Today is NFL Draft Day, which I mention here because, with all due respect to the vast contingent of dual Cowboys/Rangers fans, today is probably going to be another one of those days that provides a great contrast as far as why the Cowboys are what they are today, and why the Rangers are what they are today, and why the former is still trying to chase down the latter with little success:
● We're now 19 games deep into the 2012 regular season, and the 15-4 Rangers still possess the major league runs-scored crown (107), with their runs-allowed total (52) being trumped only by the 14-4 Nationals, who have allowed just four fewer runs and have scored 39 fewer runs than Texas. The last-place Angels are mired in an 8.5-game hole with no apparent end to their misery in sight, and while the Athletics and Mariners still remain close enough to first place that they could theoretically -- albeit improbably -- reclaim a share of first place in a week's time, it's not clear that either wields the kind of firepower it might take to remain within striking distance of Texas in the grander scheme of things.
One of the realizations that has struck me in watching this team so beautifully ply its craft over these last three weeks is the ease with which they're doing what they're doing. They're making this look criminally easy. These aren't the Rangers of a couple of years ago who won enough games to claim a post-season spot, but, in doing so, acquired this reputation of being gritty and resourceful and adept at pulling comebacks out of their nether regions. Those teams came back and won games. The 2012 Rangers don't come back and win games, because they've figured out a way to cut out the entire step that makes comebacks necessary in the first place. They don't have to stun their opponents with this late-inning hocus-pocus anymore. Why screw around with all the dramatics when you can simply rip your opponent's face off in the first 5-6 innings instead?
● I vividly recall Mitch Moreland smashing a long home run early on in Surprise, followed immediately by a long procession of tweets to the general effect of "yeah, the wrist is fine again, Moreland is back." That, clearly, has not been the case through the first three weeks of the season, as Moreland entered Wednesday night's tilt sporting the sort of triple-slash line (.139/.225/.222) that tends to get you railroaded back to AAA-ball, or, provided your manager enjoys your company enough, benched. What's sort of interesting about those early struggles is that you can't really make out any discernable shifts in his plate discipline numbers -- the only thing that really stands out is that he's been fed more fastballs than ever before since the outset of the season (61.5 percent, going into Tuesday night), and has done nothing with them, as his line-drive and well-hit-ball rates have plunged into career-worst territory.
But, hey, 2-for-3 with a homer and a walk on Wednesday night, and all is right in Mitch Moreland's world again for at least 48 more hours. If it's the start of his big comeback, good. If it's not, we should probably anticipate having lots of Justin Morneau trade talk rammed down our throats for the next three-odd months, or get ready for an even more ample helping of Michael Young and Mike Napoli at first base throughout the summer months.
● Robbie Ross, Neftali Feliz, Mike Adams, and Joe Nathan hooked up for 5.2 innings of one-run relief behind Scott Feldman's vaguely passable spot start, thereby rendering Robbie Ross the first pitcher in major league history to record four relief wins in his first six career appearances, which is pretty cool even if you rightly despise the wins statistic and its constant misapplication. In 48 innings pitched this season, the Rangers' bullpen has now posted a 2.06 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 46-to-3, which is tantamount to telling the other team "alright, we're into the bullpen, so why don't you make this easy on yourselves and clamber back into your dugout and lay down and die."
● At some point down the road, the Rangers are going to lose a close game, and there will be a couple of bizarrely timed Elvis Andrus sacrifice bunts jotted down in the box score (such as there were tonight, when he dropped no-out sacrifice bunts in the fourth and sixth innings with the Yankees already clinging for dear life to the ropes), and we're going to end up with another protracted discussion on our hands about the relative merits of sacrifice bunting and when they should ideally be used and why Elvis's sac-bunting tendencies are something that still grate on saber-leaning Rangers fans with respect to Andrus and, to a certain degree, Ron Washington. But I can't do it right now. There's no point to doing it right now. This team is too damn good right now for me to get wound up over this right now.
● With the Yankees down to a two-strike, two-out count in the ninth inning and a sellout crowd roaring for Joe Nathan to go ahead and put New York out of its misery, a FOX Sports Southwest producer cut away to a shot of a fan holding up a sign reading "Thanks TAG [for the earlier on-camera acknowledgement], send me some cookies!", which spawned what was probably a 60-second soliloquy by Tom Grieve about cookies, snacks, cake balls, brownies, chocolate chips, lemon cupcakes, and submarine sandwiches. On the last strike of the game.
I can't decide if this is a purposeful and finely crafted bit, or if Grieve and/or the television guys are out to troll the viewing audience, or if everyone at the network is simply oblivious as far as when the appropriate time is to discuss food in the broadcast booth, but whatever the case, at least they can all hold their heads high in saying that they ran Josh Lewin out of town and cut out the off-topic jabber during the broadc ... oh.