Well, I'm sure they don't draw them up like this. Coming out of the All-Star break, this was when guys were supposed to be fresh, rejuvenated, and ready to go for the rest of the season. Instead, the Rangers put on quite possibly their most sloppy display of baseball of the 2013 season thus far from top to bottom. Losers of 5 straight and 7 of 8, this wasn't at all the 2nd half start the Rangers wanted.
Yet, for all the talk about how the Rangers pitching staff is in dire straits, I can't help but think that pointing to pitching is oversimplifying the problem. Yes, you can't have Ross Wolf giving up 7 earned runs as he did on Saturday, but then again, he wasn't supposed to be in the rotation to begin with. As injuries have mounted, his role has been elevated to that of a spot starter for now, and that role will supposedly diminish as health returns to the Rangers.
Martin Perez was once again victimized by poor defense behind him, with the Rangers piling up two more errors and what should have been another -- having sat right behind him in the stands, I can attest that the ball never got into the sun, it just wasn't read well off of the bat -- on David Murphy.
Twice in the three-game series against Baltimore, Gary Pettis killed potential rallies with boneheaded mistakes. For all the talk about that one time in 2011 that Dave Anderson sent Josh Hamilton home, resulting in a lengthy DL stint for the slugger, at least that play was close. The mistakes Pettis has been making this year are of the indecisive variety, those of a coach that is unsure of himself, which can only make one wonder why him and Anderson were switched in the first place.
Nelson Cruz is still scared of the wall, which I feel needs no more explanation that the following animated GIF:
All around, yes, there are concerns about the pitching staff moving forward, but what conerns me more are the mental errors, the fundamental mistakes, and an inability to convert baserunners into runs scored.
The supposed Matt Garza trade that was rumored to go down at any moment has yet to materialize, and there are various rumors as to the health of either Garza or Mike Olt being the reason behind this. That trade could still happen, but I'm not as certain now as I was.
I fully expect the Rangers to be one of the teams in full pursuit of Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, the Cuban pitcher that has been granted free agency by Major League Baseball. He'll come at a financial cost, but for a team that, I contend, has a window of opportunity now, it's the kind of move that could potentially put the Rangers rotation over the top while the offense figures things out. Perhaps a Jake Peavy deal could be explored as well.
As for bats, Kendrys Morales would be a potentially available name that comes to mind. Lance Berkman's knees and hips haven't held up well over the last couple of months, and my confidence in getting anything of value from him moving forward is shaky, at best. Internal options right now are slim, as Manny Ramirez is struggling in AAA and Mike Olt -- who could potentially be a part of any deal for a pitcher -- is still working toward getting into a groove since coming back from his "vision issues" suffered earlier in the season.
Whatever the case may be, things simply can't continue as they are, and I mean that in several ways.
First, the baserunning mistakes can't continue. The Rangers have been caught stealing 26 times, good for 3rd most in Major League Baseball. That doesn't even include the number of times runners have been caught between bases in a moment of indecision. Poor fielding can't continue. For a team that's got the pieces to be elite defensively, there has to come a time when Ron Washington puts a little pressure on them. Perhaps he does behind closed doors, but nonetheless, it can't continue.
Second, this team isn't looking like it can win the AL West constructed as is. The DH spot has been a hole, and for now, the rotation is ailing. I believe Jon Daniels is exploring every possible avenue to make this team better, but it now seems that the team is operating a little more on the basis of need and not just want.
The good news for the Rangers is that they start a series against the Yankees tonight, who have been dealing with their own injury issues all season, and it should provide an opportunity for the Rangers to build some momentum. Yu Darvish will be back on the mound, and even if he isn't at the top of his game, he's sure to be more reliable than Ross Wolf was on Saturday.
All is not lost, as some polishing of the fundamentals will go a long way in helping the ball club regroup and start winning again. At the same time, what if that alone isn't enough anymore?
Coming out of the break, I had a great deal of confidence in the team as currently constructed, because we've seen the good results when things come together. However, the consistency isn't there, and I'm a good bit less confident today than I was 72 hours ago that this roster can come together and make it work without some help from the outside.