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Reasons to care about the 2019 Texas Rangers

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Have you seen that big chicken tender?!

MLB: Texas Rangers-Media Day Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

I wrote one of these last year and maybe it was sort of a concession speech up front that the Rangers were going to be bad but we would still have baseball and it would have Adrian Beltre in it. All of that was true and it was fine. We made it.

But here we are again 364 days later. They actually just keep playing these whole seasons of baseball. After today, the Rangers will play a baseball game virtually every day for the next just-barely-under 200 days straight. They probably won’t be very good again. Also, there’s no Adrian Beltre.

So, why should you care about the 2019 Texas Rangers? I mean, besides the fact that you can just go hang out at a baseball park and watch some guys you like play the game you love while eating a bacon-wrapped cheese stick? I’m going to do my best to help you out if the Right-Field Bacon Bombs didn’t sell you on it.

Let’s get the whole theme for this season out of the way first. The 2019 Texas Rangers are when the phoenix dies. From its ashes will come a beautiful bird that blazes with the fires of redemption and purpose. But before we behold that majesty, someone has to put the thing out of its misery and cremate the corpse.

In ways that are all of the above literal, figurative, and physical, the Rangers are in transition. You could make the joke that the roster is just a big sign that reads UNDER CONSTRUCTION but there are actual signs that say that right outside The Ballpark.

Indeed, when the Rangers play 81 more games in the city of Arlington, The Ballpark, our home, will close forever (no, the XFL doesn’t count). The Rangers will make this season all about saying goodbye to our beloved building but make no mistake, they’re ready to enjoy the spoils of the shiny new place being built next door.

We all are. There’s no shame in that. With it comes earned comfort and an even greater sense of legitimacy. With it, they promise, comes the return of hope. Since this is baseball and baseball sustains itself on hope, and since the Rangers are simply famished, you can’t help but want to get to that banquet. That will come but there’s something that remains that we need to address this summer.

If you ever baked in the 110 degree summer sun, you should watch the 2019 Texas Rangers. If you were there when Rusty Greer lifted his hands to the sky as Pudge Rodriguez lifted Kenny Rogers off the mound in celebration of perfection, you should watch the 2019 Texas Rangers. If you saw The Catch, or Pudge’s Fist Pump, or heard the birth of Nap-O-Li! or lost your voice for a week screaming because of Nellie’s walk-off, or cried at Feliz’s dragon, or saw Adrian Beltre make his home at the hottest corner in the league, you should watch the 2019 Texas Rangers.

You should watch ‘em because those memories will never go away, but they will not have a physical home anymore. The memories the Rangers make after this season will live in an entirely new building. 2019 will be a time to let those memories come out to play again, even as you watch and dream for glimpses of what that future could look like.

But that’s just thematically what the 2019 Texas Rangers will be about. Who will be about the 2019 Texas Rangers? Let’s look at every name on the 40-man roster and some more who could come later:

