Buster Olney talks at length about the Rangers situation this morning:
Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks made it clear recently to manager Ron Washington that he would be held accountable for the team's brutal early-season play, sources say, so it was a mild surprise to some in the game that Washington wasn't let go on Friday, after the team returned home.The Rangers' top management met, but announced no decisions, as Evan Grant writes. Texas fell behind in a big way Friday, but then came back. The Rangers did make one personnel move. There is word within this piece that Jarrod Saltalamacchia has been called up to the big leagues, and that Brandon McCarthy will continue to be out, for at least six more weeks.
If Washington is let go soon, others who know new president Nolan Ryan think that he might ask bench coach Art Howe to run the team for the rest of the season, while Ryan takes stock in the organization. Talent evaluators who saw the Rangers on the most recent road trip say they saw a team "out of control," in the word of one -- the players very loose in their fundamental play, pitchers who seem incapable of consistently throwing strikes.
But the problems of the Rangers go far beyond the question of whether Washington has command of his players. Here are other issues:
1. A rival official asked an open-ended question: Why is that the Rangers struggle so badly to develop their own pitching talent? Texas has had good arms, in the likes of John Danks and Edinson Volquez and Nick Masset and Chris Young and some current members of its staff, but somewhere along the way, between when they are signed and when they are on the cusp of the big leagues, something seems to get lost. More often than not, the Texas talent doesn't fully translate into big-league success until the pitchers are elsewhere. "I'm sure that's something that Nolan is taking a look at," said the official.
2. The Rangers have a very odd mix of players. Their highest-paid player, Michael Young, is a shortstop who might be best suited at second base, and second baseman Ian Kinsler, who is also locked into a long-term deal, might be best suited at another position. "I haven't made up my mind whether he [Kinsler] can be a good second baseman," said a scout. The best prospect in the organization is Elvis Andrus, the shortstop acquired from Atlanta in the excellent Mark Teixeira deal; Andrus is off to a decent start in Double-A this year. The suggestion of one rival evaluator is that the Rangers should consider trading Young as a good-hitting second baseman, while eating a portion of the five-year, $80 million contract that doesn't begin until next year, and runs out in 2013.
Texas general manager Jon Daniels recently received an extension, but if Ryan ultimately decides he wants somebody else making the baseball choices, others who know Ryan wonder if he'll ask former Houston GM Gerry Hunsicker -- now an advisor with Tampa Bay -- to come on board. Even if that happens, friends say Hunsicker very much likes his role with the Rays. "This is actually a really good time for Ryan to evaluate the organization," said one official, "because you find out who are the rats jumping ship."
If Ryan asks Howe to take over, that would suggest, to me, that he's the one running the show, and Daniels is on the way out, since picking the manager is something that is generally the g.m.'s job. And as I've mentioned before, I have a hard time believing that, if Washington gets fired because the team is "out of control," his right hand man is going to take over. Again, Matt Walbeck, coaching third base after four seasons managing in the Tigers' minor league system -- and getting a reputation as a rising star -- seems like he'd be the choice.
As for Young, I can't see Hicks allowing the Rangers to deal him, or wanting to subsidize yet another unhappy shortstop playing for another team. I also don't know that he'd be all that well-suited for second base, at this point...the good arm and lack of range makes him a better fit at third base, where I think he'll be no later than 2010.