Root, Root, Root for the Home Team

The Texas Rangers have played 13 games. It's the equivalent of the Dallas Cowboys having just gone into overtime in their season opener. So should those of us who care about the local baseball team be as miserable after the 5-8 start, especially before the just-concluded trip to Oakland, as the local press tells us we should be? The media, predictable in its pile-on mentality, has us on the defensive.

Texas is a game and a half out of first in the American League West, with 149 games to play. A little Chisenbop tells me there's still a pretty healthy magic number.

Kevin Millwood was a lot better in his third game, on Friday night, than during his first two outings--during which his teammates provided zero runs while he was on the mound. If only for a night, he pitched like an ace, out-dueling Barry Zito. And I don't think it was only for a night.

The Rangers have basically had to go nine deep to put together their season-opening rotation. Despite that, the pitching, truthfully, has been pretty good, with nobody really overachieving. (Although let's see how long Rick Bauer and John Koronka can hold rotation spots.) Winless Kameron Loe, for one, has pitched well enough to be 3-0.

The offense, on the other hand, has been terrible, and it would be shocking if it didn't get at least a little better. Mark Teixeira is going to hit a lot more than one bomb for every 10 games. Between Gary Matthews' return and Laynce Nix starting to see them fall from time to time, the center field production stands to improve, and Brad Wilkerson and Kevin Mench shouldn't be easy outs for long. Not this easy, at least.

Ian Kinsler's injury sucked. But he'll be back before the medical people say he should be.

There's no better backup catcher in baseball than Gerald Laird, and there's no position where the backup is nearly as important. Stands to reason that he's going to start playing more, despite manager Buck Showalter's recent assertion that he won't play more than once a week.

Power reliever Frankie Francisco could be pitching in minor-league games before the midpoint of the season, and one hopes the same can be said for Josh Rupe, who came over with Francisco from the White Sox in the 2003 Carl Everett trade and could impact the big-league rotation. Edinson Volquez, C.J. Wilson, John Danks, Thomas Diamond, Nick Masset and Armando Galarraga give the Rangers more than just a handful of intriguing starting pitching possibilities at the upper levels of the farm system. They also give general manager Jon Daniels the type of pitching depth that will make it a lot easier to load up for the next opportunity to make a Josh Beckett-esque trade.

I'm an optimist by nature, obviously. You won't ever see me waving flags of white before Tax Day. You might choose to look at Adam Eaton's injury days before the season as the Rangers' titular No. 2 pitcher giving us all the finger. I choose instead to conclude that things can only get better.

There's room on the bandwagon. Lots of it. Just don't try to jump on after Texas wins five of seven and gets back to .500. --Jamey Newberg

Dallas lawyer Jamey Newberg has been a Texas Rangers fan since the days of scheduled doubleheaders and Jim Umbarger. Since 1998 he has covered the Rangers, from the big club through the entire farm system, on The Newberg Report.

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