With the 2022 regular season almost over, it is that time for us to go back and take a look at the players who appeared for the Texas Rangers this season.
Today, we look at outfielder Steven Duggar.
Quick — without looking, how many games did Steven Duggar start for the Rangers?
How many games did Steven Duggar play in for the Rangers?
How many plate appearances did Steven Duggar have with the Rangers?
I ask these questions because, when I go back and look at the stats for the Rangers, I find myself being surprised all over again at the amount of action Duggar got with the Rangers.
Duggar’s arrival in Texas in late June coincided with the start of the Rangers’ descent from flirting-with-.500 respectability to embarrassing-manager-and-president-of-baseball-ops-getting-fired ignomy. Texas was 33-35 when they acquired Duggar from the San Francisco Giants, in exchange for Willie Calhoun — and the fact that Duggar was linked with Calhoun, and all the associations he has for Rangers fans, probably didn’t help perceptions of Duggar, either.
For a period of time, Duggar seemed to be the prime whipping boy on the team, the guy who everyone would point to and say, “Why is [insert pet cat here] in the minors while Duggar is on the roster?” Chris Woodward, and the front office in general, were pilloried online, with folks demanding to know why Duggar was starting, why he was getting regular playing time, when he was so obviously inept. When Duggar was finally optioned to AAA Round Rock, the general reaction seemed to be, what took them so long?
Looking back, though, it strikes me how much hostility Duggar generated, given how little playing time he actually received.
Duggar started a total of four games for the Rangers. He appeared in a total of eight games. He had 19 plate appearances for Texas.
He wasn’t playing all the time — he wasn’t really playing much at all in the three weeks or so he was on the Rangers’ active roster.
It just seemed that way.
The Rangers were 2-6 in games that he appeared in during that time, and were 6-4 in games he didn’t appear in. That probably didn’t help matters.
He was also pretty awful for Texas, slashing .177/.263/.177 in his 19 plate appearances, with 12 strikeouts. And the awfulness seemed specifically timed to come in particularly impactful situations.
On July 4, Duggar led off the tenth inning of a tie game in Baltimore — a game that the Rangesr were winning until, with two outs in the ninth, Adley Rutschman doubled home the tying run — and struck out looking. Duggar failed to move over the Zombie Runner, failed to do anything...and then the next two batters, Leody Taveras and Meibrys Viloria, were pinch hit for, leading to questions about why Duggar was even allowed to hit in the first place.
The Rangers lost when Matt Moore hit Jorge Mateo with the bases loaded in the bottom of the inning.
The next day, July 5, the Rangers once again blew a one run lead in Baltimore with two outs in the ninth, this time courtesy of a Rougned Odor home run. Duggar faced someone named Joey Krehbel with the bases loaded in the top of the tenth and one out. He struck out swinging.
The Rangers lost when Matt Moore gave up a two out double to Cedric Mullins in the bottom of the inning.
Duggar’s next plate appearance didn’t come until July 11, when, after having come into the game as a defensive replacement with the Rangers up 10-2, he led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a backwards K. The Rangers won the game, so Duggar striking out yet again was of no moment, but it is worth noting that he had just come into the game for defensive purposes in the top of the eighth, at which point the A’s scored six runs to make it a 10-8 game. Thus, when he batted to lead off the 8th, nerves were a bit...frayed. Resulting in more anger over his feeble AB being generated than might otherwise be the case.
All this was simply a prelude, however, to the piece de resistance, the Magnum Opus of the Steven Duggar Experience in Texas.
July 12, 2022, a home game against the Oakland A’s. Duggar started in left field. Duggar struck out in the bottom of the third. He had a 6-3 in the bottom of the fifth. He struck out on three pitches to start the eighth. All pretty routine stuff.
Texas was trailing 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth, but a Corey Seager home run and a Kole Calhoun single tied the score, forcing extra innings. Oakland’s Zombie Runner scored, making it 6-5 Oakland going to the bottom of the tenth.
Leading off the inning was Steven Duggar. Sam Huff was on second to start the inning, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Duggar just needed to bring Huff home from third, and the score would be tied.
Duggar struck out looking. Everyone was angry.
Marcus Semien saved Duggar, for better or for worse — after a Josh Smith K, Semien doubled, bringing home Huff and tying the score. No more runs were pushed across, sending the game to the 11th, when Dennis Santana held the A’s scoreless in the top of the inning.
Now, all the Rangers had to do was bring the Zombie Runner home and they’d win the game. A ground out, a wild pitch, a walk, a stolen base and a swinging strikeout made it two on, two out for Sam Huff. The A’s opted to walk Huff — loading the bases intentionally — in order to pitch to...
You probably remember how this ended. Duggar struck out swinging. The Rangers gave up eight runs in the top of the inning, with four runs scoring on a grand slam given up by our old friend Kolby Allard. Everyone was irate.
And it is important to remember...this was a time where the Rangers were still hanging around. The season wasn’t over yet. They were a few games under .500, had hit a bit of a rough patch, but everyone was still emotionally invested in the season. There were still hopes of, if not the playoffs, then respectability. The prospect of finishing above .500 and having warm fuzzies heading into 2023 was still realistic.
When there is no hope, a player having a miserable game, striking out multiple times in key situations, fades into the background. It can be almost comical. I mean, what difference does one game mean in a lost season?
When there is hope, the same failure stings. When you are watching hope slip away in real time, when you are in the midst of seeing a season careen off a cliff, such failure cuts to the quick. It becomes a synecdoche of the failure of the team as a whole, a symbol of where things went wrong, a target for the inchoate wrath of a fan base.
As one last twist of the knife, when the Rangers came out for the bottom of the 12th, down by eight runs, they had to send the Zombie Runner out there. The Zombie Runner is the player who was the last batter up in the previous inning, which meant...Steven Duggar trotted out to second base.
Those still paying attention, when Josh Smith singled to start the 12th, got to experience the bitter irony of Steven Duggar trotting across the plate, scoring the run that cut the deficit to just seven runs.
That was the last play Duggar had as a Ranger. He was optioned two days later, designated for assignment in August, and claimed on waivers by the Anaheim Angels.
Were this a work of fiction, this is where I would report that Duggar excelled for the Angels, earning a starting job and coming up big in late game situations for them, making the denouement to the Rangers’ Steven Duggar Experience all the more agonizing.
But since this is real life, I must instead relay to you that Steven Duggar was terrible everywhere he went in 2022. He played for three AAA teams in 2022, and put up a combined line of .182/.286/.314 — his 676 OPS for Round Rock was his best performance anywhere. His major league line for the Giants, Rangers and Angels in 2022 was .153/.225/.222, his high mark being the 509 OPS he put up for the Giants.
Steven Duggar is now a free agent. I don’t know what the future holds for him. I do suspect, though, that when Rangers fans think of 2022, his will be a name that comes up unbidden, the way that Matt Kata or Ben Broussard or Jeanmar Gomez might, as players whose poor play are indelibly linked to a particularly time in Rangers history.