This was going to be the “Why The Season Broke Down” analysis post. Instead, Texas Rangers President Nolan Ryan, General Manager Jon Daniels and Manager Ron Washington decided today would be a great day to hold their first post-season press conference to talk about the season ending prematurely and what could transpire in the future.
First off, Dallas Morning News writer Evan Grant put to rest one rumor that has run rampant among Rangers on-line fans. He noted Jon Daniels not only gave Ron Washington his endorsement as manager of the club, but that both appeared quite relaxed and comfortable with each other. Many Rangers fans had imagined a power struggle between Wash and JD over the handling of highly regarded prospect Mike Olt after his promotion to the parent club. I never bought the whole power struggle conspiracy theory in the first place. Hopefully, this presser puts those rumors to rest.
Ah, but there was much to report beyond Ron Washington’s job security, with the biggest item reserved for the biggest free agent on the market this off-season, one Josh Hamilton. Daniels said the Rangers are NOT going to make Hamilton an offer during the exclusive negotiating window and will allow him to explore his options first. This is a gutsy call on JD’s part, but maybe not as risky as one might think.
Going into the off-season, Hamilton oftentimes stated the odds of him remaining a member of the Rangers was about 50-50. He also was quoted on more than one occasion he owed it to the Players Union to get the best deal possible, but would give the Rangers the first shot at his services. Daniels decided they’d waive the first shot. I find it highly doubtful Hamilton would have accepted the Rangers first offer no matter how generous because of his allegiance to the Players Union, so the front office passing up the chance to make that first offer might be much ado about nothing.
In addition, knowing Hamilton’s spiritual side, I believe (but have no proof) Josh’s agent and the Rangers already have a gentleman’s agreement to return to the Rangers after all the offers have come in to give Texas the last chance to re-sign him. That said, I’m sure the Rangers already have a final price and contract length in mind and will not hesitate to let Josh go if someone else offers him a better deal. That’s what they did a year ago with CJ Wilson and that’s what they’ll do here.
More from the presser: Daniels said no decisions have been made yet on coaching staff, the 2013 plans for Michael Young haven’t been discussed and that everyone in the organization accepts responsibility for the disappointing way the season ended. Washington admitted he probably played his regulars too hard and could have rested them more in the summer to keep them fresher for the stretch drive. He also said, despite a disappointing season, he still has faith that 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler can still do the job.
Reading between the lines, I think there will be casualties among the Rangers coaching staff, with hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh being the top candidate to face the chopping block. Young’s fate likely rests on the outcome of the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes. If Hamilton goes, Young stays and vice versa. Daniels is right about everyone taking responsibility and should be lauded for including himself. After all, while the moves he made during the season were all considered the right ones, the fact is they didn’t work out. Roy Oswalt. Ryan Dempster. Geovany Soto.
For Wash’s part, I applaud him for addressing his fault of playing his regulars into the ground, but it won’t be enough for his detractors. Human nature, you know. You just want someone to admit they made a mistake. Then, when they do, you jump up and say, “See, that just proves what an idiot he is!” Fans. Gotta love them. Especially since I’m a fan (but a pro-Wash one).
Surprisingly, Mike Napoli’s impending free agency was not discussed during this press conference.
Two last tidbits. Daniels said the Rangers likely will carry a slightly larger payroll than they did this year. And Daniels said the Rangers still aren’t in a rebuilding phase. That’s a strong message, telling the faithful “Even if we lose Josh Hamilton, we’re planning on reloading for 2014.” Of course, that could also mean Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar aren’t in the 2013 season plans.
It’s going to be an interesting off-season. I can’t wait to see how they’re planning to remold this team.
Say what you will about the now eleven game winning streak that has stretched the Texas Rangers’ lead in the AL West to 4 games over the Angels. Yes, there were three consecutive shutouts by the pitching staff (with the All-Star break coming between the first and second games). Yes, the offense seemed to come alive both before and after the break. However, the real proof that a corner might have turned for the defending champs, who struggled so in May, June and part of July, may have come in the 10th win of the streak Saturday night.
