I'm full of conflicting emotions right now, in regards to this team.
On the one hand, I think, this is a team that should be a high-70s win team this season. That isn't playing well right now, but at the end of the day, it is probably going to end up with a win total in the high 70s, and what has happened this season -- and in the past five games -- doesn't really change that.
On the other hand, I feel a little pissed off, because this team looked flawed but credible the first 9 games of the season, got to a game over .500, and had me thinking pleasant thoughts about the 2008 Rangers.
I want to be, on a holistic level, rational and objective, but passionate. I realize that there are some things I might not always be entirely objective about, when it comes to the Rangers, but I strive to look at this team as objectively as possible.
And when I do that, when I take a step back and make myself think that way, I think, it is a lousy five game stretch, if it were happening in July no one would be flipping out, and we need to take some more time to see how things play out in what everyone acknowledged, coming in, is a rebuilding season.
And yet...and yet, this is too familiar. Not hitting with RISP? No big deal...that's a small sample size aberration, something that will even out over the course of a season. Stupid, error-prone baseball? That's something else altogether...and it is too reminiscent of last season's Keystone Kops routine that sunk the season by Memorial Day.
And it is particularly troubling when you look at a game like today, and you see Kevin Millwood and Michael Young making errors, and Marlon Byrd run into an out by ignoring Matt Walbeck waving him home, and you realize...these are three veterans, three guys who are supposed to be leaders on this team. An Ian Kinsler or a Josh Hamilton making those mistakes, you don't like it, but...well, it is different with someone like that, a relatively young player, compared to the guys who are getting paid, in no small part, because of their leadership roles on the team.
The 2008 Rangers are a game worse than where the 2007 Rangers were at this point...but then, the 2007 Rangers promptly lost 10 of 14 to bury themselves even farther, with a rotation that imploded. The 2008 Rangers have, with one notable exception, what appears to be a relatively solid rotation, and most of the team is still healthy.
But the 2008 Rangers are, once again, rebuilding. So what Kevin Millwood did today, in the overall scheme of things, may not really be as important as what Doug Mathis and Matt Harrison and Omar Poveda did today. Ben Broussard succeeding or failing in Arlington is less important than Chris Davis succeeding or failing in Frisco (and, hopefully, before too long, Oklahoma).
At the same time, though, I think...what does what is going on right now say about the on-the-field staff? If Michael Young is falling on his face to start the season, if Ian Kinsler is making the mental errors again that we saw last April and May, if Ben Broussard is a bust as a starting first baseman, what does that say about the people who are getting the Youngs and Kinslers ready to go, about the manager who said that Broussard is someone he's had his eye on for a while and urged the g.m. to go acquire?
Part of me thinks, these guys are adults, they are professionals getting paid millions per year, it shouldn't be incumbent on the manager and coaching staff to get these guys ready to go. And another part of me thinks, if it isn't incumbent on the manager and coaching staff, then what are they there for?
I was at the courthouse today, and during a break, I pulled out my Blackberry Curve and clicked over to the Rangers game online play-by-play. It was 1-0 last I had seen, and now it was 4-4. I click over and see that Josh Rupe has the bases loaded and is facing GMJ. And, after about 30 seconds, I clicked refresh, and saw that GMJ had just put the Angels up 7-4 with a bases-clearing double.
At that moment, I wanted to throw my Blackberry out a window. I wanted to shut down this blog, unsubscribe to the NMLR, give away my tickets for this year, and burn all my Rangers gear. I wanted to forget that baseball even existed.
And tonight, I'm sitting here thinking to myself, "I hope there's a game tomorrow."
And I hope there's progress. I hope this road trip features a turnaround, involves a Ranger team that stops playing stupid and stops giving up outs and bases with foolish play.
And I will continue to remind myself that hope is on the way, that this season is about some progress and some placeholding and some patience, waiting for Davis and Eric Hurley and Salt E and Brandon Boggs and some other guys to kick down the door and claim a major league role, and watching to see other guys in the minors work their way forward.
It is a bridge to 2009, in the belief that this team should be ready to compete in 2010.
But in watching this team the last year plus, and in particular, so far this season, I start to wonder -- and I know it may be kneejerk, but I still wonder -- if this manager and coaching staff are up to the job.
I wonder if, when a team looks this bad, this unprepared, this clueless for two Aprils in a row, if you have any choice other than to place the blame on Ron Washington and his staff for not getting the team ready to play.
I didn't have a particular horse in the managerial race 18 months ago. I was just glad Buckles was gone. I liked Manny Acta, primarily based on liking some things he said in an interview with BP, and I got a bit of a contrarian personal-backlash thing going in regards to Trey Hillman, who, it seemed to me, was popular amongst some folks just because he was from Texas and loves Jesus, as compared to any hard baseball reasons. But I thought any of the choices were fine.
Now, though, watching what's going on, I have to wonder if Jon Daniels blew it here. I hope not. As I said before, I try to be rational and objective, but passionate. I'm not Poochie the Rockin' Blogger, hoping for failure because it is easier to take snarky shots when the team I'm following is struggling. But I also don't want to be a cheerleader for the organization, unwilling or unable to rip the team if I think they screwed up.
So I really hope that Washington is the right guy for this team. I hope he's not as bad a manager as he has appeared at times over the past season-plus. Because if Daniels whiffed, and whiffed badly, on this hire, it is going to lead to justifiable questions about whether Daniels should be running this team.
I like the plan Daniels has in place. I think he's made mistakes, but I also think that, vision-wise, he has the team on the right track.
But...I also think of Top Chef, which my wife watches, and which I sometimes watch with her. And I think about how the chefs on the bottom, when they are called to the judges table, sometimes are told by the judges that their dish was simply a bad idea, something that didn't work. But then, there is sometimes a chef who is told by the judges that he had a good idea, a good concept, but lousy execution.
Having a great plan in place is useless if it isn't accompanied by solid execution.
And blowing a hire as critical as the manager would be a pretty big failure in execution.
I don't know what to think about this team, right now. It is probably too early to put too much emphasis on what has happened. And there are, really, some good signs, some indications that this team could turn things around, have a solid season, maybe even put a scare into the Angels.
But there are also some pretty worrisome signs, some red flags, some issues that need to be straightened out pretty quick. Because if they aren't straightened out pretty quick, we could be seeing a lot of folks at TBIA out of jobs in the next 9 months.