  • Kyle Bird could be on this team when Chuck Morgan says the names on Opening Day on Thursday. That would be a big W in the column of successes from the Jurickson Profar trade. Even if Bird isn’t on the team tomorrow, he will more than likely pitch for Texas before the summer is over.
  • The real meat on the Profar trade bone appears to be Brock Burke and he’s coming soon. For now, he’s a reason to care about the Frisco Roughriders but it’s all baseball here for us.
  • Jesse Chavez is like you. He watched the 2018 Texas Rangers and then signed up for the 2019 Texas Rangers voluntarily. If it’s good enough for Jesse, it’s good enough for you.
  • Did you love the Carlos Tocci thrill ride of 2018? Well, Tocci is back, in relief pitcher Kyle Dowdy form.
  • Luke Farrell took a baseball to the face because he wanted to so badly be a part of the 2019 Texas Rangers. If someone is willing to have their jaw reconstructed for the team, you should be willing to mount a little effort here.
  • Jason Hammel preemptively didn’t care about the 2019 Texas Rangers and that led to a spot of the roster for Jeanmar Gomez who has a fun name that doesn’t sound like the Kirkland Signature version of Cole Hamel.
  • There’s Taylor Hearn, Jonathan Hernandez, Wei-Chieh Huang, and Ariel Jurado and they’re all going to be in the upper levels of the minors doing their damndest to get to Arlington to give you a reason to tune in and care.
  • Shawn Kelley lost his job with the Washington Nationals in the middle of a playoff race because he got mad and threw his glove in a game the Nationals won by 21 runs. Kelley couldn’t even stop caring about a game that was 25-1 at the time. He’s not going to stop caring about the 2019 Rangers.
  • Jose Leclerc might legitimately be the actual reason to watch the 2019 Texas Rangers. And, sure, it’s kind of rough when possibly the team’s best player is the closer but Leclerc has a chance to be much more than just some guy who finishes off games. If Leclerc carries on how he was in the second half of last season, he’s the kind of guy you text your friends who only sort of like baseball to tell them that Leclerc is about to pitch.
  • We can spend our summer rooting for Lance Lynn to have a K/9 rate of 10+ and then he can bring us a delicious prospect to dream on when Texas no longer needs Lance Lynn innings.
  • Brett Martin was one of the better pitching prospects for the Rangers and then he had a few bad years and kind of fell off the map but after a trip to Driveline to work on his offspeed pitches, he came in and had one of the best camps among all pitchers. That’s fascinating. The relationship between the Rangers and Driveline is certainly one that warrants a close watch as the Rangers transition to a more modern approach to development and perhaps it is best personified immediately by how Martin performs this year.
  • Chris Martin was doing that whole “I’m from Arlington!” thing before it was cool, Pence. But Martin is from Arlington by way of Japan which is rad unlike Hunter who is coming home after stints with division rival Houston, the team that stole Cliff Lee from us, and the team that beat the Rangers in the World Series.
  • If his elbow is still attached properly, Yohander Mendez joins the likes of Burke, Jurado, and Hearn as pitchers you will likely see start games for the Rangers this summer because the last time the Rangers had a starting rotation that had anything close to just five people pitch all year, they were putting up fancy flags at The Ballpark. The current rotation is about as tenuous while being filled with veterans as a team can possibly be constructed. That means that you’re eventually going to see a glimpse of the future on the mound in Arlington if you’re patient enough.
  • Shelby Miller and I share a birthday but, unlike me, he achieved the goal of becoming a Texas Ranger. It’s worth caring about how he will do because honestly it seems like the Rangers have been flirting with this whole Shelby Miller coming to Texas thing for a decade now. It’s time to bang this one out.
  • A year ago at this moment, Mike Minor was most recently known as a middle reliever for the moribund Kansas City Royals. Tomorrow, Minor will join an illustrious club with members such a Nolan Ryan, Yu Darvish, and Tanner Scheppers as an Opening Day starter for the Texas Rangers. That’s pretty neat!
  • Joe Palumbo is a step behind the Hearns and Hernandezs in the timeline but if there’s one starter in the upper levels to keep an eye on this year, my pick is Palumbo who is ready to go after a couple of injury-stalled years. He’ll be getting his first taste of a full season in the hardest level jump in the minors (until the hardest level jump in all of sports), so there will be growing pains, but he has the ability to be one of the better starting options the Rangers have seen reach their upper levels in several years.
  • I’m a CD Pelham fan because his stuff just looks like it was made to strike people out. Indeed, over his four years as a professional baseball player, he has stuck out 11 batters per nine innings. The issue is, he’s walked nearly six people per nine. He’s wild. But I like wild. Wild is interesting. Sometimes wild becomes Jose Leclerc. Your care meter will rise at some point this summer when Pelham joins the bullpen and, if he harnesses his stuff at all like he was able to last season in High-A ball (13 BB to 34 Ks in 27 23 innings), he’ll be a good‘un.
