The Rangers home schedule is done, and they head to Seattle with 75 wins on the year. The season looks a lot better now than it did in late May, but it still, all in all, has been a pretty big disappointment.
Richard Durrett's game story focuses on what may have been Sammy Sosa's last game as a Ranger, and talks about the choice the Rangers face:
But Sosa's batting average has hovered around .250 for most of the season and he's struggled against right-handed pitchers. Sosa is hitting .222 in 288 at-bats against right-handers. The slugger has hit .325 in 120 at-bats against lefties.
"But look at all the numbers," Sosa said "I hit most of my homers and had big RBIs against right-handers."
True. Sosa has 14 homers and 55 RBIs against right-handers. But he also has 82 strikeouts and only a .268 on-base percentage against them. That makes it difficult for the Rangers to use Sosa as a full-time designated hitter.
Sosa was a part-time DH the final few months of the season. Texas made the decision to evaluate Jason Botts, meaning Sosa played once or twice a week, usually against lefties. But does it make sense to split that role between the two players next season? Both aren't going to play much in the outfield, so keeping them on the roster would make manager Ron Washington's bench less versatile.
Then there's the financial factor. Sosa earned an additional $250,000 when he got his 450th plate appearance Wednesday. That pushed his mainly incentive-based salary to about $1.95 million this season. Sosa is confident at least a few teams will be interested in his services for next season. That will probably drive his price up. But whether Sosa would take less money to return to the Rangers is uncertain.
Saying a .268 OBP against righthanders makes it difficult to use Sosa as a full-time DH is, I think, a bit of an understatement.
Dave Sessions praises Michael Young for bouncing back and getting 200 hits again this season. Richard Durrett has a piece on that as well.
Getting to 200 is a nice milestone, particularly after Young's awful start...but the dramatic dropoff in Young's slugging percentage, and the second straight season with an OPS decline, suggests that Young's 899 OPS in 2005 was a high-water mark, not a trend. You have to be a little concerned about whether we're going to see another dropoff in offense next year...
Remember Jean-Jacques Taylor? The guy who said no one obsesses about the Rangers? Well, it appears that a trip to the ballpark was enough to convince him otherwise, as in his column today, he marvels at seeing a woman with a Michael Young tattoo and fans who actually care about the team. Imagine that...
Taylor also touts the minor league talent while praising the Rangers for not ever quitting this season, and seems to think that things are going in the right direction.
This seems to be the consensus from most of the media right now...and it is a rather marked departure from the hysterics 3-4 months ago, when there were calls for Jon Daniels and Ron Washington to be fired, daily reminders on whether the team had the worst or next-to-worst record in baseball, and regular updates on how John Danks, Nick Masset, Carlos Lee, and Francisco Cordero were faring.
In terms of talent on the major league roster, this team isn't in great shape. It is probably going to be a .500 team, or a little less, in 2008.
But in terms of the overall state of the organization, the team is probably in better shape than it has been in almost 20 years. The minor league system is as strong and deep as it has been since the heyday of Tom Grieve and Sandy Johnson, the payroll isn't being weighted down by bloated contracts the way it was a few years ago, and there seems to be an organizational commitment to building something here that can have success over the long haul.
Over at the S-T, Anthony Andro runs down some bests and worsts at TBIA this year.