Drinking The Kool-Aid

After 42 years of watching this game and being a fan of this team, there’s one thing I’ve learned about Spring Training: Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

When a veteran player says he’s in the best shape of his life, don’t believe it. When coaches say so and so has been the best pitcher in camp thus far, don’t mentally pencil him in to your starting five for the season. Most of all, when you hear great things about a rookie, resist the temptation, at all costs, of declaring him Rookie of the Year or even Cooperstown bound before he’s even played a regular season game.

Needless to say, I’ve learned how not to drink the Kool-Aid over the past 42 years. I’d much rather be pleasantly surprised by someone, like Mike Napoli in 2011, than bitterly disappointed, like with Rich Harden in 2010.

A few days ago, the Rangers coaches said Koji Uehara has had the best stuff of any pitcher in camp thus far. Uehara had an outstanding season with the Baltimore Orioles in 2011. He had a terrible end of season with the Texas Rangers in 2011. He also kept the Rangers from trading him twice in the off-season. In other words, I don’t care how good Koji looks in camp right now. I’m not going to be a Koji fan until he pitches for Texas the way he did for Baltimore or he finally allows the Rangers to trade him.

Ditto Nelson Cruz. Yesterday, Nellie gave the often heard “I’m in the best shape of my life” speech and said he’s ready to put his hamstring problems behind him for good. Yes, I’ve read Nellie came to camp some 20 pounds leaner, that he did off-season workouts specifically to improve the durability of his hammies, etc. Again, I’ve learned. Cruz has had five DL trips over the past two seasons, all due to his hamstrings. I will not drink this Kool-Aid until Nellie appears in his 140th game of the regular season for the first time. Until then, I’m expecting at least on DL trip for him in 2012.

Yes, when it comes to Spring Training hype, I am known as Mr. Skeptic. So imagine my surprise, in the midst of all my disbelief, that somehow I am totally buying in to the man who has yet to throw a pitch in a major league game and is still a week away from throwing his first pitch in a Spring Training game. Yep, I am officially drinking the Yu Darvish Kool-Aid.

So when I listen to MLB Radio and hear Kevin Kennedy predicting a 13 win season for Darvish, I talk back to the radio and say, “You’re crazy!” When I hear commentators say it will be a rough transition to the American game, I call BS. And when I hear every Rangers minor league hitter who’s stood in against him at batting practice talk about what great stuff he has and how Darvish is going to win a lot of games for Texas, I buy it 100%. Not an ounce of disagreement in my mind.

Why? Because I trust the Rangers front office of Jon Daniels and his staff. They have been on a roll the last few years and I can’t see them committing this much money to an unproven MLB player if they weren’t pretty dang sure it was a good bet.

If Texas didn’t think Yu Darvish was going to perform better than CJ Wilson over the next six years, they would’ve made Wilson a much more substantial offer than they did. Will Darvish do better than Wilson in 2012? Maybe, maybe not. But if JD & Company think Yu will do better over the next six years than CJ, I believe it.

So when minor leaguer Ryan Stausberger says: “Faced #Darvish today. He’s got some wins in him for us this year”. And Jake Skole adds: “filthy stuff Awesome addition to #rangernation“. And when reports say he’s reaching out to bond with his teammates and working at fitting in instead of standing out? I buy it. 100%.

Put me squarely in the Darvish camp in 2012. Reports are he’s already talking to teammates in English. And Spanish. My last post was having fun with his Japanese tweets. Now he (or someone translating for him) is issuing tweets in English.

Will Darvish win more than 13 games for the Rangers, as Kennedy predicted? I think so. He may not win 20, but 15 is in reach. And here’s the REALLY weird thing. While I’m not willing venture much above 15 in predicted wins, I have had this funny feeling for weeks now that we may see a Darvish no-hitter sometime in 2012.

Yep, I’m drinking the Kool-Aid. I hope it tastes as sweet in October as it is right now.


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