Texas Rangers: Catastrophic Week, Future Suddenly Bleak

The MLB trade deadline is rapidly approaching. Will there be some new faces in the clubhouse?
Photo Courtesy: Romelio Montero/Presidencia República Dominicana

By Wiley Singleton

When the Texas Rangers began their week last Monday it was as a team in the thick of the playoff race. The events that followed were a repulsive disgrace. 

Game 1 – The brutalization began early when the San Diego Padres came to town. The Pads are a young team and have the #1 ranked prospect in MLB, Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis is a 5 tool player who came into the league last year to extreme hype. Tatis has lived up to the hype, having around a 1.000 ops in both of his seasons. He is only 21 years old, and the antagonist of the only moment that matters from this game. The Rangers were getting their brains beat in after Jordan Lyles gave up 6 runs over 4 innings. One inept reliever after another came in to relieve Lyles. Jesse Chavez, who has never been particularly talented, was shelled again in this relief appearance. Not that it mattered, the Rangers have one of the worst offenses in the league; especially early in the game, but Chavez has been awful in close and long games alike. After Chavez finished making a fool of himself to the tune of giving up 3 runs over one measly inning, the inciting incident occurred. This incident would send a ripple through the baseball community and spark heated debate. The hapless Juan Nicasio was inserted to gargle the drippings of Jordan Lyles’ clownish performance. Nicasio loaded the bases and went 3-0 to aforementioned young superstar Tatis Jr. Everyone in the park (all 50 people) knows the pitcher is going to lay one in over the plate to not walk a run in. The pitcher knows the batter is less likely to swing at a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded. After all, the pitcher is clearly struggling to throw strikes and the batter would get the ass chewing of a lifetime if he swung at a ball to ground into a double play when the pitcher was self-destructing. This obvious and common strategic dynamic has led to one thing: usually batters do not swing 3-0 with the bases loaded. The pitcher knows it, and will often groove a pitch for a free strike. This happened to Tatis Jr, who sent the 3-0 meatball into the seats for a grand slam to make the game 14-3. The clueless Nicasio was yanked for Ian Gabaut, who immediately threw behind one of the most disliked players in baseball, Manny Machado. This sent a clear message: the Rangers were angry. About what you might ask? This was answered after the Rangers decimation was complete. 

Skipper Woodward noted it was bad etiquette to swing at a 3-0 pitch with a big lead. Woodward asserts this is one of those “unwritten rules” of baseball. This notion is absurd, for a multitude of reasons. First of all, this is not football. A team does not call a play (pass or run) to dictate the flow of offense. The batters take turns batting in individual 1v1s against the pitcher, the main reason why baseball is the best sport. The point of course being, in a game where stats matter greatly, especially individual numbers which result in big money contracts, giving away at bats because you are winning is stupid. Especially against AAA tier pitching with the bases loaded. If you are Tatis Jr, this is probably one of the best RBI opportunities he will have all season. Garbage pitcher, bases juiced, 3-0 count. That is a dream scenario for a hitter. Tatis did what any smart hitter would have done, and hit the incoming meatball. The pitcher should not be able to steal undeserved strikes because he was too inept to get the ball over the plate for the previous 6 batters. Woodward implied it was somehow bad manner or insulting for Tatis to swing on 3-0 with a lead like that. No Woody, it is not the young star hitting grand slams that is offensive, it is the product you put on the field every day that is offensive. Joke offenses incapable of getting a hit the 1st time through the lineup day after day are the Woody Special. Never forget one of the most important jobs of the modern manager is to construct a lineup that is cohesive and can score the first time through, especially in the first inning. Although pitchers do best 1st time through the order, the first inning can be a trouble inning for even the sharpest aces. An intelligent manager puts a tremendous amount of focus on the top 4 spots in the lineup. The top 4 spots are supposed to meld together to form the most consistent run scoring combination. The only thing consistent about the Rangers lineup is Woodward finds any reason he can to bench the highest paid player, Shin-Soo Choo. The other elements at play in this week-defining spat was the fact that the previous night the Rangers had almost come back from a huge deficit themselves. Meaning a lead is never too large to keep building on.

Woodward and the Rangers were roundly criticized for their foolish criticisms of one of the games’ best young players. MLB has been promoting a “let the kids play” style advertisement campaign in which they show the young players of the game showing more emotion and celebrating more. The MLB is desperately trying to break away from the perception of being a sport for old codgers. MLB wants the 21 year old top prospect to excel and enjoy doing it. Having bozos like Ian Gibaut throw behind the next batter because you got embarrassed is bad for the game. Having pitchers the quality of Gibaut in the game in general is bad for the game. That is why the Rangers were in this predicament to begin with: sending one AAA quality pitcher into the firing squad of the Padres lineup after another. Are the Padres supposed to lay down and strike out on purpose at a certain run differential? Is it 5 runs? 7 runs? 10 runs? At what point should a hitter stop trying and sacrifice their own numbers for the unearned pride of Chris Woodward? One would think considering the Rangers are dead last in run differential (NL and AL), Woodward would have made his policy on how many runs it is acceptable to lose by well known by now. Simply put, Woodward’s outrage over the grand slam was insipid and selfish. The baseball gods would proceed to punish the Rangers on scales not seen since the collapse of 2012. Loss 14-4. 

