According to Wikipedia, a mensch is a good person, or a stand-up guy. You would probably say that about Kevin Mench, too, although not so much for his playing ability. According to all the reports today, after he signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, he was a fan favorite in the years he was here. He wasn’t a favorite of mine, and he wasn’t a favorite of Brewers fans the last year and a half. Like them, I thought he wasted his talent, he was too happy-go-lucky, and his lackadaisical play cost more than a few hits to fall in front of him. He did not seem to be that determined to stick in the big leagues, at least not for anyone who considered hustle to be worth something.
Jamey Newberg said that he signed a minor league deal with the Rangers despite having talked to both the Yankees and the Royals. Now, you can’t get much further apart than those two teams, and the Rangers are a whole lot closer to the Royals than the Yankees. I can’t imagine how Yankees fans would have roasted him the first time he dogged it during a game – if Brewers fans didn’t like him, Yankees fans would have killed him. And Royals fans? Since there aren’t any, they wouldn’t have noticed anyway.
But he’s a Ranger again, and Jamey seems to like the deal, because it includes the minor league portion where we can dump him in Oklahoma as insurance. My first instinct is to say “you can never go back again” (and it would be interesting to study that, the performance of a player in their second stint with a team). My second instinct is to say that we already have Ben Broussard to fill in the chunky past-their-prime role.
My third instinct is the important one though (if any of my instincts can be considered “important”). That instinct says that the team is not going to contend in 2008. The team is not going to contend in 2009. The team will be better and ought to be near to contending in 2010. By that time Mench will be 32, and may not even be with the team, let alone in the big leagues. If he is, then the great hopes will have sunk pretty fast, along with his OPS, which is showing a pretty standard curve, although he peaked a little early at 26 and has been downhill since. Broussard shows the same curve, with a peak at 27. Is it just coincidence they both had their best years in 2004? Not if you believe TR Sullivan, who wrote a couple of days ago that the 2008 Rangers are counting on a whole bunch of guys bouncing back and having good years again, despite being two, three, or four years off their best. Apparently the Rangers have never seen (or don’t understand) career curves, which tell you that most players peak about 27 and then fall off (yes, Clemens is a noticeable exception, whether or not he was using rocket fuel). Sullivan comes up with the laughable idea that the Rangers could be legitimate contenders if all their guys turn around and get back to their best years. Sorry to say that unless the Rangers have a time machine, that ain’t gonna happen.
So my third instinct boils down to this: every at-bat Kevin Mench gets (yes Jamey, even the spring training and minor league ones) is a wasted one for this franchise. Just like every at-bat that Edgardo Alfonzo gets. And Ben Broussard, Ramon Vazquez and Adam Melhuse. And every pitch thrown by Eddie Guardado and Jason Jennings. The only way any of these guys will contribute to the franchise is if they can be traded in June or July, and none of them are going to bring anything good back. The only way this team gets better is to take the Detroit route: get rid of all the old guys, and let the kids play a year or two. Let the likes of Botts play every day (which he should have been doing the last two years), and prove themselves, or sink into oblivion. The cream will rise to the top, and it will build a core of a contending team – just like Detroit did. The Tigers had to suffer through a 43 win season, but I’d rather do that and look forward to a winning future, than spend the next few years like the last few, struggling to try and get the team to .500.
I had a few more words of wisdom here, but WordPress just ate them. Suffice to say that I don’t like the signing of Mench, or any of the overage undertalented guys we’ve been picking up. And I wonder what Nolan Ryan thinks of it all, maybe he and Mench can have a contest to see which of the fan favorites can put more bums in seats. Still, they’re cheaper seats than the new Cowboys stadium will be.