I don't always agree with Evan Grant -- I probably disagree with him more often than not -- but I think he hit the nail on the head in his newsletter this week, addressing the Rangers' "plan":
Management asks Rangers Nation - is it big enough to be a Nation or is it sill a Commonwealth? - to simply believe in the "plan" when it comes to developing a long-term winner.
And depending on the uniform choice of that year, you either bleed Ranger Red or Texas Blue, so you commit to following the plan.
But here comes the tricky part of the equation: Following exactly what the plan is. It can be as complicated as "24."
The most recent examples of that bubbled up in the last week. The Rangers sent Adrian Gonzalez back to the minors and called up Laynce Nix. The idea was to piece the roster together better and stabilize roles: To make Kevin Mench the everyday left fielder, David Dellucci the DH and Nix the center fielder. Initial results were impressive. The Rangers' offense averaged over a run a game more for the first five games after the change. The trio of Mench-Dellucci-Nix combined to hit better than .400 in that stretch and drove in 14 runs in five games.
But what of the underlying message to the Rangers' young players? Last year, the Rangers nearly withheld Mench's spot because he declined a winter ball invitation. Catcher Gerald Laird, currently obliterating minor league pitching, lost his job as the starting catcher after an injury and similarly declining to go to winter ball.
Nix lost a job with a poor spring. Gonzalez won a job with a solid spring, then lost it, well, I'm not exactly sure why he lost it, except that the Rangers couldn't get him enough at-bats.
Also, the Rangers are toying with the idea of optioning last year's rookie sensation, reliever Frank Francisco, to the minors as a wake-up call after he struggled to come back from elbow soreness.
If you are a young player trying to believe in the "plan," it's entirely possible to come to the conclusion that the Rangers' philosophy for getting to the major leagues and staying there includes these ideals:
*Don't get hurt.
*Don't refuse a winter ball invitation.
*Don't struggle - at all.
Young players trying to reach the majors place a lot of pressure on themselves. Adding those tenets to the "plan" only increases the pressure.
What's yet to be determined is if the Rangers' high-pressure system turns coal into diamonds or simply into dust.
This echoes a lot of the things I've been saying, particularly in the aftermath of the Gonzalez/Nix switcheroo.
Despite all the lip service being paid to rebuilding from within, the young players appear to be getting jerked around quite a bit under the current regime.