Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Long, hot summer

While I would much rather focus on local news rather than national attention, one development did catch my eye in professional baseball this week. And no, it’s not the ever cheeseball coverage of Clemens and how he enjoys PB&J, nor is it on the mediocre Yankees who are talked about every day, for what reason is still unclear. Actually, I have noticed the Texas Rangers and how they have fallen from a decent, scrapiron squad, to miserably out of contention.

Honestly, this is a truly atrocious team. But lets look beneath the surface before judging their performance. The Rangers have a fairly dangerous lineup when on point. Shortstop Michael Young’s average is down, but he’s a pros pro and goes all out no matter the circumstances. Texas also has an elite power hitter in Mark Texeira, who, when hot, tanks balls to the deepest part of the yard. Even their outfield, an aging one, has been mildly productive. Sixty-year-old Kenny Lofton has been a pest at the top of the order and Sammy Sosa has possibly been the team’s best hitter.

Ofcourse, Texas’ pitching is not where it should be. Kevin Millwood has been out and even if he were in it wouldn’t matter. The Rangers have always been linked with poor pitching performances and this year is no different, ranking 29th out of the 30 big-league teams in ERA.

But above all else, Texas dismissed manager Buck Schowalter after last season. The reasoning behind GM Jon Daniels' decision was that Schowalter was too rough edged, that he didn’t relate to players well enough. Instead, Texas brought in Ron Washington, former coach of the Oakland A’s. Huge mistake. Under Schowalter, the Rangers were a gutty team, not the most talented of units but one that could not be discounted. They would scrap and claw for much of their production and were a constant thorn in the side of the opposition. Early in the year, Washington looks overmatched and the team is underachieving. In major league baseball, it is extremely difficult to make the jump from decent team to contender. As a result, front offices ditch and run quickly to try and shake things up. Did Texas think it would really be better with Washington over Schowalter? If so, it was foolish. The No. 1 key in pro sports is who’s running your team from the top. In this case, it’s Daniels and Texas is clearly running on empty. Here’s to another long summer in Arlington


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