  • Connor Sadzeck would be even more of a reason to care about the 2019 Rangers if they were still planning to do the whole Opener strategy – Sadzeck took a crack at it twice last Sept. – but they’re not really built that way with the whole Island of Misfit Toys-rotation. Instead, Sadzeck is kind of like proto-Pelham and the time is running out. But still, seeing three digits on the scoreboard gun perks anyone up.
  • A team once traded in-his-prime David Price for Drew Smyly. Drew Smyly was once traded for Mallex Smith, in a three-team deal, where the Mariners so regretted passing Smith on, they sent their starting catcher off to acquire him again this winter. Drew Smyly was also traded to Texas basically as a hidden extra part of the Cole Hamels trade with the Cubs. Smyly’s journey from perpetually on the cusp of being one of baseball’s brightest young pitchers to virtually a baseball ghost after missing all of the last two years makes him an interesting player to watch this year.
  • Jeffrey Springs is another guy who really could have made a name for himself if the Rangers were built to deploy the Opener strategy as the Rangers utilized Springs twice in that role in 2018. Instead, Springs gets the opportunity to be the lefty out of the ‘pen after 16 solid appearances in relief last year. I’m sure he’ll take it after being drafted in the 30th round and never really making any noise on the top prospects rankings.
  • Edinson Volquez has been around forever. Edinson Volquez has been around so long that when he was signed by the Rangers out of the Dominican Republic, The Ballpark hadn’t yet turned eight years old yet. Edinson Volquez has been around so long that I bet you forgot that until 2003, we knew him as Julio Reyes. Or that until 2007, just before the Rangers traded him for Josh Hamilton in what is one of the transcendent deals in franchise history, we knew him as Edison Volquez. Edinson Volquez, in some ways, feels like the 2019 version of Bartolo Colon with a life lived full of tall tales. The crazy thing is, even though Edinson Volquez has been around forever, when he signed with Texas as a 16-year-old, Colon was just about to enter his final season with the Cleveland Indians.
  • Also, Nick Gardewine is on the roster. (This is mean. I’m sorry Nick Gardewine.)
  • I can’t speak for you but I really am interested in seeing if Isiah Kiner-Falefa was actually bitten by Michael Young and is about to become a fully formed WereYoung. Maybe he’s Michael Young just now a catcher who maybe doesn’t lead baseball in hits but he definitely puts off Michael Young vibes for me right down to a similar right-handed bop-it-the-other-way swing.
  • It’s crazy to me that in 2019 Jeff Mathis is the starting catcher for the Texas Rangers and that’s lowkey a good thing. There are legit reasons to believe, in 2019, with a career OPS+ of 52, and maybe being the worst hitter of this decade, that Jeff Mathis is a positive addition to the Rangers. I’ve spent years making fun of Jeff Mathis and the teams that have used him and the joke might have been on me the entire time.
  • I’m still a big believer in Jose Trevino because he’s basically Jeff Mathis already but the Rangers are letting him simmer in Nashville because they’re hoping his bat can come around and make him more than a Mathis. I want a Buster Posey who does it all as much as the next catcher fetishist, but if the Rangers want me to buy into the Jeff Mathis mythos, they have to be willing to give me Trevino at some point as soon as possibly this summer.
  • It’s Elvis Andrus’ team now and we’re just along for the ride and the soundtrack of that ride is apparently ‘Baby Shark’. I truly am eager to see how Elvis performs as the unequivocal Veteran Presence (TM) instead of basically being the kid brother of the team as he has been for so long. He’s been doing on the job training for this role with Omar Vizquel, Michael Young, and Adrian Beltre as his mentors for basically his entire life. He’s ready.
  • I can’t care about Asdrubal Cabrera yet. It’s just too soon.
  • Matt Davidson is apparently a relief pitcher and also the next Josh Donaldson so that’s pretty good for guy who didn’t make the team over Logan Forsythe who, having mentioned him in this sentence, satisfies my prerequisite of mentioning people who are on the roster or on the team. Thanks, Matt!
  • The Condor Ronald Guzman took Yu Darvish’s uniform number 11 because I assume it is the lankiest number possible. We keep hearing whispers that maybe the power is coming and, if so, all my nagging thoughts that perhaps Guzman isn’t the long term answer at first base could get obliterated this summer. I hope he makes me look foolish for doubting him and then Nomar Mazara @s me again on Twitter about it.
  • What if, and hear me out on this, what if Rougned Odor wins the gold glove at second base, makes the All-Star team this summer, and finishes in the top five in AL MVP voting? I mean, it’s crazy right? Yeah. It’s crazy. But what if?
