Tonight's game between the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees is being televised nationally on ESPN, and in advance of that game, we were given the opportunity to talk to ESPN's Doug Glanville (a former Ranger, of course) and do a Q&A with him:
LSB: About a week ago, the Rangers announced a contract extension for Adrian Beltre for two years, making him a Ranger through 2018. This seems to be a win-win deal for both sides -- what are your thoughts on the extension, and surely Adrian is a first-ballot HOF'er, right?
Doug Glanville: I think he's going to get into the Hall of Fame. You never know with this process because the Hall of Fame has had to take some hits in the past few years, with the PEDs, and so first ballot becomes, sometimes, unclear. But I feel very strongly that if he continues on this path the rest of his career he is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
LSB: With the Rangers wanting to extend him, Beltre saying he wanted to finish his career in Texas, it seems like the perfect fit for both sides for Beltre to retire a Ranger.
Doug Glanville: It clearly makes sense -- its clearly a good relationship. He's competitive, and the Rangers have been able to generate, with Jeff Banister, some more excitement. They have some young players he's able to mentor, and so he gets the best of both worlds, playing also with some veteran guys who have been around the block. So it seems like a great fit, and with any player who gets close to the end, its always nice to be in an environment where you can be happy and highly competitive, and that's what it comes down to, certainly by this time in your career -- you want to win. Money aside, things that you value, Beltre has so much of that, he's got enough Gold Gloves, and now its time for him to get that ring as a Texas Ranger.
LSB: One of the big stories for the Rangers this year has been Nomar Mazara -- he was supposed to start the season in AAA, he was there for a week, and then got called up when Shin-Soo Choo went on the d.l. Mazara has been tearing it up so far -- have you had a chance to check him out, and what are your thoughts on how Mazara has started off his major league career.
DG: You can see the reason there's so much excitement about him -- the swing, he looks like one of those guys you can see perpetually hitting .300. He has so many skills when it comes to the intangibles, of being the kind of hitter that can work counts, and also maintain that aggressiveness. I'm highly impressed with his at bats -- it looks like he has been in the league for a long time, and that's always a good sign, to see players who come up, and even if they're highly touted, they're like, I still have to work on this. He's reminiscent of some young hitters that I knew -- Palmeiro, who was a great lefthanded hitter, who put together a a great career. Conforto, guys like that, who have these mature approaches, and also have the mechanics that make them very talented hitters for a long time.
LSB: One of the other young hitters that I know folks have been excited about is Rougned Odor -- he's an interesting case, had some success as a rookie, started slowly last year, got into a deep hole, got demoted, then came back up and did well. He's someone who plays with a lot of fire, seems to play with a chip on his shoulder -- what do you think the future holds for Rougie?
DG: He has huge upside, and he's another example of a young player in the Rangers organization who has an accelerated approach to the game. I think the part that new wave -- you think of the Cubs, these young players who have approaches beyond their years, that's the model that they're looking for, these players who are now coming up with a lot of exposure to the game, and maybe the advanced metrics, the numbers side of the game, the nuances of it -- they very clearly have an advanced approach. And so I see Odor as being the "Ranger type" of young player who has all those skill-sets. And these players are the ones who have long, successful careers, and I love that he has fire, a will to win -- that's exactly what the Rangers need, especially somebody who takes a leadership role early on in his career. Its a good combination of young players -- you talk about a lot of teams who have that, and the Rangers have to be in that conversation, for some of the young talent that they are sporting right now.
LSB: The Rangers got Ian Desmond, who they acquired with the plan to convert him to the outfield, and they also have another converted infielder in Delino DeShields playing the outfield. I know you are a former outfielder -- how hard is it from your perspective for somebody who has not been an outfielder in their career to pick it up on the fly? With somebody like DeShields, who has been doing it for a few years and has great speed but struggles with routes, how much room is there for improvement through practice and repetition in things like routes, picking up the ball off the bat, versus it being something that is simply innate?
