When late December rolled around in 2013, the Texas Rangers completed a seven-year, 130 million dollar deal with Shin-Soo Choo that had some commentators calling for high expectations from the squad. This acquisition, in addition to the signing of slugger Prince Fielder, seemed to complete the Rangers’ search for the offensive production that they had lacked the season before. Texas could now boast a starting lineup full of power and experience, as the team already had Alex Rios and perennial performer Adrian Beltre. To top it all off, the Rangers also looked forward to having one of the game’s best starting pitchers in Yu Darvish lead the way to October. Well, October is right around the corner and it looks like the Rangers will be getting some significant vacation time.
How could this happen? A team that was lauded as a solid playoff contender now finds itself as the lowest of the cellar-dwellers in the league. At 33.5 games back in the American League West division, you would think that the Rangers could not plummet any harder or faster, but you would be wrong. Last Friday, the Rangers officially threw up the white flag by announcing that Darvish, originally only on the 15-day Disabled List, would be shut down for the remainder of the season. That same day, the club also announced that their most successful manager in team history, Ron Washington, had resigned from his post, citing a personal matter.
As if injuries were not enough over the course of the season to worry Texas fans, the departure of the only manager to lead the Rangers to a World Series (two in a row actually in 2010 and 2011, though they lost both) is a devastating blow at the end of a season that made even the Houston Astros look good. To emphasize just how rough the season has been, by June 11, Rangers players had already lost 688 days to injuries, according to injury reports provided by the team. Notable players such as Beltre, Fielder, Darvish, Mitch Moreland, Martin Perez, Jurickson Profar, and the freshly signed Choo have all gone down at some point this season.
None of the injuries that the Rangers have been faced with are serious enough to end a career. The team could, therefore, bounce back in a big way next season if everyone comes back healthy and Darvish, especially, is 100 percent. But, this season is over and it was smart on the part of the team’s management to end Darvish’s season prematurely. Darvish was disappointed with the decision, but with the kind of money that Texas is throwing around to keep him in the Lone Star state, it would be illogical to take any kind of risk on a season that was not meant to be from even early in the summer.
What needs to be done before next season? The Rangers’ first priority should be finding a manager to replace Washington. In the ever-improving AL West division, with the Los Angeles Angels finally starting to utilize all their talent and the Oakland Athletics continuing their consistent performance, the team will need a central figure around whom to build a new team morale. There is only so much that you can do about injuries and the road to recovery has become standardized with players receiving the best treatment available, but this team needs a reboot. Even if it isn’t with sweeping trades, the Rangers need a change of attitude and a sense of confidence to rally behind—that is where the manager comes in.
Photo: Keith Allison