Trying To Remember What Never Happened

Just keep it consistent. That's what I say.

In blackjack, which -- like baseball -- is centered to varying degrees around probability and luck, customers typically devolve into a few categories:

  1. They hit 16 vs. 7/8/9/10/A; they hit their 12s when the dealer is showing a deuce; they are aggressive with their double downs.
  2. They stay on 16; sometimes they hit 12s and 13s when the dealer is showing a bust card; sometimes they double when they are supposed to, and sometimes they don't.
  3. They don't know what the hell they are doing.  

If you play blackjack correctly, and you have a big enough bank roll, you will eventually make money if you can stay at the table long enough. But consistency is the key. As a dealer, I don't get frustrated if players at my table are making incorrect plays... because over the small sample customers can win a ton of hands by operating like complete idiots, and I don't make money unless they make money. Conversely, a patron can consistently make the proper play and lose just as many. Usually it evens out. 

Over the large sample, being incapable of making correct moves will lose you much more than you win. Baseball is the same, in that sense. Chris Davis can hit .286/.370/.634 (167 wRC+) with 53 HRs in 2013, and he could hit .205/.320/.396 (94 wRC+) in a very down 2014 campaign. The truth isn't that he's an MVP candidate, and it's probably not that Davis is a replacement-level player; it's somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in his .259/.326/.499 (117 wRC+) career averages he's posted since 2008.

In 2011 when, along with Tommy Hunter, the Rangers shipped Davis to Baltimore for Koji Uehara, most (if not all) fans in Texas were on board with the decision. After all, Uehara was one of baseball's most dominant relievers, the Rangers needed bullpen help for their postseason run (that turned into a World Series berth), and Davis's potential was something Texas could no longer afford to wait on. Between 2008 and 2011, he posted a .252/.301/.448 (90 wRC+) triple slash line, good for a sub-replacement-level (-1.1) fWAR -- 35th out of 39 qualifying major league 1st baseman during that time frame. 

In 2013, Chris Davis put together the best 673 plate appearances of his lifetime, and that's all it took for the local media to ridicule Jon Daniels for the trade that occurred two years prior. In the midst of the great Jon Daniels vs. Nolan Ryan battle for supremacy, Nolan's newspaper goons came out in full force against the general manager -- no, President of Baseball Operations -- who produced the blueprint of one of baseball's model franchises. The media ignored the half-decade leading up to that point, and chose Chris Davis -- king of small sample glory -- as an appropriate catalyst to help get their collective anti-Daniels message across.

This year, Davis isn't the topic, because frankly he's proving himself to be the same, strikeout prone hitter he's always been. 

Nelson Cruz has been worth as much in 2014 (+2.6 fWAR) than in 2012 and '13 combined (+2.6) with Texas, according to FanGraphs.The new target -- the 2014 target -- for why Jon Daniels stinks at his job, is Nelson Cruz. About a week ago Brandon wrote a response to a Randy Galloway article, part of which centered around Galloway's hot take on Nellie:

This was Daniels’ ultimate mistake, and can be ranked as the biggest mistake made by a major league GM for this season.

Cruz, of course, is a prime American League MVP candidate for the Orioles, and works very cheap. His contract is one year, $8 million.

The killer is Nellie wanted to return to Arlington, and play for the same money the O’s offered. Daniels said no. Daniels lowballed his offer down to $6 million.

It's not my style to lie, so I'm not going to pretend I have sources in Texas like Randy Galloway has sources in Texas, but these statements are particularly baffling for two reasons. Most importantly, Daniels offered Cruz a $14.1 million qualifying offer. Did they know he would turn in down? Most likely. But they offered it.

Secondly, how many people were kicking and screaming last offseason for the Rangers to sign Nelson Cruz -- who, at age-34, was fresh off a three-year stretch hitting .263/.319/.489 (114 wRC+) -- and what difference would it have made to this year's team if he even was there? Two wins? 

Now that he's among the major league leaders in home runs, suddenly it's some grave mistake that Daniels didn't bring him back. Nelson Cruz's 383 plate appearances in 2014 have completely washed clean the 1,600 he participated in during his last three years in Texas, at least according to some.

That's obviously not right. 

Like Chris Davis, there wasn't ever a real surge of volunteers clamoring that Nellie stay in Texas. I imagine most people had -- either rationally or irrationally -- come to grips with the idea that the Rangers had already extracted Cruz's peak years, and, c'mon. He was entering his age-34 season. Injury-prone, power-hitting outfielders historically don't age well, and Jon Daniels reconciled that, with Shin-Soo Choo signed longterm, Leonys Martín pegged as the center fielder of the future, and Alex Rios under contract for 2014 (with a reasonable '15 option), Nelson's only real option in the lineup was as DH, a title he wasn't ready and/or willing to own as a Ranger.

What I'm saying is: I don't have to suspend disbelief very far to predict Nelson Cruz being talented enough to hit as well as he has been in 2014. But that doesn't change the logic behind why he's not putting up those numbers with Texas this season. Cruz didn't want to be a DH, the front office obviously felt like $8 million was more than the player was going to be worth, and the outfield was essentially already set. After losing their first round pick to Cincinnati for Choo, recouping a prospect for letting Cruz walk made even more sense. 

It was a smart business decision all the way around. It was true when it happened and it's still true today, regardless of how well Cruz played in the first 90 games of the season.