The Rangers’ 2018 campaign kicks off in three weeks and things are going….well, they’re going.
The team isn’t projected to fare well this season, PECOTA says. Yes, the same PECOTA that kept telling us the Kansas City Royals wouldn’t fare well for five years even as the Royals did the very opposite of that (spoiler alert if you’re just waking up from a deep slumber or medically-induced coma, the Royals recently won a World Series championship).
To the Rangers’ credit, the front office has made some moves that – and some fans will vehemently disagree here and that’s totally fine – could pan out for the team this season. The addition of Tim Lincecum may, just may, help bolster that much-maligned bullpen. Ok, I feel the need to reemphasize the “maybe” on Lincecum again.
And then we come to the little bit of news from earlier this week. Cole Hamels, the Rangers’ ace, their starting quarterback, was most unhappy about the team potentially turning to a six-man rotation. Not only was Hamels not happy about this option, he was seething. At one point, I really thought maybe Cole Hamels was mad at the six-man rotation because the six-man rotation killed his puppy when Cole was 8-years-old. In all fairness, that’d make me hate the six-man rotation, too.
Obviously, the Hamels six-man comments lead to some spirited Twitter Takes™. On one hand, you had the pro analytics people who rolled their eyes at Hamels’ seemingly antiquated quips about “analytics trying to re-invent the wheel” (paraphrased). On the other hand, you had the traditionalists who agreed with Hamels and were disgusted that this dirty, smelly, tattoo-covered teenage boy was invited over to their house for dinner by their sweet, angelic daughter.
Both sides of the debate have some merits. Hamels has been in the big leagues for over a decade and it’s totally understandable that he has settled into a routine for preparing and conditioning, especially since he’s in his mid-thirties now. During the season, his mind and body have been conditioned to get going every fifth game. So yeah, a move to a six-man rotation would mean he’d have to make some major alterations to that routine. I get mad when the sanitation people don’t pick up our recycling on Tuesday’s before 8:30am because I like to get the bin back in the garage before leaving for work. I get it, Cole, I’m all about daily routines, too.
But Cole Hamels is the team ace. He’s the quarterback. If anyone on the team is supposed to be flexible for the team’s greater good, it should be the ace. If we’re going to equate the ace/QB to being the military General, then attitude reflects leadership (and now I want to watch Remember the Titans again). The team clearly believes (because analytics! ) that the six-man rotation, at least for the 2018 season, improves the team. To that point, 5-Star General Cole Hamels needs to set aside the personal gripes and be the professional we know he is.
Some people have also pointed out that Cole speaking out so publicly about being against the six-man rotation speaks to his lack of professionalism but I don’t buy that. I think that was just Cole being frustrated. Hamels may be a pro-athlete but he’s also a human and we get frustrated at work. I once got upset about people getting the copy machine jammed with paper and not doing anything about it, so I sent out a company-wide memo decrying this apathetic practice. It was stupid and I shouldn’t have so publicly put it out there like that, but it came from a good place (my coworkers, rightfully, owned me about the memo for YEARS ).
As I’ve pointed out in previous articles, the 2018 Rangers season may end up being more of a dud then the disastrous 2014 season but I do think the team will provide some ancillary entertainment. If Bartolo Colon can make the big-league team, the potential Big Sexy + The Freak stories have my knees feeling weak. Anything Adrian Beltre does makes my knees weak too, just putting it out there.
But more than the entertainment aspect, Rangers fans will get to see how and which team members will unselfishly compromise for the greater good. For a fanbase that coined the phrase “leadershipping” when describing Michael Young, it remains to be seen if General Cole Hamels (I really like this moniker, by the way ) and other members of the 2018 roster will bend a bit for the sake of the team.
The Rangers might scrap the six-man rotation idea altogether, even before the season starts. But that doesn’t mean the need for team members to compromise and make some personal sacrifices won’t still be necessary.
If Texas is going to Royally outkick their PECOTA projections, some unconventional – and unpopular – options may need to be explored. And when it comes to winning it all or getting Chopped, leadership and compromise could end up being the key secret ingredients in an unexpectedly delightful postseason dish.