Game 2 – The repugnant actions of Game 1 were merely a sign of things to come. The Rangers would experience humiliation that goes beyond the bad press of crying about getting embarrassed by a team of kids. The Padres are the youngest team in the league and do not need etiquette lessons from a career 1.1 WAR player with less accomplishments than he has hair. More of the same for the Rangers occurred this game. The other team scored first, the Rangers were asleep for the first several innings. The Rangers consistently fall behind early. This leaves the players emotionally vacuous and deflated. The Rangers relied on Lance Lynn and Mike Minor to get them through last year. Both had 200+ IP and K’s. Minor has had a major regression and Lynn has been exceptional. Minor got blown up in this start as well: 3.2 IP, 6 ER. It is extremely troubling to consider the emotional toll of constantly playing from behind takes, especially if once you finally get the lead the garbage bullpen is almost certain to piss it away. The Rangers got out to a demoralizing, emotionally draining 6-0 deficit and never were a factor, because even after putting up 4 runs in the 4th, the bats went cold. The offense is garbage the first time through the lineup, and inept after the 6th inning. Which essentially means the offense is bad all the time; which one can deduce from the rock bottom run differential total. The Rangers are also bottom 3 (AL and NL) in batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage. In short, the offseason performance of Jon Daniels to fill gaping holes in the lineup was both tepid and uninspired. Daniels is never willing to fully commit. Daniels is snakebit over the failures of Prince Fielder and the overstated struggles of Shin-Soo Choo, for which JD has been roundly lambasted. Daniels looks rattled, unable to find the courage to truly make a gutsy move. The stated disdain for long-term deals and the lowball offer made to superstar free agent Anthony Rendon despite the gaping hole at 3rd base are proof of that. Daniels is a done man. Tragically, any sort of true warriors’ spirit seems to have gone out of JD with the 2015 ALDS. The Blue Jays reverse sweep was truly the end of any sort of Rangers dominance. A year by year history of JD’s Rangers career will be necessary after he gets fired this offseason, but this week was far too tumultuous to dive into that rabbit hole. However, the mental state of JD must be considered when the bleak future of this team is considered. Rangers fans have been waiting nearly 50 years for a title; having a lameduck GM without any spirit left behind his pupils in the driver’s seat during a crucial time in the teams history is troubling. Even the most dim and vapid JD apologists are starting to get fed up with 15 years of ineptitude. The half-ass efforts of this offseason go together like oil and water with the foolish and short-sighted decisions like trading Kyle Hendricks for a half season of 5.50 ERA Ryan Dempster in 2012. The most annoying thing about JD is with the notable exception of the Cliff Lee trade, it never really felt like he was truly committed. Sure, there were moves like the Mike Adams trade that showed JD was in buy mode when it was laughably obvious to do so, but JD never really made the final big move to secure a title. The career of JD is defined by being unable to fully commit to something. When he got Cliff Lee (his magnum opus and a truly great trade) he gave up 2 nothing prospects and Justin Smoak, who was a stylistically identical copy to another the Rangers farm hand, Chris Davis. The point is, Daniels took very little risk making this deal. Two low level prospects, and an expendable prospect that struck out way too much he basically had 2 of. This, to get a proven, strikezone pounding ace that owned the AL favorite Yanks in last years World Series, in your first real chance season in 13 years? Yeah, I would say that move would be rather obvious. With the Rangers in a death spiral with less than a week left before the trade deadline, the Rangers not only have to decide if they are going to sell or not, but have to decide on what they will do with JD and Woodward. 

The Rangers have Lance Lynn under contract until 2021, and Gallo under contract until 2022. Gallo might have power and a good arm, but he has yet to develop into a true middle of the lineup threat. He is merely a walk or dong high strikeout player, lacking the consistency of an All Star. To list the details of the rest of the Rangers games this week would be pedantic and insufferable. They lost the rest of them. 2 more to Padres to complete a 4 game sweep. Then the worst team in the AL swept them to prove a point and the Rangers are legitimately at one of their lowest points in recent memory. It might not seem that bad, but with the trade deadline rapidly approaching, the Rangers might be better off completely selling and getting value for Gallo and Lynn. Gallo has the materialistic Scott Boris as an agent, and will almost certainly resign with a team not named the Rangers. He will probably never develop into a top flight slugger, and throwing money at him just because he is the only decent player on the roster below 30 is foolish. 

The Rangers choked and sputtered so badly they went from playoff team to total frauds. This might be one of the most damning weeks in team history. One repulsive week could cost the team their future franchise player and current ace. With only a week to act and equity on his assets falling rapidly, JD has to decide if he has the stones to dump assets. The more likely option is JD doing what he has done his whole career: putting in just enough effort to go around .500 and hoping that because it is the hapless Texas Rangers and not the New York Yankees he will keep his job. 

Upcoming Schedule – All Times Central

8/24   vs Athletics     7:05 p.m.
8/25   vs Athletics     7:05 p.m.
8/26   vs Athletics     7:05 p.m.
8/27   vs Athletics     5:37 p.m.
8/28   vs Dodgers     7:05 p.m.
8/29   vs Dodgers     6:05 p.m.
8/30   vs Dodgers     1:35 p.m.