By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"Hey, at some point Kenny might go out there and win 18 games and then we'll be at his door, and he might parlay that into more money. Shoot, I don't know. I don't see it as being an issue."
The team's collective attempt to be opaque aside, it's reasonable to believe that the clubhouse chemistry has been affected by the Rogers "non-issue" issue, and that's not something that Hart or these Rangers need. For Texas to improve on last season's improbable success, in order for them to be in the playoff hunt at the end of the year the way they were in 2004, the Rangers are going to need a lot of things to break just right. That doesn't mean they are incapable of overcoming adversity. It just means that it would be easier for them to reach their destination if they weren't, themselves, setting up roadblocks before the trip even begins.
Now, if the Rangers equal or exceed last year's 89 wins, it will have everything to do with their everyday lineup (particularly the outstanding young infield) and precious little to do with the pitching staff (which is still alarming as far as the starters are concerned) and their off-season additions (of which, aside from outfielder Richard Hidalgo, there weren't many/any of merit).
"I think the off-season went OK," says shortstop Michael Young, who was one of the more outspoken Rangers about his desire to see Delgado land in Texas. "The thing is, with players, we never want to be satisfied. We always want to be moving forward. At the time, I said that I thought Delgado would fit well, because there's no question he hits a ton. But then, if he did come here, we might have run into problems about where everyone would play. So the way it went down, it wasn't bad."
Adds outfielder Kevin Mench: "John Hart and Tom Hicks didn't go out and spend money like everyone in the media was screaming for them to do, but they found pieces to come in and fill holes. That's important. The Yankees and Braves and teams like that spend a lot of money, but if you look at their organizations, they build around youth from within first and then fill in with other guys. I think that's what we're trying to do here. A lot of us have played together for a long time, and we're gaining experience."
Kinda sounds like what Young was getting at, doesn't it? Whether it was orchestrated public relations or whether Young and Mench and the rest of the boys agree with Hart and Hicks and Showalter is anyone's guess. But know this: After a week of spring training, it's evident that they've found a common chord, and they're all singing it together.
"It's always been, always--24 hours a day, seven days a week--what's best for the Rangers," Hart says. "That's our approach here, and we want everyone to understand it. People outside the organization, we want them to understand that, too. And we approached other GMs that way; we approached agents that way. Since we traded Alex, we've been building for the future and building a foundation for where we want to go. And maybe some people want to deal with me, and maybe they don't. Maybe some people don't like me. People are always going to say things about you--that's part of the job. But, shoot, I think that's every year and every general manager. It's a fragile business. Who knows, right? If I do something wrong, I could be gone."
John Boy, you might not want to say that so loudly--there are people lurking about who would be terribly excited by that prospect.