You Gotta Believe

Most baseball fans will recognize the title of this blog post, one of the more famous sayings in baseball history, going back to the early 70s Mets and their rallying cry to believe in themselves and that they can win.

The 2008 Rangers do not believe.

They can’t hit.  They can’t field.  They can’t pitch.  They can’t throw.  They can’t run the bases.  They don’t know what they’re doing on the field.  They are the Bad News Bears of baseball.  They do not believe in themselves – and if you hear any of them saying they do, remember that they’re paid to say they do.  They don’t.

It’s been a horrible week in Rangerland.  The Opening Day fiasco.  Sweeping a double-header from Baltimore, who had won something like six straight, and were suddenly being anointed as contenders – apparently everyone forgot that this was Baltimore.  The team with an almost identical record to the Rangers over the last decade, identically mediocre, that is. Having Baltimore win six at the start of the year and be contenders is like having Detroit lose six at the start and be toast – you know which will be at top and which at bottom come the end of the season.  It’s like some nobody hitting three or four home runs in the first week – think Ben Broussard – and suddenly he’s a star who will end up hitting 50, not the mediocrity who will end with about 20 and a .230 average.

And then the roof fell in, metaphorically of course, because the idiots who designed the Ballpark in Arlington weren’t smart enough to put up a roof, figuring that the pitchers wouldn’t have any problem in 110 degree Julys and Augusts.  Yep, being swept by Toronto, a decent team who would be a contender in pretty much any division except the one they’re trapped in.  Then, the last two days, the disaster of losing two at home to division rivals Anaheim, who we had somehow surprised enough to win two in their place a week before.

We know they can’t hit, they’re about the bottom of the league in hitting in most every category you can think of, especially with RISP.  We know they can’t pitch, some of the guys in the rotation started well but you know they’re acting just like Baltimore, they’ll end up with their 12-12 record with a 4.89 ERA (assuming they can get it under 5 this year).  They have their little hot streaks, and maybe Millwood is on his three year rotation of good seasons (trade him if he is, his value will never be higher), but fact is even if they’re pitching like #1 starters this month, they’ll finish like the 4s they really are.

We didn’t know they couldn’t field or run the bases.  Yesterday Hamilton tossed one in which allowed a runner to score, and Marlon Byrd completely missed one that rolled to the fence.  Michael Young has had half a dozen errors or simply misses in the field, and watching those you realize why he is consistently ranked as the worst fielding shortstop in baseball.  Milton Bradley got tagged out at home because he tried to score on a ball which rolled about two feet from the catcher.  Today Murphy got out in a rundown because Byrd decided to stop at third – I’m not going to assign blame, whether it was Byrd for stopping when he was being waved (possibly with an injury) or Murphy for not watching what the guy in front was doing (to their credit, both tried to accept the blame) – but we’ve seen some funny things, and I use the word funny without any humor being connotated in it.  Hamilton was thrown out in the ninth, trying to advance to second base on a wild pitch, when his team was down by three runs.

When Ron Washington was hired he was hyped as being the guy for the fundamentals.  He has done nothing to show he knows anything about fundamentals, or about coaching.  I’m starting to wonder if maybe the real Ron was abducted by aliens, because the guy we have is nothing like the guy he was advertised to be.  Quote from the Rangers site today:  Washington had “an extended postgame meeting with general manager Jon Daniels.”  Think something might happen?  Not so sure, since Tom Hicks is still distracted by the impending collapse of his sports empire in Europe.

Throw Jason Jennings out with the bathwater right now.  He was 2-9 last year, and it wasn’t a fluke.  He is living proof that pitchers who spend time in Colorado never recover.

Was Scott Feldman really the right person to bring up to start on Sunday?  He made a decent start, but still, not only was the risk high, there were other choices to make that start.  Kam Loe, AJ Murray, even Jamey Wright, who was already in Arlington.  Heck, bring up Ponson, or even Tejeda (there’s probably some rule that wouldn’t let Tejeda do it) or Eric Hurley.  Maybe even Danks or Volquez?  But Feldman’s fear should be his arm falling off, like Willie Eyre’s did last year.  You take a reliever, try and convert him to a starter, then rush him too far, and see what happens.

Jason Botts is not only being used sparingly (five PAs in two weeks), but stupidly.  Yeah, nice going Ron, have a guy sit for a week then stick him in with the bases loaded and two outs.  If he succeeds you’re a genius for putting him in, if he fails then it’s just more proof that he’s not worth being on the team.  I hope Jon Daniels realizes this is what he’s doing.  Otherwise Mench will be up in a month or so, after Botts has ten at-bats.  I thought this kind of petty vindictiveness would have disappeared with professional management.  Oh yeah, that’s right:  professional and Ron Washington do not belong in the same sentence.

Week One:  OPS 1.094.  Week Two:  OPS .422.  You think David Murphy likes that he got them in that order, instead of the other way round?

Week One:  OPS .071.  Week Two:  OPS .946.  You think Marlon Byrd wishes he could have gotten them the other way round?

If you can believe it, the Rangers are actually a game worse today than at the same time last year.  5-9 now, they were 6-8 after 14 in 2007.  They were also only 1.5 out, today they are 3.5 out.  Yes, things can change, but right now it is shaping up to be an even worse 08 than 07, and you wouldn’t have thought that possible, would you?

At this rate Washington’s career managerial record will end with the proud record of just one single day with his team over .500 – last week when we were 5-4 after the double header.

Still, no matter how dark things get, you can always think of it this way:  my three year old loves his dot race t-shirt, and in our living room baseball game he hits half a dozen home runs (playing as “Joshua Hank Blalock Michael Young”) and the Rangers win every night.  If only he was for real.  It’s both amazing and hilarious what a young mind can come up with – I have to have a very particular stance if I’m playing catcher, just the same as Gerald Laird does, and I’m not allowed to lean back against the couch, because I need to leave room for where the umpire stands ( or rather, “the man in black who stands back there”).  And I have to wear my hat backwards, not because I’m a football player (it’s been at least a year since he started wearing his Rangers cap backwards “like football players do”), but because that’s what catchers do.  Today we were playing pop-ups, because he saw the catcher go after one yesterday.  In the time it takes him to throw off his helmet, then carefully remove his sunglasses (yes, in his world catchers wear sunglasses and take them off to catch the ball and if you tell him they don’t then he’ll cry until you let him) and place them inside the helmet , then turn around to find the ball, I think even Marlon Byrd might have been able to score.

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