“What the hell is going on around here?”
That particular quote can be attributed to Vince Lombardi. Or science-fiction writer Rachel Caine. Or from a memorable scene in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. But as for the now, we cast that present visceral toward Arlington. Specifically the Rangers.
In what began as a macho-posturing wall of arrogance and bluster has now morphed into a weirdly emotionless attitude and a seemingly confliction of chaos. Was there a plan? Is there a plan? What is the plan? All vexing questions that need answers.
Over the past few years this team’s off-season maneuvers have been delightfully tantalizing. But this period of hot stove is suspiciously unnerving. The blithe attitude barked of ‘out with old..in with the……who’? A mass exodus of runs, wins, holds, defensive gems, and so on have packed up and left town. And so far this team that has reached the playoffs for three straight years is in imminent danger of being manhandled. Last season was a brilliant ambuscade that both bemused and baited. They seem content at their unalterably wedded disaster opus course. Gone is the model of compassion. In is a paroxysm of uncertainty and self doubt.
Allowing Josh Hamilton to flee to their AL West bunkmate Angels was a shocker. Not the fact that he was allowed to walk, but the fact that his landing destination was in Aneheim. That’s 43 homeruns and 128 RBIs to replace.
Mike Napoli was mediocre last year, but he is a proven commodity. Trade target Ryan Dempster was allowed to bolt. And the most puzzling and head-scratching move was conceding Mike Adams and his mastery of the eighth inning.
Even Michael Young is gone. Acquiring Jason Frazier, AJ Pierzynski, Lance Berkman and Geovany Soto doesn’t cut it. Those smack of 2005 off-season moves. Not the moves of an outfit that has won 90+ games the last three years. And set attendance records. And signed a billion dollar TV deal.
To build a successful and winning ball club in the major leagues, you must attack on three fronts. You must develop your own players. You must make shrewd trades. Then you must fill in with key trades. The Rangers have done this during the short Nolan/Jon Daniels era. But in a crucial year of re-tooling and in ways re-building, the are walking a cagily constructed careful tightrope. Winning has a way of spoiling. And the Rangers expectations have never been higher. The way last year concluded can be brushed off as a fluke. But only for a short time. Losing nine of the last 13, blowing a September double digit AL West lead, and bowing out to the lowly Orioles in a play-off play-in game is one thing. But failing to at least replace what you lost is another.
Fans have shown the remarkable patience of a juggler the last decade. Now winning is expected. Winning breeds high hopes. Assurance hands the baton to assumptions. And then assumptions give way to presumptions. The team has become a requisite combination of brains, guts and heart. Both on and off the field. I compare their situation to air travel. You never exactly know how bad coach sucks till you ride first class. The bar slides. And right now the bar is out of sight.
Ranger’s management has traded explosive assertion to a retreat behind closed doors. Mute seems the order of the day. No way should the panic button be pushed. The Nolan/JD tandem deserves the benefit of the doubt. But the proven commodities and valuable trinkets are dwindling fast. The three million fans are void from credulity these days. A duplicitous attitude is not needed. Let’s just hope that the plan is to keep powder dry and not a longing for a magic bullet. An October Champagne carbonated soirée is usually determined in the off-season. At the present, time is not of the essence. But the calendar is flipping fast. Pitchers and catchers report in about a month. There is plenty of time for hearts and minds to be captured.
Let’s just burrow on some fancy faith. And pray its not the work of feathers and fools gold.
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