We drove to Houston yesterday for our niece’s high school graduation party. It was a fun time, good weather, good party, swimming in the pool, everything you could want. Except I only got to see the last couple of innings of Saturday night’s game, and missed all of Sunday. Of course, when I say missed, I really mean was almost glad that I wasn’t able to watch, based on the reports of the games and the Rangers Replay post-game show we listened to on the way home (I listened to it, Marian and Josh watched Go Diego Go – DVDs are a godsend for small children on long car trips).
So when I say Dallas is burning, I really mean that the fans were burning up the airwaves with their condemnation of the Rangers, at all levels from player to owner. I don’t think I heard a good word all night. Everyone was talking about how we need to replace the owner, the GM, the manager, the players who whine, I think I even heard something about the ballboy in there too. There was general condemnation of the players and how they are performing, and some comments about things said within the clubhouse. Mention was made that Tex and Wash have had a couple of clashes in philosophy, which to me is interesting because I side with the folks who say that Wash is the manager and his philosophy goes, and Tex needs to live with it. On the other hand, I also think that Tex is a big bopper who needs to swing the bat. And on the third hand, I say again that I now think he will be out of here by the trade deadline. More disturbing though, and I couldn’t quite follow how this came about, was the suggestion that Michael Young had said he hadn’t signed a new contract to go through rebuilding – very dark shades of A-Rod and his pathetic ways of getting out. I hope Mikey doesn’t leave too, because to me and many others he is the soul of the team.
Now, I’m in the get rid of Tom Hicks camp, but to all those people calling, I say who are you going to replace him with? Which billionaire in the Dallas area will buy the team and do a better job? Someone suggested Mark Cuban should buy the Rangers instead of the Cubs, but it was rightly pointed out that the successful owners are generally those who have one team to concentrate on, not splitting their time between varied interests like Hicks does, and you know that when push comes to shove that Cuban will favor the Mavs every time. The problem with Hicks is that he doesn’t love the Rangers, he loves the money that comes with the Rangers. You see money in the back of everything he does, talking about investing in the team, and the area, when he’s really trying to start development in Arlington that will get money coming his way. He did the same with the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas, with his Victory Plaza stuff, and that time he was going to shut it down because the City of Dallas wasn’t going to play ball and give him $70 million in tax cuts. For those of you who don’t know, at the start of the year he bought the Liverpool soccer club in England, one of the most successful clubs in the world, and made all sorts of promises to them, too. I even saw one report from England that said how he’d built a fabulous new stadium for the Rangers, and is going to do the same for Liverpool. As Rangers fans know, Hicks had nothing to do with building the Ballpark, all he did was try and commercialize it. Liverpool fans, you can take this from a Rangers (and Arsenal) fan: Hicks will try and suck every penny out of your team and your city, and to hell with the quality of what is on the field.
Next down the line is Jon Daniels. The suggestion was that he is Hicks’ man all the way, just a puppet doing what the boss says. I don’t believe all of this, but in some ways it rings true. After all, Hicks hired him and he wouldn’t do that if he didn’t think he could control JD. As to his quality, he’s already made some bad decisions (the Adrian Gonzalez trade, and the Coco Cordero trade too), and not many good ones. Yes, Gagne will make a good chip at the trade deadline, if he stays healthy. Yes, Sosa will hit 600 here, which will make the Rangers famous for five minutes. But ultimately, with only a year and a half in charge, things haven’t looked good for Daniels. I almost feel he was chosen because he wouldn’t make much money, not compared to the bags of cash they handed John Hart to mess things up. Still, he has the job, and who legitimately do you want to be the GM? Anyone available that’s willing to come here and willing to work through the problems? No, I thought not. Besides, there’s a draft in a week, are you going to replace the GM right before that? Let alone that any new GM works with the previous guy’s players for three or four years in the majors, and five or six in the minors before they get to the big leagues, so he’s largely working with talent he inherited, not bought.
I’ve talked about Ron Washington before, too. Two months in, should he be fired? No, that’s also not long enough to be a fair go. Besides, waiting in the wings for the job is Art Howe. He did nothing as a manager in his career, 6 out of 14 years with a winning record, and four of those came with an A’s team that would have won with a blind donkey managing them, since they had the trinity of pitchers to carry the load. If you’re going to tear down the team, which it appears they will, there’s not much point changing managers, because the new guy is going to be tainted with the same losing brush as the current one. May as well let Wash run out a couple of years of losing, and bring in someone new to push them over the top when the team gets better. See Showalter, Buck for this strategy (speaking of, I guess the Rangers won’t keep alive the record of teams winning the World Series the year after he is fired. I knew they should have hired and fired him the same day, we could have won it all years ago).
Then there’s the players. Who comes in, who goes out? Do you play with youth and try again, just like about five years ago? We all saw how that turned out. Or do you do what Hicks tried when he got here, buy a bunch of veterans to get it done, and watch them all fall apart? No, the secret is planning and execution, just like in anything else. Unfortunately these take time, the infamous five year plan, and they’re tearing up their plan and starting again. However, as I showed the other day, history tells us that the Rangers are primed to succeed from 2010 onwards, so maybe getting that five year plan going now will help it come to fruition then.
Another thought for the fans saying that this team is terrible. Where have you been these last few years? From 2000-2006, the Rangers had the 21st best record in baseball, out of 30 teams. That means they’re a bottom third team, or at best a less than average. It’s not like recent history is showing good things, and all of a sudden they went bad. No, recent history is showing a streak of mediocrity, punctuated occasionally by some good performances (2004), but much more often a 70-90 type of team. This year they will sink a little lower, to a 60-100 level, but that’s not that much different, is it? Maybe in perception? As I’ve said before, maybe when you sink to the level of the Royals and Devil Rays, reality hits a little close to home. Yeah, we’d all like to win, but only one team a year does, and at least the Rangers start each year with hope before falling apart, not like the Royals who are a laughing stock to everybody else.
Finally, I guarantee the Rangers don’t lose tomorrow. Yes, I know, an old joke, but it’s about all we’ve got these days. But one good thing, the Tigers come to town this week, which means the return of Pudge. If I had to pick one all-time favorite player, it would be David Justice (I’ll tell you that story another day). But Pudge would be number two. It felt to me like the Rangers had won the World Series when he won it with Florida in 2002. We’ve already agreed that we will proudly be in Cooperstown to see him inducted one day. That day is further off than the Rangers ever thought. Do you think there will be more people rooting for the Rangers or for Pudge at the Ballpark this week?