First, a disclaimer: Yes, I realize the Rangers are 28-21, and within a game of first place in the AL West. This isn't about that. It's about a baseball club that could probably afford to play a little better in order for the positive results to continue. If you're wrapped up in things like pitcher-batter matchups or Manager of the Year awards, this isn't for you. If that rubs you the wrong way, stop reading and pretend you never saw this.
If, however, you're at least a little curious and want some thoughts on what I think is some mismanagement of assets with the big league club, keep reading. I promise, I'll try to provide clear insight and back up my opinions.
After writing yesterday about Joey Gallo being unable to crack any of Jeff Banister's lineups this past week, Gallo was sent down to Triple-A Round Rock to make room for the return of Yu Darvish. It wasn't a surprising move, and honestly, probably for the best if Gallo wasn't going to get playing time. Which, judging by Jeff Banister's comments, was never going to happen.
According to Banister, there was never any scenario in which Gallo would have played anything but third base or DH while up with the big club. There was thought to giving him a start on Wednesday against the Angels, but apparently that went by the wayside because Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland had "good histories" against Hector Santiago.
For the record, neither player has even put up a .700 OPS against Santiago. So we have a manager that, two months of data be damned, is going to get "his guys" more at-bats because he *thinks* they've been successful against said pitcher. All the while, the organization's top prospect is sitting on the bench. Had Jeff Banister actually done his homework, he'd have known that -- beyond the fact that pitcher/hitter statistics are mostly useless because they occur over multiple seasons and in isolated situations -- neither player had actually fared all that well in the matchup. This was never about that.
It was always about Jeff Banister sticking with "his guys". And thus, we see how Jeff Banister, in year two, is actually hurting the Texas Rangers.
You see, in 2015, Banister was the new guy in the clubhouse. He didn't have too many preconceived notions about players, and certainly hadn't been around long enough for players to merit staying in the lineup for the sake of continuity. The Rangers started the season awful, and when that happened, he did whatever necessary to get things rolling. Sometimes, that included playing Joey Gallo in freaking center field. Other times, it meant throwing caution to the wind and putting Mike Napoli out in left field and taking whatever happens.
Now, in 2016, he's got "his guys", and the effect is something very Wash-esque. Many will remember Josh Hamilton's struggles down the stretch in 2012. What they won't often remember, however, was that Ron Washington's continued insistence on putting Michael Young's name on the lineup card day after day really hurt that team in the summer months.
We're seeing a lot of those same things now. And while Jeff Banister may provide upgrades in some situations, it's situations like Gallo's that leave me scratching my head. I can't speak for any sort of disconnect between the front office and Banister on "the plan" for Joey Gallo. I just don't know. However, I simply can't believe that the plan was actually for Gallo to come up for a week -- after missing significant time due to injury, no less -- and not actually get any meaningful at-bats.
Regardless of whether you're old-school or new-school, it's generally accepted that your prospects, especially those in the mold of Joey Gallo, need consistent at-bats to develop. Furthermore, Hanser Alberto is already your backup infielder on the roster. If there was never going to be a thought given to putting Joey Gallo in left field or at first base, what the hell was he doing up to begin with? If, as Banister says, he wasn't ready to handle those positions, him being called up due to anything short of an Adrian Beltre injury isn't only confusing, it's irresponsible.
Then we have the bullpen usage. We saw some of it at the end of 2015. It's my contention that it's partly to blame for Shawn Tolleson being so hopelessly broken this season. Prior to 2015, Tolleson's career high in appearances was 64 just the year before. So, having that information, Banister rode Tolleson and Keone Kela hard, culminating in an irresponsible move of pitching Tolleson five straight days at the end of the season.
Tolleson has been ineffective. Kela is out because of an arm injury. Is it all related? As with all of these things, it's tough to say for sure, but it's pretty well-accepted that over-working arms is detrimental to them.
So now, when Matt Bush pitches for a third straight day -- after never doing so, and after not touching a baseball for four years -- it's concerning. When Sam Dyson, on pace right now for 83 appearances on the season, comes in to pitch a 6-run game in which the Rangers are winning, it's more than concerning.
Only yesterday, I saw all sorts of outrage about a high school pitcher throwing 134 pitches in a game. And I get it. It makes sense. The arm is the most valuable commodity in baseball, and we're learning new things all the time about how to better care for them with a long-term outlook.
Despite all the information we have showing that it's decidedly bad for pitchers to go through the process of warming up, coming into high-stress situations, then having their body attempt to recover while doing it all again the next day... we're apparently OK with it. It's apparently OK if Sam Dyson's arm falls off. Just God, please, let it happen next year with some other team.
The fact is, these Rangers have overachieved just a little bit to this point. And Jeff Banister deserves at least a little bit of the credit for that. And yet, for all his talk about trusting in his guys and whatnot, it may be his misplaced trust in Prince Fielder and Mitch Moreland -- and a lack of trust in any bullpen pitcher not named Bush, Diekman, Barnette, or Dyson -- that ends up killing these 2016 Texas Rangers during the coming summer months.
Never Ever Quit is a great motivational catch-phrase. Unfortunately, it's empty and hollow if the manager doesn't show any willingness to adapt and chance. Love Jeff Banister the guy. As a player, I imagine I'd love playing for him. I just don't want that unwillingness to adapt to prevent this team from having a chance to win a 2nd consecutive AL West crown.