A Week After the Rangers' Demise, Some Thoughts on What Went Wrong (And Right)

Categories: Sports

We asked former Ticket board op and master nicknamer Michael "Grubes" Gruber to autopsy the Rangers so we can throw their cadaver into our winter fire and focus on football. Here's his hot-but-not-tremendously-hot sports take:

This was a weird season for your Texas Rangers. For all intents and purposes, they:

- Never had two of their top starting pitchers (Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison).

- Lost their top slugger, Nelson Cruz, for the last 50 games of the season.

- Tried to overcome the losses of Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli (God love him, but Michael Young was not a loss) by signing Lake Dad Lance Berkman and playing David Murphy every day.

Yet they somehow won 91 games, topping 90 wins for the fourth straight year, a feat only the Tampa Bay Rays have matched. And while it sucked to miss the playoffs, the Rangers still played one more game than all but nine teams.

When you've been a fan of this team since pre-2010, you have a much greater appreciation for how good we've had it lately. I want a World Series title more than anything, but I'd rather have my heart ripped out after the last regular season game than watch John Rheinecker and Brad Wilkerson spare us to death on the way to third- and fourth-place finishes. And though the Rangers could have been a better and more consistent team in 2013, I'm happy with Ron Washington as manager. He makes the decisions he considers the best for the team, and his players clearly still have a lot of love and respect for him.

But if I have issues, that's where they start. Giving players the green light to run and bunt as they please, and playing David Murphy every damn day, takes loyalty a little far. My loyalties to the immortal Kitten Face, Craig Gentry, are well established. I'm convinced that if he and Jeff Baker had played half of the 128 games Murphy did in left field, this team would have improved by a few wins. Watching Murphy slap yet another weak grounder to second and flailing his lunch pail arms because he's hustling so hard was just maddening to see every day. Murphy was worth 0.2 WAR (Wins Against Replacement) while Kitten Face was worth 3.6. Baker, despite playing 68 fewer games and being hurt for a good portion of the year, was still worth half a win more than Murphy. Again, maddening.

The bunting was out of control, too. Elvis Andrus had 16 sacrifice bunts and Leonys Martin had 12. For some perspective, consider this list of the six players with the most sacrifice bunts this season:

1. (tie) Bronson Arroyo and Elvis Andrus, 16
2. (tie) Zack Cozart and Cole Hamels, 13
3. Leonys Martin and Kyle Lohse, 12

Four of those six are pitchers, who bunt mostly so they don't hurt themselves swinging, and one of them is Zack Cozart. The other two are your Texas Rangers two-hole hitter (Andrus) and a guy who batted leadoff until he ran into a slump and Wash immediately placed Kinsler back into the slot. I know Wash didn't call for every one of those sacrifice bunts, but he's got to teach Andrus and Martin when to bunt. I'm not anti-bunt, but I am in most situations: Suicide squeezes and attempting to bunt for a hit with no outs? Fine, go for it. Otherwise, I prefer a hitter to actually, you know, hit.

The bullpen usage was all over the place, too. Robbie Ross and Tanner Scheppers were used a ton in April/May and understandably so -- to a point. They were dominant. But they wore off in June and July due to that overuse so early in the season, before thankfully returning to form in August and September. Wash nearly killed them.

Jason Frasor was solid all year, but it was only the final months that Wash really showed any faith in him and allowed him to pitch in higher-leverage situations. Thankfully the bullpen was solid enough to overcome the odd deployment.

In the end, the pitching was solid, despite the injuries that befell the rotation. This time around, the offense was the issue. Jon Daniels is an amazing general manager, and I'm glad that Josh Hamilton and Michael Young are playing for other teams (though I wish Mike Napoli was still here). Daniels still gave Wash enough to put out a solid (and fast!) lineup every day. This wasn't a "wait for the three-run homer" offense, but it wasn't Punch and Judy, either. There was more than enough extra-base pop and speed to score runs.

Wash also tended to give the green light to players to run on their own. That can be a great thing, as we saw when Martin, Andrus and Kinsler (and later, Alex Rios) caused havoc on the base paths. But the players also ran and bunted into too many outs. If that can be cleared up next season, I'll feel good about this team.


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25 comments
pittsburghsara
pittsburghsara

Fantastic write up Grubes!! Hope to hear from you  more often in the Observer!

Joshstruckoutagain
Joshstruckoutagain

Yaaaaaa sweet little Grubes! Good to see you in print other than on my twitter timeline.  Good initial effort brutha!

d-may
d-may

The problem is not the Rangers. It's FArlington. It's a giant stadium off the highway surrounded by parking lots. The players have to drive 35 minutes to get to practice (and that's if they live in Arlington). The players simply don't like playing there because it doesn't feel like they are in the big leagues. In the words of Don Draper, when they close their eyes they want to open them and see sky scrapers.

Move the team to downtown Dallas or Ft. Worth. Make it a real major league team with a stadium in the heart of their city. 

