Another season, another last-place finish, another shrug, another yawn. In the wake of an obscure 75-87 disappointment that has already camouflaged itself alongside the other 22 losing seasons in franchise history, you’d like to hear something drastic or at least different from the Texas Rangers. Maybe, “Shit’s gonna change!” Or, “We’ve got to spend some serious money.” Better still, “That’s it, I’m selling the team.”
But instead of a Mike Gundy rant that would somehow feel therapeutic, the Rangers are again selling us, “Yeah, but we tried really hard and, generally, people still like us.” But are you buying? (For those who are, there's an 11:30 a.m. end-of-season press conference today; it'll be broadcast in its entirety on KTCK-AM.)
When the Rangers open the 2008 season they will look eerily similar to the outfit that just finished third or worse in a four-team division for the seventh straight season. The real changes -- the fresh faces acquired in the draft and via the trading of Make Teixeira, Kenny Lofton and Eric Gagne -- won’t arrive in Arlington until 2009. Barring the unlikely signing of free agent Curt Schilling, the pitching rotation will be Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Brandon McCarthy, Kason Gabbard and Edinson Volquez. Excited yet?
Remember, opening-day starter Robinson Tejada finished the season in the minors. Typical Rangers. Status quo Rangers. With Akinori Otsuka shelved the last two months with a mysterious forearm injury, there’s doubt about next year’s closer. C.J. Wilson was electric at times, converting 12 of 13 chances. But manager Ron Washington isn’t convinced.
“We’ve got some guys who we can groom to be a closer at some point,” Washington said last week. “But nobody that’s ready to step in and be the guy right now.”
Barring the unlikely signing of free agent Torii Hunter, who happens to live in The Colony, the lineup will be similar to the one that scored 16 runs in the home finale, then managed just seven during three season-ending losses in Seattle. Typical Rangers. Status quo Rangers.
Washington will be back. Same for general manager Jon Daniels. And hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, expected to get a new contract. Of Texas’ free agents -- Sammy Sosa, Brad Wilkerson, Jamey Wright and Jerry Hairston -- only Hairston and Wilkerson are gone for sure. Apparently the only tweak in ’08 will come in Surprise, Arizona, where Washington promises to revamp his spring training regimen. He blames the team’s disastrous 23-42 start on pitchers reporting to camp out of shape and on hitters and fielders not being on the field in crunch time of exhibition games.
“Guys have got to get more at-bats,” Washington said. “And we’re going to keep them in games late to finish off those wins instead of letting the scrubs do it.”
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Of course, that’s not going to play real well with veterans.
“He’s the manager,” said All-Star shortstop Michael Young. “But I know how many at-bats I need to get ready for the season.” Or does he? Young hit .214 in April, helping pave the way for a slow start that led to a mid-season change of plans, another rebuilding project and, ultimately, more dirt on the Rangers’ coffin.
Total games in franchise history: 5,705.
Total playoff game wins in franchise history: one. --Richie Whitt