatism and that whole cavalcade of dark emotions are justified, but we're not there yet. I keep reminding myself of this, but the message loses a little bit more of its blunt impact with each successive loss.
Within the context of this deliberately short post, the "it" Jay-Z references would be a hypothetical recap of last night's proceedings. Candidly, I don't want to write such a thing, and you don't want to read it. I could aim the spotlight upon the utter absence of the low strike on the Rangers' end -- which rained down havoc upon C.J. Wilson in more ways than one -- or the fact that Texas mustered a pathetic two runs, but this is turning into the same old song and dance, and I can't deal with it this morning. It is perfectly reasonable to lodge complaints against uncontrollable elements of the game (e.g. umpiring) or presently rotten aspects of the team that will smooth out in due time (e.g. the offense), but that approach doesn't hold any kind of appeal for me this morning.
No, what I want to do is focus ever so briefly on that which the Rangers do have some amount of control over at this very moment: the bullpen. The same bullpen that put the game completely out of reach.
There have been a few different this-is-a-lost-cause moments already this season, but I will myself testify that the most hopeless moment of the season to date spanned the duration of Ryan Tucker's eighth-inning appearance -- a walk-single-double-walk sequence with no outs recorded. Meanwhile, Pedro Strop remains parked at Round Rock for the purpose of figuring out how to "slow the game down," even though, as Jason Parks and Jason Cole have both noted on Twitter, Strop isn't going to figure out how to do this and take the next logical step in his development by pitching in a low-pressure minor league environment.
You might audibly scoff at such a romantic notion as "development" when the Rangers are simultaneously fighting to keep their heads above the water line and working towards the static goal of repeating as American League champions, but here's the reality of the situation -- the bullpen cannot be fixed overnight. Heck, it may not end up being "fixed" in the conventional sense at any point this season ... but it can be improved, and if you're going to improve this thing, it's going to require reserving some amount of patience for sufficiently talented relief options. Strop may be subject to further growing pains, but he seems the kind of pitcher who could become a serious asset in very little time once the light bulb clicks on. The Rangers need that kind of pitcher with second-half impact potential a lot more right now than they do Ryan Tucker. The foundation needs to be put into place.
And, of course, the bullpen talent that's already on hand needs to perform at the level it's capable of performing at and used in such a way that its utility to the team is maximized. These aren't such outrageous possibilities to wish for. This thing isn't beyond salvation. The Rangers, as a whole, can and will rebound from this.
Or at least that's what I keep telling myself.