  • Patrick Wisdom was wise to struggle just enough during the spring to avoid becoming the man who was called upon to fill Adrian Beltre’s shoes. Nobody with Wisdom in their name is dumb enough to want that responsibility but you’ll still likely see Wisdom come up eventually when a need around the diamond arises.
  • Just rake, Willie. It would be extremely exciting if Willie Calhoun just beat the hell out of the ball in Nashville for a few months and Kool-Aid Man’d his way into the big league clubhouse for good later this summer.
  • If any of those wild things above that totally can’t come true about Rougned Odor (but hey, what if, right?) actually came true, it might be because Shin-Soo Choo is beginning to gain a reputation as something of a Rougie whisperer. While Choo is becoming more and more of a coach in the clubhouse, let’s not forget that he made the first All-Star appearance of his career last season and it was deserved. If we’re being totally honest, there are some roster issues that could be solved by Choo not being here anymore but, for as long as he is, I’m going to enjoy the hell out of watching him work a count and if we see the core of young players put it together this season, I feel like we’ll owe Choo a modicum of gratitude.
  • Delino DeShields proved the doubters wrong last season. It turns out, he can play center field and he can actually play it at a decent level. The problem now is that DeShields has regressed as a hitter since his debut season in 2015 when he was nearly a league average batter. The doubting made DeShields work hard only to become worse in another area leading to more doubting but about something different than the initial doubts. It’s a self-propelled doubting machine! I want to see DeShields break it while stealing 70 bags.
  • Just typing the words Joey Gallo has made a random person smile and another random person spit up bile in their mouth and they don’t know why. That is the power of Joey Gallo on the Internet. The power of Joey Gallo on the baseball field is prodigious. Because that power comes with a bushel full of strikeouts, Gallo has become the posterboy for all things wrong with baseball in 2019. Whenever Gallo’s name is mentioned, pitchforks and torches materialize in the gnarled hands of otherwise decent, god fearing folk. It was thought that Earth’s magnetic field was created by the feedback process of the liquid iron alloy in the outer core of the planet but instead it was discovered that our protection from solar wind and cosmic rays was retroactively created from the polarizing opinion of Joey Gallo. Here’s what I want for Joey Gallo and what would make me care about the Rangers in 2019: I just want Joey Gallo hit a whole bunch of long, floppy dongs all summer and for people to relax.
  • Zack Granite’s name is Zack Granite. I don’t think that’s exactly a reason to care about the Rangers in 2019 but it’s not not a reason to care about the Rangers in 2019.
  • I also don’t think we could absolutely prove that Scott Heineman isn’t Zack Granite incognito.
  • Hunter Pence is from Arlington, TX, or so I’ve heard.
  • Like Condor and Rougie and Delino and Gallo before him, this year is so important for Nomar Mazara. He was supposed to be a steady pillar of this whole new window of contention that the Rangers are trying to pry open but, along with the ups and downs that have trended more down for the other guys in this group of young players, the highs haven’t been high enough and the lows have come too often for The Big Chill. Honestly, if there’s one thing the Rangers should strive to get out of the 2019 season on the big league level, it needs to be a better idea of what they have going forward in Nomar Mazara. The thought is that perhaps the new wholly adopted turn to technology can get Nomar to finally start lifting the ball, and if he does, and they start going out of the park, then perhaps he becomes that key cog for when the Rangers start flying flags again.
  • If someone asks you: “Hey, why do you care about the 2019 Texas Rangers?” And you answer anything other than “Carlos Tocci.” You’re incorrect and a liar.

Beyond these rostered players is a group waiting in the wings in the minors and my two personal favorite farmhands are Hans Crouse and Bubba Thompson. Caring about the big league club in 2019 can be interchangeable with caring about the franchise as a whole and that means caring about Crouse shoving in Hickory and Thompson grabbing a helium balloon out of Down East.

So that’s the Rangers in 2019. There will likely be people I haven’t listed who come along and some I have listed who won’t last long but that’s a lot of the people who will make up a lot of the baseball that is played in Arlington this year. A lot of Baseball in Arlington that by all reasonable estimation won’t end up exactly where we wish it would. Not yet, at least. Not in 2019.

But, really, in the end, the reason to care about the 2019 Texas Rangers is that they’re the Texas Rangers and it’s baseball and even though the season is really, really long – and maybe all the more so when the Rangers aren’t competitive – they eventually take the whole sport away from us for very many days and it’s way worse then than when we have baseball around.

Someone can write 3,500 words about why we should care but the truth is, we inherently do and we always will.