DG: Well, I'll tell you, it is very hard, and as an outfielder, I take a lot of pride in the fact that it is hard. Back in the day when you first started Little League, you put the kid who couldn't play in right field so nothing would be hit to him...you can't get away with that at the major league level. My bigger concern is there are players who have a knack for trajectories, the ballistics of the fly ball, and that can be a natural thing, to a certain extent, the ability to read or assess where a ball is going to land, but I'd say, for most players, they don't naturally have that knack, so you can learn to improve on that. The problem is, outfield is the only position where you are consistently going at full speed towards either another player or a wall, and its really dangerous -- we saw that earlier with the Cubs and Kyle Schwarber. This is the danger of it -- you have to learn how to communicate more than anything. You can have all the speed and skills in the world, but if you can't communicate, and have a sense of where other players are, its going to be a dangerous proposition. And that's something that I don't think people can just have out of the gate. That's my bigger concern -- yes, they're good athletes, yes, they'll figure out certain things, but in the interim, how many extra bases are they giving up, how dangerous is it going to be for the players around them, that remains to be seen.
LSB: The Rangers are playing the Yankees tonight -- the Yankees have gotten off to a bad start and are in last place in the A.L. East. Rangers fans have been focusing on our own team and division, so can you tell us a little bit about what is going on with the Yankees and why they've stumbled out of the gate early?
DG: Its a similar, but opposite, issue to what we just talked about -- their lineup is an older lineup. Look at the first guys from last night -- Ellsbury, Gardner, and Beltran, and you can through Alex Rodriguez and McCann in the mix -- they are an older team. Joe Girardi has done a nice job as the manager to move players around, give them days off, but they have to use that DH spot somewhat as a set spot with Alex Rodriguez in the lineup, because he's pretty much just a DH. So they'll have to find other ways to spell these players, and they're probably not as deep as they'd like to be, on the offense. On the pitching side, the expectation of this bullpen, Betances has been Betances, Chapman, we're waiting to see what he does when he's back, but that's supposed to be their strength. To execute that well and hand things off to the bullpen, you still need starters working deep into the game, and that hasn't really transpired the way they'd like for it to be, the starters going six quality innings and then handing it off to a good bullpen. There's a lot of question marks still about that rotation, and if you're not combining that with putting a lot of runs on the board, which they really haven't, you have problems. And this is a difficult division, you have Toronto expecting good things, Boston, Baltimore...its a tough division to be figuring things out.
LSB: The A.L. West is an interesting situation, with the Astros, who were favored coming into the year, being in last place right now. The Rangers, who won the division last year, are tied for first place with the A's, but are just a game over .500. How do you see the A.L. West shaking out the rest of the way?
DG: I picked the Rangers to win the division -- I will say that -- but I also had the Astros making the playoffs as a Wild Card. The Rangers, remember last year, they started off horrifically, and most teams that start off that poorly don't recover, but the Rangers recovered very well. They know that they can get back, and Prince Fielder isn't lighting it up like he did last year, but there's enough good hitters to pick up the slack and play well enough. There's enough guys in the lineup -- we mentioned Mazara, Andrus is playing exceptionally well, those are great signs for Texas. Because you know, eventually, Moreland will hit, and Fielder will hit, and they'll get back in the saddle and things will pick up offensively, and they have enough versatility to use speed as a weapon, too. I see a huge upside offensively for Texas. Their bullpen was great last year, and I think that's also a strength, so now its a matter of Cole Hamels and the other starters just doing their job and handing it off to the bullpen. Which is why I don't think they have a ton of big weaknesses -- I think they are a nice, well-rounded team, and those sorts of teams rise to the top when it is all said and done.
The Rangers and Yankees, presented by USAA, will be on ESPN , WatchESPN/ESPN3, and ESPN Deportes TV tonight at 7:00 p.m., with Dave Flemming, Dallas Braden and Eduardo Perez on the broadcast.