The consensus from the D/FW media, going into the season, seemed to be that David Murphy, not Julio Borbon, needed to be a starting outfielder for the Rangers.
With Borbon picking up an error on the very first play of the season, we're ripe for immediate overreacting, which I think there's some of at ESPN Dallas right now.
Calvin Watkins' piece on Ron Washington's post-game comments doesn't mince words:
There was much debate as to who should play in center field.
Keep Josh Hamilton in center or move Julio Borbon to there. Maybe move David Murphy there. Well the Rangers moved Hamilton out of center in spring training for Borbon and he struggled somewhat.
On opening day, it seemed the decision was bad.
"It was a very aggressive play on Borbon's part," Washington said. "Cruz was camped. [Borbon] went from left center to right center and was just too aggressive. It didn’t bother us. We gathered ourselves and kept playing baseball."
When asked is Borbon still his center fielder, after just one game, Washington said, "I'm still dug in."
Richard Durrett also focuses on Borbon in his post-game reaction:
* David Murphy will cause the same questions we heard in spring training: Why doesn't he start instead of Borbon? Murphy pinch-hit for Borbon with runners on first and second in the eighth and hit an opposite-field double that drew chalk. The hit scored two runs and gave the Rangers a 7-5 lead. They scored two more and had nine batters come to the plate in the inning.
* * *
* Julio Borbon had issues in center field right from the start. On what should have been the first out of the game on a fly ball to right-center, Borbon didn't hear Nelson Cruz calling for the ball (Cruz also had his hand out to signal Borbon that he had it) and ran right into him. The ball dropped for a two-base error. C.J. Wilson got the next two outs, but Kevin Youkilis' double scored the run. Then Adrian Gonzalez got Youkilis home. So instead of the inning being over, the Red Sox got two runs.
* Borbon had defensive issues late in spring training and went into the season as a question mark. It will be interesting to see how he reacts from all of this.
* * ** Wilson went 5 2/3 innings and gave up four runs (two earned) with two walks and six strikeouts. It wasn't a dominant performance, but if the Borbon error doesn't happen, I wonder if that changes things some.
From the post-game reactions, it seems like it is kind of amazing that the Rangers were able to pull the game out with Borbon fumbling around out there.
A couple of things. First, the play was an error of aggression, and I tend to believe that Ron Washington is going to have more patience with this sort of mistake than if Borbon pulled up or Cadillac'd it out there, thinking Cruz was going to catch a ball that ended up falling for a hit.
Secondly, Borbon was fine the rest of the game. No problems in the outfield, and he got on in two of his three plate appearances, with a walk and an HBP.
Third, and most importantly...the Rangers aren't going to run Josh Hamilton out there in centerfield 150 games this year. And if Borbon isn't the regular centerfielder, the Rangers are going to have to go out there and get someone. All this talk of sending Borbon down or benching him misses that point...if Julio Borbon isn't getting the majority of the starts in centerfield this year, the Rangers are going to have to go get someone else to play center.
And who knows, maybe they will. Maybe they'll have to make a deal for Michael Bourn this summer, or Marlon Byrd, or someone like that.
But Billy Beane once said that the first two months are for evaluating what you have, and that's what the Rangers need to do here. Give Borbon at least the next couple of months to get a handle on what they have in him. They liked him enough that they were apparently considering taking him at the #17 spot in the draft in 2007. They thought enough of him to bring him up and install him as their leadoff hitter in the second half of 2009. He's got the skills to be a solid major league centerfielder...given their lack of other options, Texas is a lot better off giving him some time out there, rather than slapping together some ad hoc arrangement out of frustration.
Borbon may not be the guy who is the answer in centerfield for the Rangers. But lets not decide he's not the guy one batter into the 2011 campaign.