Matt Harrison, Pack Your Bags?

Don't you wish this guy had baseball's second-most wins, second-most strikeouts and best ERA in this uniform?
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I know, the Texas Rangers’ Dec. 22, 2007 trade of Edinson Volquez to the Cincinnati Reds for Josh Hamilton cannot be criticized.

Not with Hamilton plugging a center field hole that’s leaked inconsistency since the mid-1990s and lacked pop forever. And not with Hamilton being a legit MVP candidate by leading baseball with 49 RBI. For what the Rangers and general manager Jon Daniels were hoping to get, they get an A-plus.

But – you knew that was coming, yes? – it does raise yet another doubt as to whether or not the Rangers ever really realize what they’re giving up on.

It’s rare to see such a win-win trade in baseball, with both Volquez and Hamilton leading all of baseball in key statistical categories. (Even more delicious is the fact that the two kids make a ridiculously cheap, combined $788,000 this season.) But while Hamilton is Texas’ best and biggest hitter, have you kept up with the former middle member of the Rangers’ DVD?

In March 2007 sent all the way back to Class A because of his inconsistency, the 24-year-old Volquez (remember Danks-Volquez-Diamond?) is suddenly the Reds’ ace. He’s second in baseball with a 7-1 record, second in strikeouts and his 1.33 ERA leads the majors.

Sorry, Rangers, but Cy Young trumps MVP. Right?

Which got me to thinking, what’s the deal with all these Rangers’ pitchers blossoming elsewhere?

The troubling trend goes all the way back to Kevin Brown, whom the Rangers lost in free agency then watched win a World Series and finish second in the Cy Young with the 1997 Florida Marlins. But just this year the Rangers could – could – have a rotation of 20-somethings that features Volquez, John Danks (3-3, 2.94 for the White Sox), Chris Young (4-3, 4.18 in San Diego) and Armando Galarraga (3-1, 3.06 in Detroit).

I know the Rangers are playing better, Ron Washington is managing his ass off and there was a recent 33-inning pitching scoreless streak. But there seems a fundamental flaw in the organization, either in evaluation of pitching talent, instruction and development of pitching talent, or perhaps both.

Keep your eyes on Blake Beaven, Kasey Kiker, Eric Hurley and AA Frisco’s Matt Harrison, who hurled a seven-inning no-hitter yesterday.

It’s one thing for Daniels to stockpile an impressive battalion of arms in the minors. It’s another to see the prospects through to effectiveness for the home team at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. -- Richie Whitt

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