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Its Shoop a loop.  GRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUBES!  Nice write up little buddy.  Not much to disagree with here.  I hope Murph is gone, I cant stand 30,000 Baptists standing up singing church music every time he comes to bat.  If god was so good, why couldnt he help Murphy hit anything

dallas_dude
dallas_dude

The 2 pick offs in the last game of the season made me want to shoot somebody.  Elvis was a mile off of 1st and kept dancing back and forth.  IF YOU'RE GOING TO RUN....THEN FUCKING RUN ALREADY. 

Someone please tell Ian Kinsler he's not that fast.  Ian Kinsler is the Mazda Miata of baseball stars.  Technically it's a sports car and I'd gladly own one and they look fun to drive, but we all know deep down inside it's a chick car and only wanna be pussies drive them.  You want a sports car get a real sports car.  Get 8 cylinders and something that is more than just a suped up smart car. 

Next year it needs to be Beltre at 3rd, Profar at short, Elvis at 2nd, and kinsler at first.  How about we stop worrying about hurting players feelings and they just play where they are told.

I think martin locked up center for the next 4 years and I'm ready to see gentry everyday in Lf/Rf.  I wish there was a major upgrade at catcher on the market, but i'm not seeing it.

pow pow

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@d-may I would love to have them in Downtown Dallas, but if they move in 2025 they belong in Ft. Worthless as that is the majority of their fan base in Tarrant County. It would be a longer drive, but at least then mass transit would be an option with the TRE.

What needs to happen is Arlington needs to pony up the cash, which they never will because of Jerry Jones and his $50 parking, to get that mass transit rail line they had running during the Super Bowl going every game day.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@d-may this is a crock of shit.  I dont understand your logic.  Move them to Dallas and they are farther from the Fort Worth fan base.  move them to Ft Worth and Dallas fucks will bitch even more that it is too far away.  It seems that being located centrally in this large metro actually works well or so says the 3 million plus who visited this year.  While itd be cool to have a stadium with a downtown backdrop, knowing Dallas, theyd aprorve a plan that has the seating bowl looking out over an old landfill rather than back at downtown

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

@dallas_dude If you're making Profar to a permanent infield spot, it should be second. Elvis has his errors but he is a fantastic shortstop defensively. He makes plays baseball hasn't seen since Derek Jeter in his prime. Kinsler is right handed so it would be an odd move to first base, the only other MLB first baseman that is right handed I can think of is Chris Davis and he is jacking 50 HR. If you're moving Kinsler it is to LF.

They need to re-sign Cruz as a DH and part time outfielder, they need to re-sign the Great Kittenface as a 4th OF that can play any spot and pinch hit/run, and they need to get aggressive and get Brian McCann at C who is now on the market. That leaves 1B and I have no idea how they fill that hole. We all assume Harrison comes back healthy and replaces Garza in the rotation, but I would still like Colbra Lewis to get re-signed as either a replacement for Ogando or as an insurance policy. Assuming Joe Nathan walks from his option, Scheppers or Soria are your closers and you could use Feliz or Ogandon as your set up men.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@dallas_dude If Beltre's hammy keeps him running like an wounded elephant, I think you move him to first and let Profar play 3rd.  I hope cruz is back....at DH.  They need to dropkick Murphy (see what I did there) and bring in a power lefty bat

brian.martin
brian.martin

pardon, you're and idiot...too early for proper spellage..

brian.martin
brian.martin

@d-may d-may i mean, not the great merkin..by the way, I need a vag toupee..

dingo
dingo

@ScottsMerkin @d-may If they move anywhere it would probably be in a northeast direction closer to business headquarter densities in order to increase corporate season ticket and suite revenues.

http://tinyurl.com/nrwyxgl

The Cowboys do not have to worry about this because they are an 8 game mostly weekend event whereas baseball is mostly an after work late rush hour event.

Mervis_Earl
Mervis_Earl

Let the game come to you Scotty. No need to call out the good lines.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@d-may @brian.martin Umm lets shoot down another dumb comment by you.  Beltre chose here over LAA,  Holland and Andrus both just signed extensions to stay, Nellie wants to come back here.  Colby wants to come back, even if its for league minimum.  AJ likes the clubhouse, Darvish could have chosen to not sign the offer the rangers made.  Do I need to keep going?

brian.martin
brian.martin

@d-may @brian.martin Oh lord, here we go with that same tired ass, "its too hot for baseball in the summertime in Texas" , "and nobody wants to play here" bullshit. Yea, we should have paid Josh a fortune to keep his head case antics in FArlington? why didn't you upper case the "r" as well? The Angels get all the free agents, have fun with Retard-ilton and Poo Holes! I have been to 13 MLB ballparks, still my 2 favorite stadiums so far. yep, the BallPark in FArlington and U.S. Cellular in Chi-Town..

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@d-may Ok, lets shoot down your player argument.  how do the players have to drive 35 minutes, if they live in arlington.  The stadium is 10 minutes from any part of arlington, which by the way has some very very nice neighborhoods that players live in.  Also, show me one quote where a Ranger player said they hate the ballpark bc of the parking lots and would rather see 40 year old sky scrapers?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Mervis_Earl I was channeling my inner Dallas Observer writing, where we point out every joke we make.  Cmon, you remember those writers like Kristy Yang and such

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