Late last night, David Schoenfield had an interesting piece up. Schoenfield is of course the head of the ESPN SweetSpot Network, and is almost always a good read, in case you haven't made your way over there for whatever reason or another.
In the piece, he makes some great points about how the franchise, only two years ago, appeared to be headed toward dominance in baseball. Of course, baseball happens.
No one could have predicted that, after one of the hottest starts we'd seen, Josh Hamilton would be a .257 hitter after May 10th.
Beyond Hamilton, Michael Young had just come off of a fantastic .854 OPS season in 2011 as primarily a DH, and when it became clear that he couldn't replicate in 2012 as he posted up a .683 OPS in 2012.
Yet, down the stretch in 2012, the prevailing thought was that the Oakland A's were somehow "lucky" and would eventually die. They didn't. The Rangers lost the AL West on the final day of the season, partialy due to Hamilton's dropped fly ball, and given his list of weird "injuries", it was just another reason for fans to run him out of town.
The pitching injuries obviously began in 2012, with both Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz falling victim to Tommy John surgery, but when 2013 began and Matt Harrison was virtually out for the entire season, and then Lewis was ruled out after requiring hip resurfacincg, it seemed to all be behind the organization. If only.
Pitching injuries haven't been the only issue. Aside from now Harrison, Martin Perez, and Derek Holland that will have missed significant time this season, position players like Jurickson Profar and Geovany Soto are also missing time.
That doesn't even include the fact that Adrian Beltre has missed time. Even Jim Adduci, who was barely in the lineup, fell victim to a currently-popular narrative that is calling out Major League Baseball on the bases, one on which Adduci fractured a finger sliding into on April 18.
More than just injuries, the 2nd base split that was Donnie Murphy and Josh Wilson is essentially done, as Murphy is on the DL and Wilson was DFA'd. Rougned Odor is currently manning 2nd base, and it remains to be seen how well he will adjust to Major League pitching, even though his defense has passed the eye test thus far, at least to me.
Dave goes on to mention that many of the top prospects in the system before 2012 haven't contributed to the Rangers thus far. Other than Leonys Martin and Rougned Odor -- who is admittedly only with the Rangers this soon because of Profar's injury -- many of the players are no longer with the club. Most now belong to the Cubs, while Cody Buckel, one of the former shining stars of the organization, is dealing with Steve Blass Disease. In other words, he simply can't find the strike zone despite having fantastic "stuff".
The most gut-wrenching part about Dave's analysis? The fact that run differential matters. I'm paraphrasing a bit, but it was clearly pointed out, and he's right. At some point, for this ball club to be competitive in 2014, the run differential has to change. With the starting rotation on the fritz, and by extension the bullpen, that puts the lineup right in the headlights. This is what Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo were brought in for: To team with Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios to create runs, and therefore wins, for the 2014 Rangers.
It's literally going to be a race. It may or may not be close. But hell, we'll all see each other at the finish line and find out.