The Rangers are 23-39, have a .371 winning percentage, and are in last place in the AL West, 16.5 games behind in the division leading Angels and 10.5 games behind 3rd place Oakland. They are 12.5 games behind in the Wild Card Race. Their two best players are on the DL, and their best starting pitcher (who still has an ERA over 5) is a 4A pitcher/spot start call-up in OKC. As far as playoffs are concerned, the season is over. It's disappointing for the team and it is disappointing for its fans (of which I am not one), but it is also an amazing opportunity. There is no pressure. No matter what you do, you will not make the playoffs. Why not take this time to evaluate what you have and make decisions that will affect your future? However, the Rangers appear to be taking the opposite track. In the past couple of weeks:
- They activate Frank Cattalanotto after a 5-day rehab stint when he can't even play in the field because they want his "bat" in the lineup. Would that be the same bat that currently has a .181 batting average?
- They option Nelson Cruz to OKC. Cruz, who was first added to the 40-man roster in December, 2004, should be out of options after this season.
- They traded for veteran catcher Adam Melhuse just days after manager Ron Washington publicly berates starting catcher Gerald Laird, and sends rookie back-up catcher Chris Stewart down to OKC.
- They option Kam Loe to OKC. I believe Kam is also out options after this season.
My question to each of these moves is why? Maybe the thought process on Nelson Cruz is that he needs a few weeks down in the minors to get his timing back, build up his confidence or what not. That I could understand. What I can't understand is the argument that he lost his playing time to Sammy Sosa and, to a lesser extent, Marlon Byrd. And please don't give me the argument that Sammy is being "showcased". At best, you get a A-level prospect for him anyway. Maybe the thought process behind acquiring Melhuse is that he has a reputation for working well with young pitchers (though I don't remember hearing that) and with an ERA as high as the Rangers starters are currently sporting, he can work with them to get it down. If that's the rationale, I could get behind it. But they need to communicate that.
So I guess the next part, is what I think they should do. In a nutshell, play the kids. Call a team meeting and lay out your plans. Tell the players your goal is to evaluate and get better to compete for next year, and that you hope they are behind you because it will work out better for everyone in the end. Then get rid of anyone who is on a 1-yr deal and has value, anyone who grumbles about playing with the kids, or anyone who grumbles about losing playing time to the kids. I'm not proposing a total "blown it up and start over" plan...I'm merely saying that you should see what you got. My roster would be:
- Kevin Millwood
- Vincente Padilla
- Brandon McCarthy
- Robinson Tejeda
- Mike Wood
Run them out there every 5th day, and pitch them at least 5 innings. Tell them they have the rest of the season to prove to you they deserve a rotation spot next season.
- Aki Otsuka (or John Koronka if you trade Aki)
- CJ Wilson
- Wes Littleton
- Willie Eyre
- Frank Francisco
- Joaquin Benoit
- Kam Loe
Trade Eric Gagne for whatever you can get for him.
Position Players (starters):
- 1B: Mark Teixeira (but Brad Wilkerson or maybe Nate Gold while he is on the DL)
- 2B: Ian Kinsler
- SS: Mike Young
- 3B: Travis Metcalf
- RF: Victor Diaz
- CF: Marlon Byrd
- LF: Nelson Cruz
- DH: Jason Botts
- C: Gerald Laird
- Util: Ramon Vazquez
- Util: Frank Catalanotto
- Back-up Catcher: Melhuse or Chris Stewart
Trade anyone not on the above list for anything you can get. Rotate Catalanotto amongst the outfield to give them each 1 day off per week. Do the same thing with Vazquez in the infield.
Will this result in a 100+-loss season this year? Yes, good chance it will. But so may the current team. Will it upset Mike Young and Tex? Yeah, probably. But Mike signed an extension and Tex isn't resigning anyway, so who cares? With the roster I proposed you know by October where your needs are and you can go out and fill them. And I expect there will be a lot of holes. But at least that way, if you do trade Jason Botts or lose Nelson Cruz on a roster claim, at least you know what you lost. The only question is whether Rangers management have the stomach to do the right thing.