One of the touchstone romantic comedies for folks of my generation is Say Anything. And one of my favorite lines from that movie is from John Cusack, lamenting being ditched by the effervescent Ione Skye...
"I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen."
Thinking about how Rangers management has failed its players and its fans brought that line to mind.
Last season, a team that was written off before the season began, even by those within the organization, a team that was expected to lose 100 games, put together an incredible run, overcame injuries and rotational ineffectiveness and the loss of the best player in baseball not named Bonds, and hung in a pennant race until the last week of the season. A team made up of a bunch of young players, with several obvious holes, played hard every day, saw several guys step up and establish themselves as quality major leaguers, and created a buzz, a magic that has been lacking in Arlington since the late-90s, in no small part because of guys who, for the most part, left no doubt in your mind that they were leaving everything they had on the field, game in and game out.
The 2004 Rangers -- Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, Mike Young, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, and the rest -- gave fans and management everything they had. They gave us their heart, their sweat, their blood, everything that they could.
And management, this offseason, gave those guys Pedro Astacio, Greg Colbrunn, and Richard Hidalgo.
The 2005 Rangers -- this same young nucleus -- has been going out and giving everything they have once again, even while the bullpen has fallen apart, while Ryan Drese turned back into a pumpkin and Kenny Rogers had his meltdown and the same holes that the team had at the end of last season just continued to get bigger.
And management has given these guys James Baldwin and Kevin Gryboski.
With the post-ASB flameout, this season is now over. The Rangers are out of the race, and need to start building for next season.
And despite what some would tell you, the Rangers haven't been building for 2006 up to this point. A team building for next year doesn't waive Ryan Drese when he is struggling, doesn't start the season with Pedro Astacio in the rotation, doesn't send Adrian Gonzalez back to AAA after a two week tryout as DH, doesn't leave Gerald Laird and Ricardo Rodriguez and Juan Dominguez in AAA, doesn't leave Jason Botts in the minors so that Richard Hidalgo can play everyday.
This was a team that was supposed to be a contender, this year.
And, if you look at the personnel, it is a team that should be a contender this year.
That's why this season is, officially, a failure.
And why did the team fail?
When you've got Hank Blalock and Mike Young and Chris Young and Francisco Cordero and Kenny Rogers and Kevin Mench and Mark Teixeira, under contract as cheaply as they are, you've got a window of opportunity.
You have the chance to build around this cheap core of players -- this nucleus that, except for Rogers, is still quite young -- with more expensive parts, while your nucleus is still affordable.
You've got a major market team with the ability to spend the money and make the moves necessary to fill the holes. You've got a fan base that has consistently shown that it will support a winning team. You've got the leaders on the team, guys who want to win, crying out for management to do something to give them the help they need to get over the hump.
And you've got a management team whose response has been all about "financial flexibility", is about the need to "bottom fish" in the free agent market, about how everyone just needs to be patient and wait until guys who are in A or AA can contribute sometime around the end of the decade.
I don't think anyone can reasonably blame the players, the core of this team, for the failure that is the Rangers' 2005 season. Blalock, Young, Mench, Teixeira, even Soriano, who I've ripped...they key guys here have stepped up and done all that can be reasonably expected.
Which is what makes it all the more galling to hear that Tom Hicks, when asked about his players saying that they want management to do something to improve this team, thinks that they just need to play better.
The blame for this failure of a season can be laid at the feet of two people: Tom Hicks and John Hart.
I don't know how the blame should be apportioned. I don't know how much of management's failure is due to Hicks' refusal to spend money, and how much is due to Hart's inability to do anything constructive with the resources he has.
And really, at this point, I don't care all that much.
It sucks to be a Rangers fan right now. It sucks to care as much about this team as I do, as much about this team as it seems the core group of players here do, when it appears that management really doesn't give a damn about us, about the fans or the players who are leaving everything they've got out there on the field.
What really sucks about it is the fact that there's the opportunity to build something really special here, that we have a unique group of young guys to build around. And it seems like that opportunity is slipping between management's fingers.
I would like nothing more than to see these guys stay here long-term, that these guys be the backbone of the Rangers' teams for the next ten years. But the way management is acting right now, I have my doubts that they are going to be willing to make the commitment it is going to take to keep them. And I have my doubts that they are going to want to commit to a management team that doesn't seem to have prioritized winning.
These guys -- Mike Young, Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, this nucleus -- are giving the Rangers their hearts right now.
They deserve a hell of a lot better than what management has given them in return.