In spite of the occasional self-loathing I exude -- as a lifelong Rangers fan -- if there's one thing you could criticize me for when it comes to my favorite baseball team, it's that I'm too optimistic. It didn't take long in 2014 before Texas's script was already etched... they were simply too banged up to possess a worthwhile shot at the West. Immediately it was time to start looking forward, because what else is there to do?
Sure, it would have been easy to jump on the Michael Choice Is Garbage bandwagon, or join the Elvis Andrus Stinks At Hitting camp, or criticize any number of starters and relievers who failed to consistently produce quality innings. But what does that accomplish? In a losing season, I'd be missing the point if all I did was bitch about players who weren't even expected to be here in the first place.
Behind the ESPN Insider pay wall, Paul Swydan does exactly that in his apocalyptic take of the Rangers organization:
In Texas, we may be about to witness the beginning of a fire sale. The Rangers need to clean house. Despite landing two players on Keith Law's ranking of the top 25 players under 25 this year, Texas has an overall dearth of young talent with impact. Outside of those two young studs -- Martin Perez and Jurickson Profar, out for the season with a torn UCL and a shoulder muscle tear, respectively -- the team has little in the way of young players capable of making things better in the very short term.
Swydan then goes on to mention Rougned Odor, Michael Choice, Nick Martinez, Robbie Ross and Nick Tepesch as part of his reasoning why the Rangers have been so bad this year. On the surface, it passes the sniff test, because it's not like any of those guys have exactly set the world on fire. But on the other hand, it begs an important question for a team currently 19 games under .500, 21 games behind Oakland in the West:
What value were any of those players supposed to provide in 2014?
The answer is... very little. That's where Paul Swydan whiffs. But he takes it a step further in imagining where the Rangers go from here:
With the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels strangling the division, the Seattle Mariners looming as a threat, and the Houston Astros continuing to beef up, now is the time for the Rangers to start fresh. If they execute a long-term plan correctly and begin immediately, they may avoid the Astros' fate of three consecutive league-worst finishes.
I'm not an historian, and I don't have the credentials to qualify as a reputable forecaster, but haven't the Rangers won 90+ games in the four years leading up to this? Aren't we still only a half-season removed from the last time the team won 91 games? And now, according to Swydan, if they begin their fire sale immediately, they "may" avoid finishing in last place for the next three years?
Again, I'm not a professional in the industry, but that sentiment screams for attention in the small-sample-size overreaction department.
The problem with sports fandom, or, really, just about anything in the modern era we live in, is the concept of instant gratification. The Rangers are really, really bad this season. It's true. But fans are missing the boat when they allow for how bad the team is -- right now -- to affect what it will look like as early as next April. I'm under the assumption that if Texas was, let's say, only a couple games below .500 at the moment, we wouldn't see nearly as much noise from the national media or the fan base to basically trade away the entire team. Since the team is so bad, and since they are so bad right now, some correlate that to meaning it's going to be like this for the duration until Jon Daniels does something extravagant.
And he doesn't have to for the Rangers to be good again.
As early as Opening Day next year, the team is expected to have all of Jurickson Profar, Derek Holland and Prince Fielder healthy; Alexi Ogando and Tanner Scheppers should be back in the bullpen; Chi-Chi Gonzalez and Luke Jackson should be competing for roles; Joey Gallo will have had another 250-plus minor league plate appearances under his belt; Rougned Odor will have had nearly a full year of big league PAs; Shin-Soo Choo's ankle will be healthy... and so on.
Those are the players you should be mindful of. Not the scrubs who are currently contributing to Texas's worst season in over a decade.
I'm obviously sensitive to the notion that the Rangers are in desperate need of a fire sale to progress as a franchise, because since day one I've been of the mind that health is the one and only true catalyst to how horrific the club has looked. It just seems shortsighted to look at it any other way. It gives an excessive amount of credit to the secondary pieces and replacement-level parts that have made up this years squad, as if they were expected to be key contributors, and since they haven't played well that's why the Rangers are in the position they are in now.
If you read between the lines, you know that's a load of trash. I can write that with confidence.
However, I will say, if 2016 is the earliest the Rangers' Front Office expects to compete, then it would make perfect sense why they would trade players like Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus. Hell, if 2016 is the new target year to compete, then Yu Darvish should, too, be moved. Correct?
We'll see how it all plays out, but I'm having a hard time getting behind the idea that Texas could possibly be this bad moving forward unless they are completely riddled with injuries.