I’m genuinely surprised that there are so many voices singing the praises of the Texas Rangers. They’re being picked as a "darkhorse" team in the American League West by some; some are even picking them to win that division! Never mind that they’re far behind the Angels and Athletics in just about every category, but the Mariners have a way higher upside than the Rangers do.
The Texas Rangers are just emerging from under the thumb of Buck Showalter and the required mutiny that happens between Showalter and teams he manages after three or four years. They’ve got a new, inexperienced (though likable) manager who has stated that he’s going to be a "player’s" manager—–which means the inmates are going to be running the asylum; and a general manager and owner who don’t appear to have the faintest idea as to what they’re doing. They would be able to withstand all of that if they had a better starting rotation or lineup.
Kevin Millwood is a 215 inning, 15 win guy; I think at this point he can be trusted to deliver at least that. Vicente Padilla has great stuff, but there is an opinion that he may be the type that turns it up a notch when under the pressure of pitching for a contract or for his job and then retreats back into doing the bare minimum afterwards. With a manager who has stated that he’s going to be soft on his players, Padilla is a concern; but let’s be overly optimistic with Padilla and say he repeats last season’s 15-10. What next?
They have Brandon McCarthy, who was supposed to be inserted in the White Sox rotation this season; he was the man they supposedly traded Freddy Garcia to make room in the rotation for. Why did they then turn around and trade him? White Sox GM Ken Williams is not stupid; if he thought that McCarthy was going to be a low-cost, high-end starter, he wouldn’t have traded him. McCarthy didn’t pitch well at all this spring (although that doesn’t mean all that much), but it’s a major question as to what the Rangers are going to get out of him.
After that they have Robinson Tejeda who pitched well at times and poorly at times last season in 14 starts; he’s 25 and could be a serviceable starter or wind up back in the minors. Then they have journeyman Jamey Wright tabbed as their fifth starter. Wright may be useful for a team like the Yankees that is expected to contend and needs a long reliever and a fifth starter, but it’s a huge warning sign that he was able to beat out two young pitchers in John Koronka and Kameron Loe for a spot in the rotation.
The bullpen was supposed to be a strength and they have some talent down there. Akinori Otsuka pitched very well for them last season; but Eric Gagne is already on the disabled list. (See my blog about that: Red Flags For Gagne).
As for their lineup, they have a productive infield of Mark Teixeira, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Hank Blalock; but after that, what is there? Their outfield is not impressive at all even if both Sammy Sosa and Brad Wilkerson have decent comeback seasons. Young Nelson Cruz is all that is left from the disastrous and short-sighted trade for Carlos Lee and appears as though he’s going to be sharing time with Sosa in right field.
This is not a good team. I fail to see how anyone can legitimately think that the Texas Rangers are going to even be over .500, let alone contenders in a pretty good division. Am I missing something?
Check out my new book on the upcoming season: The Prince Of New York’s 2007 Baseball Preview