(CBSDFW.COM) — The Texas Rangers entered Spring Training with high hopes. The team made progress in 2019, winning 11 more games than in the previous season and pulling themselves out of the American League West cellar. Playing in a new stadium, with an improved starting rotation, they were looking to make a similar jump this season. Such theoretical progress would’ve put them within spitting distance of 90 wins and, in theory, a Wild Card spot.
Of course, these hopes have been placed on hold. Thanks to the nationwide coronavirus pandemic, the start of the MLB season was pushed back to at least the middle of May. And all signs point to further delays. When the Rangers’ season starts — if it starts — what form will it take, and how will the team look? CBS 11 sports anchor Bill Jones has a few thoughts.
“Right now, it all depends on what’s happening in New York,” said Jones. “Until they can play games in New York, the baseball season can’t really start, unless the Yankees and the Mets are going to be playing games in their Spring Training homes… That’s not going to happen.”
New York has become the epicenter of the coronavirus in the United States. And Citi Field in Queens, home of the New York Mets, abuts some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in the city. The Rangers weren’t originally scheduled to travel to New York until July to play the Yankees, returning in September to play the Mets. But other teams would have to also be safe traveling there in the meantime. Otherwise players could contract the virus in New York and then spread it to other teams in other markets. The larger potential danger, of course, is thousands of spectators gathering in stadiums and unwittingly spreading the virus among themselves.
“As far as the Rangers are concerned, they were so much looking forward to this season because, for the first time in about four or five years, they actually had put together a starting rotation that could contend with what’s going on with the Astros down in Houston,” Jones points out.
The Rangers’ starting rotation back in spring training projected to be Corey Kluber, Lance Lynn, Mike Minor, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, a far different look from last season. Kluber a two-time Cy Young winner (who finished third in 2018), arrived from the Cleveland Indians last December. Gibson was signed over from the Minnesota Twins this past offseason as well. Lyles arrived after a brief stint with the Milwaukee Brewers. Lynn and Minor, bright spots from from last season’s group that turned in one of the league’s worst starter ERAs, remain.
This could be the best rotation in the American League West if it lives up to potential. But there’s no guarantee. Kluber, who will be 34 years old once baseball starts up, is coming off an injury-plagued 2019. Gibson’s numbers dipped last year as he fought through ulcerative colitis. Lyles ended the previous season strong but struggled early in Spring Training this year. Lynn and Minor are coming off of solid campaigns that followed subpar ones.
“The Rangers had a team that they felt like could contend this year,” said Jones. So they’re just champing at the bit, hoping there will be a season.” And then there’s the excitement that comes with playing in a new ballpark, Globe Life Field, which was scheduled to host the team’s home opener last Tuesday.
How would a season look, given that the originally scheduled Opening Day is far in the rearview mirror and the pandemic rages on?
“Obviously it would be a shortened season at this point,” Jones points out. “If they can get it started by the first of July, they can play a season, even if it’s an 81-game season. Or they could push it back. The World Series could be played as late as November, even in cold-weather cities. Or they could play it at a neutral site, the World Series. But those are decisions that are going to have to be made over the next couple months.”