11 of the last 14: down the drain. The offense is potent one day, lifeless the next. The pitching staff has, overall, been great, with the exception of the occasional "uh oh" start or dubious decision by Ron Washington.
Overall, it's a Rangers team that's built differently from everything we've come to expect. The Texas Rangers were once synonymous with poor pitching, runs in bunches, and for playing in a ballpark that was a hitter's paradise. Yet this season, the norm has been flipped upside down, and with it, it's become damn near impossible to predict what the Rangers might bring to the table on any given day.
With that said, it should really come as no surprise that Ken Rosenthal is reporting a potentially new wrinkle in the timeline of this 2013 story of the Texas Rangers:
A potentially stunning new entry into the closer market. Story: http://t.co/tMwSkUi0Ed— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 28, 2013
For those that have yet to follow the link in Rosenthal's tweet, he reports that the Rangers "have had internal discussions about trading All-Star right-hander Joe Nathan".
Many fans might see such a move as a white flag to the 2013 season, a way to build for something down the road in an attempt to sweep one more season away into the books. On that, I disagree.
Throughout my many conversations with friends and other fans over the years, I've made my stance on closers known. The "save" statistic is something I feel only provides any useful value to the pitcher that stands to get paid based on it, and overall, a top-to-bottom bullpen built from a position of strength leaves a ballclub with many various options when it comes to decided who gets to "close" games.
The "elite" closers in baseball are far and few between. For every Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan, there are even more players such as Brian Wilson, Neftali Feliz, and Heath Bell, who were all once considered to be the top in the game, and yet eventually fell. Since many closers are expected to be able to bring the high heat with upper-90s fastballs on a consistent basis, many flame out within a few years due to wear and tear. It's a fate I believe the Cincinnatti Reds are sending flamethrower Aroldis Chapman to, more of an eventuality rather than anything. The most long-tenured closers in the game are often those such as Rivera that have something other than high heat. None has been more famous -- or effective -- than Rivera's cutter.
Regardless, every season, teams throw money or prospects at someone who is a "proven" closer in an attempt to guarantee late-inning success, and in my eyes, I think that's exactly why the Rangers have had this conversation. It remains to be seen whether or not they'll actually place Joe Nathan on the trading block, but like all smart teams, it wouldn't surprise me if they take some phone calls. 4 days remain to make a splash and trade for someone the Rangers can slide into the lineup, and Nathan could be a piece to such a trade. Failing that, he could likely bring some prospects in to make some other trade in the future.
As strong as this bullpen has been -- in my mind the best in Major League Baseball this season -- it's not a move that would upset me, as the team has plenty of other great pitchers to move around to different roles. Joakim Soria was somewhat of a gamble coming into this season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but it's a game that has paid off to this point, as Soria has returned to pristine form. Furthermore, with the number of pitchers slated to return from the DL within the next month or so, there just won't be enough room in the starting rotation for all of them, so the Rangers will have the good problem on their hands of picking through the best of the best, possibly strengthening a bullpen that has, in reality, kept this 2013 season alive, no matter how murky things appear to be at the moment.
The team isn't playing well right now. More often than not, it's the offense that's failed to live up to expectations. Maybe Jon Daniels can include Joe Nathan in a trade that brings someone in to help alleviate that problem. Maybe nothing happens at all. Whatever does (or doesn't) happen, at least entertaining the possibility is something that I feel would be very beneficial for a team that's merely limping through a bad stretch of baseball.
5 games back in the AL West isn't insurmountable, but it'll take some consistent baseball to make it all come together. Trading for Matt Garza last week was a sign that Daniels is committed to trying to remain relevant this season, and to that end, it leaves me with some hope that maybe, just maybe, the Rangers can do something similar to what the Dodgers have done recently and come together in all facets of the game to make things interesting.
If, when it's all said and done, the 2013 Texas Rangers can't make the postseason, it'll be a disappointing day, but it won't be because the front office explored the possibility of trading a pitcher that would almost certainly be the most coveted closer on the market if he were available. The games are played between the lines, and those lines have been almost mocking this team for the better part of a month. If putting Joe Nathan on the market helps alleviate that, or at least sets the franchise up for added success moving forward beyond only this season, I'll be content with that and understand that, in the words of Ron Washington, that's the way baseball go.