The Texas Rangers could be headed toward their winningest season in franchise history, as they nabbed their 50th win of the season last night and increased their lead to 5 1/2 games over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the American League West -- the largest division lead in baseball.
The club has an opportunity to increase that sizable gap to 6 1/2 games tonight against the Orioles (assuming the rain lets up) in the first of a four-game series before the All-Star Game, as former Rangers southpaw John Danks tossed a shutout this afternoon against the Angels in Chicago.
Speaking of Danks, his trade to the White Sox for Brandon McCarthy is one of a handful of deals from early in GM Jon Daniels' career that some fans have simply refused to forgive or forget. Other notable gaffes include trading Highland Park native Chris Young and slugger Adrian Gonzalez to the Padres for Adam Eaton and Akinora Otsuka and getting little in return for Alfonso Soriano. (Although we're sure the Cubs would be happy to get a bag of peanuts in return for Soriano's inflated contract right now.)
However, one thing became clear while we were shooting photos during pre-game warm-ups and batting practice before last night's victory over the Indians: This is Jon Daniels' team. Only six members of the current 25-man roster (Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, C.J. Wilson, Scott Feldman, Frankie Francisco and Joaquin Arias) were acquired before Daniels took the job as GM.
And his hand prints are all over those six, as he signed Young to a five-year, $80-million contract extension in March 2007; Kinsler to a five-year, $22-million extension in February 2008; and Feldman to a two-year, $11.5-million extension in April 2010. Daniels also played a role in acquiring Arias in the Alex Rodriguez deal, and he greenlit Wilson's transition into the starting rotation after the left-hander spent five seasons in the bullpen.
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But back to the other 19 players brought here under his tenure, not to mention the loads of talent awaiting in the minors. Trading for Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. Drafting Julio Borbon, Tommy Hunter and Justin Smoak. Nabbing Alexi Ogando in the Rule 5 Draft. Signing Colby Lewis, Darren Oliver and Vladimir Guerrero. As Rangers TV analyst Tom Grieve told the Observer, Guerrero's been the "best free-agent signing in baseball. Period."
It's hard to argue as Guerrero and Hamilton are battling Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera not only for AL MVP honors (Twins first baseman Justin Morneau and Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano are also in the mix), but also for the coveted Triple Crown. Cabrera is just a homer away from leading the league in all three categories -- batting average (.347), homers (21) and RBI (73), with Guerrero (.330-19-72) and Hamilton (.340-21-63) not too far behind.
So before we leave you with the pics we snapped yesterday, we'll pose this doozy to those still harboring ill feelings toward Daniels for his missteps of years past.
Is it possible to love Your Texas Rangers without hearting Daniels too? After all, he built this team. And they're kinda kicking ass right now. Discuss.