It's July 5, and the Texas Rangers have now lost six straight games. The club is sitting dangerously close to actually being at the bottom of the AL West. Before you go looking, yes, I can assure you, the Astros are very close.
These types of things tend to happen when you go on losing streaks of six straight, or when you lose 14 of 16 games. Hell, as a matter of fact, in being swept in Baltimore this week, the Orioles managed to vault to the top of the AL East. It's really that bad for Texas.
As people are wont to do during times like these, we're all looking for a solution. Of course, by we, I'm referring to the fan base as a whole. Fire Ron Washington. Fire Jon Daniels. Fire Dave Magadan. We don't care who it is, but damnit, this team isn't showing it on the field, so someone needs to get the axe just to prove a point.
Oh, if life were only that easy. A quick firing of a coach/manager/executive or demotion of a struggling player, and all is good in the world again. However, that's not real life, and it's certainly not realistic baseball.
The Oakland A's are 53-33, 16 games ahead of the Rangers in the AL West. That ship has sailed. Still holding out hope for a wild card? Due to this recent stretch of putrid baseball, Texas is now 10 games out of a wild card spot.
It's not happening this year, and if the previous paragraph doesn't paint that picture clearly enough for you, I just don't know what will.
Yes, in the sense of accomplishing the ultimate goal, it is a "lost" season of sorts, and I'm sure myself and many others will throw that phrase out many times over the coming months. In another sense, however, this lost season is providing valuable experience and opportunities to guys that wouldn't have otherwise received those chances.
Rougned Odor is getting some of the most valuable on-the-job training you can get in the game of baseball, and if you believe those that have followed him much longer than myself, he's the type of player that has the proper makeup to not let the struggles get to him.
There was another player that was once pegged with a similar description, and coincidentally, he's still on the ball club. His name is Elvis Andrus.
Through all the talk of canning people, trading and unloading the entire roster, perhaps one of the most talked-about trade pieces among fans has been Andrus. A fan-favorite during times of success, Elvis has recently become a punching bag of sorts in fan circles which, I think, shows why none of us could ever realistically be a GM. We're too caught up in what we want now to see where things have been or where they might be going.
I know Eric mentioned some of this yesterday, and while he mentioned not understanding the fan sentiment, that's where perhaps I'm a bit different. I understand it. I just don't agree with it.
When Elvis Andrus signed a hefty contract extension that could put him in Ranger red and blue through his age-34 season, I'm sure the organization had hopes that his offensive skillset would develop a bit more. I'll be the first to agree that, to this point, it hasn't happened.
As we sit here, in 2014, it just seems like common sense has, in some ways, gone out the window, especially when it comes to Elvis. He'll be 26 by the end of the season. For comparison, George Springer of the Astros will be 25 by the end of the season, and he's only just now in his first foray into Major League Baseball. Troy Tulowitzki didn't really take off until he was in his age-24 season. While the scenario was a bit different, even Josh Hamilton didn't make an All-Star team until his age-27 season.
So Elvis Andrus is 25, and many are ready to throw in the towel. Yes, he's a bit older than Springer, and a little bit older than Tulowitzki was when he started gaining steam. These comparisons aren't even meant to insinuate that Elvis can or should become the same type of player as either one of them, and almost certainly not Hamilton. They're meant to set up my real question: Is Elvis Andrus really at an age where improvement in his game is an impossibility?
If you can answer yes to that question, then you've got much better foresight than most, and I'd imagine you're probably out buying lottery tickets, not watching baseball.
I also feel some context is important to consider as well. When Elvis was brought in before the 2009 season to man the SS position, he had a grand total of zero plate appearances above the AA level. At the time, the organization felt his defensive skillset was advanced enough to provide value to the roster as it was currently built, and, as it turns out, the organization was right.
The thing is, the Rangers didn't need Elvis to be an offensive juggernaut. From 2009-2012, the Rangers had rosters full of names like Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, and Mike Napoli. For most of those guys, it's indisputable that the Rangers got the best years of those players' careers while they were in Texas. For each one, during that stretch, each one had the ability to carry a lineup, even if there were one or two holes.
Over the past two seasons, however, whether it be injuries, trades, or players walking away in free agency, that protection in the lineup has no longer existed. Any hope that it would return this season with Prince Fielder's addition was quickly erased when it turned out that Fielder would need season-ending neck surgery.
In a way, the Rangers do need Elvis Andrus to advance his offensive game, at least more than they did from 2009-2012. That, more than anything, is potentially why he's been the prime -- at times unfairly -- target of fan trade scenarios in recent weeks. Offense, it's easy to quantify. When a guy gets on base, hits for power, or does something to drive in a run, we can look at numbers that back that up.
On defense, however, even the sabermetric community can't agree. They'll throw around things like Defensive Runs Saved, UZR, or UZR/150, and each one has their merits, and yet you'll have a difficult time getting many to agree on exactly what those are. To that, I say that if you can't watch Elvis field a ball at what is one of the premium defensive positions in baseball and be impressed, then you're not watching the same games I am.
So before you decide that he's peaked, he's not worth the trouble anymore, or he's overpaid, consider that maybe, just maybe, everything you thought you knew is wrong. Expectations have a funny way of altering the way we think sometimes, and perhaps setting aside those expectations, at least for the rest of this season, might allow us to more objectively take a look at the overall value Elvis Andrus can provide to the Texas Rangers, even if he's never the offensive player we'd all love him to be.