"You'd have to work pretty damned hard to find something to [complain] about or worry about right now, Rangers fans. Yep. Not a cloud in the ... wait. Who's going to fill Ogando's role in the bullpen? Crap." -MJH, 4/7/11
In the last three and a half weeks, any and all delusions of .600-plus winning percentage grandeur have been thoroughly shattered, the body count on the disabled list has piled up alarmingly fast, and public sentiment has devolved from complete and utter joy into something that more closely resembles a brew of concern, disgust, and perhaps even mild panic -- and yet there the Rangers remain, with one foot planted in the first-place sandbox for at least one more day. I mention this now as much for your benefit as for my own, for my belief that this team will still prevail in the long run is furnishing less and less comfort with each additional loss. Getting the big picture and getting ticked off are not mutually exclusive.
I remember remarking in the game chat sometime before the bottom of the seventh inning that I felt pretty confident the Rangers -- then clinging to a one-run lead -- would pull it out, in part because the ball was carrying so pitifully even for pitcher-friendly Safeco Field that I could hardly imagine any Mariners player collecting even a non-cheap extra-base hit, let alone a home run. In true we'll-find-a-way-to-lose -anyway fashion, Pedro Strop proceeded to scatter four singles that varied from the dinky bunt variety to glove-eluding grounders over the next two innings, allowed three earned runs, and made the decision for play for one run in the top of the eighth inning appear a tad short-sighted, particularly in view of the bullpen's currently unreliable state and the whole issue of trying to negotiate the last two innings without allowing another run.
[Just to add a little statistical backbone to this -- yes, when Kinsler dropped his no-out sacrifice bunt with Julio Borbon standing on first base in the top of the eighth inning, the Rangers' chances of scoring a single runjumped some 5-6 percent and to the point where a single run could then be expected to score around one-quarter of the time. Unfortunately, the chances of scoring more than a single run fell dramatically, and the chances of scoring no runs at all climbed as well. Given that Kinsler was already 1-for-2 with a walk on the night and riding a five-game hitting streak, and given the context of the game situation, you can construct a pretty convincing argument that the bunt was not the optimal call ... but, of course, this loss still ultimately falls upon the bullpen. I just wanted to take a moment to explain to any newcomers why you'll often find contempt directed towards the sacrifice bunt as an in-game strategy.]
And, of course, when it rains, it pours -- Alexi Ogando is smarting from a recurring blister that will probably end up catching up to him at some point (though hopefully not while he faces the Yankees this coming Sunday), but perhaps more significantly, Nelson Cruz is dealing with a tight right quadriceps muscle that will likely only heighten the necessity of summoning outfield help from Triple-A Round Rock, be it in the form of Endy Chavez or Craig Gentry. Let me just say this: I'm not outwardly worried by the thought of Texas falling hopelessly behind before they can heal up. No, what worries me is the thought of more injuries being piled on top of those that already exist. It's fun to think about what this team could do at full strength, but there's also no built-in assurance it ever will return to full strength or even near-full strength.
Now that I've been appropriately pessimistic for one morning, I'm confident I'll be able to flip that around tomorrow and point out some bright spots ... not that confidence worked out so well for me last time. Hmm. Hoping, then? Wait, that's reserved for fools. Confidence it is, then. Yeah, that's it.