It started innocently enough with the Rangers much-maligned defense finally turning the corner and bearing down. The only miscues seen during this 11-game stetch have been a catcher’s interference call and two errors on Texas pitchers. Next came the dominance of the starting pitching staff. That dominance has allowed Texas to take the initial lead and keep it in 9 of the 11 games. Neftali Feliz has settled down and looked dominant against the Mariners in getting the save on Sunday.
The offense has started hitting again, making it apparent the Rangers’ decision to fire hitting coach Thad Bosley and replace him with Scott Coolbaugh was the right one to make. Ian Kinsler has finally gotten his average above the .250 mark, Nelson Cruz is finally starting to put some consistency in his stroke and run production is on the rise.
Still, there has been something else that’s been missing– and it finally appeared in Saturday night’s game: taking advantage of other teams’ mistakes.
It started in the 6th inning. The Mariners had finally stopped the Texas scoreless inning streak at 32 and tied the game at 1. Reigning Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez was tossing a gem and it looked like Seattle might be gaining some momentum. Instead of throwing a shutdown 6th inning, however, Texas regained the lead on an Endy Chavez single, Kinsler groundout and Elvis Andrus single. Later in the same inning, Andrus and Josh Hamilton pulled off a double steal, though it wouldn’t lead to any more runs. Still, that Rangers aggressiveness seemed to be back.
In the decisive 8th inning, the tide truly turned for the Rangers. With King Felix still on the mound for the Mariners, Kinsler hit his second home run of the game. Andrus singled, went to second on a balk and to 3rd on a wild pitch. Hamilton then hit a chopper to Hernandez on the mound. Felix looked Andrus back to first, then LOBBED his throw to first to retire Hamilton. Andrus, who never returned to third, took off and slid across the plate for the 4th run just ahead of the throw from first.
Yes, this winning streak has come at the hands of the Mariners, A’s and Orioles, three of the league’s lowest rated teams, but that is where championships come from- beating who you’re supposed to beat and holding your own against the good teams. Texas has now extended its lead in the West to 4 games, exactly where they were at when they were 9-1 to start the season and Hamilton went on the DL.
To be sure, there are still problems to be addressed. The bullpen still needs reinforcements. This streak has lessened the need for the pen lately, but out of sight is NOT out of mind. Rumors have the Rangers in the hunt for either Heath Bell or Mike Adams from the Padres. And, despite the recent heroics of the frontline starters, most baseball pundits predict Texas is also looking for another starter for the pennant drive. It’s highly doubtful the R’s are in the market for any position players. This team is about as deep offensively as you can get.
Off day Monday, then three in LA against the 2nd place Angels. It looks like the guys in the blue hats will avoid Dan Haren this time around, but Jered Weaver will be a chore. If, by some chance, Texas can manage a sweep to extend the current streak to 14, the race in the West may not be as close as originally thought. Nice to think about, but this column NEVER counts chickens before they hatch, or wins before they occur.
Kinsler’s About To Be A Daddy
Well maybe this explains the bipolar stats alluded to in this morning’s post: The Texas Rangers have placed Ian Kinsler on the paternity leave program and recalled Chris Davis to take his place on the roster for the next 1-3 days. This could help explain Kinsler’s woeful batting average on the road in 2011. We sometimes forget professional athletes are human too. Maybe being away from his wife so close to the birth of a child has been weighing on Ian’s mind a bit.
Bosley Dismissed As Hitting Coach
In other hitting news, there’s word that the Rangers have dismissed Thad Bosley as their hitting coach, replacing him for now with AAA Round Rock hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh. Bosley replaced Clint Hurdle, who everyone agrees did an amazing job in 2010. It was Bosley’s first major league job in eight years, I believe, since serving in the same capacity for the A’s when current Rangers manager Ron Washington was 3rd base coach there.
If Bosley has been released, that would seem to be a bit of a rebuke by the Rangers front office towards Wash, who I’m sure put in a personal recommendation to the brass for Bosley.
We saw in 2010 the Rangers weren’t afraid to make moves early and often in their quest for a division title. Bosley’s dismissal serves as a reminder 2011 will be no different than 2010.