It’s beginning to look a lot like the Rangers don’t care about 2008

It’s hard being a Rangers blogger these days. Being December, there’s little or nothing going on in baseball right now. It’s hot stove time (literally today, as the temperature plummets below freezing in Dallas), but nothing is cooking for the Rangers. Oh, they’ve had fits and starts here, trading for Chris Shelton (for some reason I couldn’t get Scott Sheldon out of my head when I was reading about the trade), saying they wouldn’t re-sign Gagne, being mentioned here and there in a couple of deals, and today signing free agent Milton Bradley (which requires an obligatory comment about board games, although if you search his name on Yahoo he gets 8 out of the top 10 references).

Bradley is interesting, but only a little. He’s had run-ins with players, coaches, managers and umpires everywhere he’s been. He ended last season on the DL after a crazy injury during an argument with an umpire, and may not even be ready for Opening Day. At best I’m betting the Rangers are looking at him as a rent-a-player, like a Lofton or a Gagne from this year, and we’ll have him for three months before sending him to a contender for some prospects. The annoying part for me is that they gave him a one year, 5 million dollar deal, and that is foolish money. Not for him, but for the Rangers. Since they are clearly not going to contend in 2008 (more on that in a moment), spending money like that is just wasted. Unless you’re signing a star player who will be around for years, you need to be going on the cheap, getting your young prospects playing time to see how they will adapt. Yes, I’m following the Tigers model of the last five years, and look where they are now. They went from the worst team ever to a contender who is now listed among the top three teams in the AL. In that time, the Rangers went from slightly below mediocre to slightly below mediocre.

So yeah, I think the Rangers shouldn’t have spent the money. They should have saved it another year, kept it for when they really needed to spend it on someone worthwhile. Whoever the top free agent pitcher is next year. Yeah, they would be paying them a ton of money anyway, but $5 million more could make all the difference. Lord knows the Rangers aren’t going to attract them based on history, or the park they’d be playing in, or their own players singing the praises of Texas (reference to Jamey Newberg’s report today, where he told us that Aki Otsuka told Fukudome he’d be better off in San Diego than Texas).

And as for the manager, Ron Washington reportedly told the press he’s looking for a ten game improvement this year. While that’s not impossible, it’s still only an 85 win season. Kudos for being realistic, Ron, even if I think you’re being optimistic anyway. First of all, compare the 2008 team to 2007. What’s changed? We lost half years from Lofton, Gagne, and Teixeira. And gained half a year from Bradley. Dunno about you, but that sounds to me like the team is more likely to lose ten extra games than win them. Where’s the improvement coming from, Ron? What has management done to get better? A little hot air, maybe, but now we’re starting to get into the second tier free agents, and there’s not much out there to pick from. Any pitchers who are going to help out? No, although I’m hopeful to see improvement as we ramp up towards contention in 2010 and beyond, I’m not really seeing any intent from ownership to get better. I guess Tom Hicks is too busy trying to put out fires in Liverpool these days, to deal with the Rangers’ problems. Kind of like he began ignoring the Stars when he bought the Rangers.

ESPN just ran a piece about contenders.  They listed 18 teams with “at least an outside shot” at a playoff spot next year.  Rangers?  Nuh-uh.  What are we supposed to think when we’re not even in the top 18?  Are we planning on surprising everybody?  The only good part of it is that they only list two AL West teams, the Angels (who they say are a lock) and the Mariners (who they say could sneak up on a wild-card spot).  Which means that if the Rangers get really hot, they only have two other teams to beat.  Or something like that.

I’m sure I will be much more hopeful come April.  By then we’ll know who is on the team, and we’ll imagine Millwood and Padilla bouncing back and winning 18 games apiece, and Sheldon (nope, Shelton) hitting 30 home runs at first base, and Milton Bradley playing the game of life to win again, and some magical wonder player coming out of the woodwork to drive us to the playoffs.  Remember, Rangers fans, everyone is even right now.  It takes until about June to dash our hopes again.

In the meantime, most of you reading this will be celebrating the Cowboys clinching their division, and I’m celebrating the Seahawks clinching theirs.  Yep, football is all we care about now.  That, and my cold feet, so I’m going to bed.  I actually have a bunch of stuff to write about the Rangers, various analyses I’ve run, but it’s too cold so they’ll wait a little longer.

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