So the draft starts Thursday, and the Rangers have 5 of the first 54 picks. Whippie!
First, this isn’t the NBA or NFL where a good draft can help your team next season. Usually, it takes at least 5 years to evaluate a team’s MLB draft performance.
More importantly, looking at the Rangers’ past drafts leaves little room for optimism for the short or long term. They’ve focused on (and In-Over-His-Head Little Jon DanielsHart has stated they are again “leaning towards”) pitching in recent drafts. While at first it seems to make sense for the Rangers to focus on pitching with their picks (since that’s ALWAYS been their biggest need), on further reflection, it’s asinine.
Why waste high picks to draft pitching prospects when you can’t build a system, an organization that can incubate pitching talent and potential and develop it into Major-League, championship-caliber pitching capability? The Rangers have NEVER been able to do so.
Why can’t the Rangers develop pitching?
Maybe it’s ownership. Hicks may be a talented businessman and a shrewd manipulator of the political realm to keep his wallet fat, but he suffers from Bi-Polar Owner Disorder. If you listen to what he says, pitching has been a focus under Hicks’ dark 9 years of ownership. But Hicks keeps tripping over himself and continually makes pitching worse for the organization. First, when it’s time to put his money where his mouth is, he’s shown that he’s much more likely to spend on hitting (Alex Rodriguez’s super-stupid, market-changing contract is the best of many examples) than he is on pitching. Second, Hicks’ Bi-Polar Owner Disorder (Bi-POD) also leads to fluctuating team salaries – leading to the Rangers’ current 10th cheapest roster amongst MLB’s 30 teams despite being in the nation’s 4th largest market. No wonder top free agent pitchers (and their wives) don’t want to pitch in Arlington; despite Hicks’ words, free agent pitchers can clearly see Hicks’ lack of commitment to pitching (and winning) in his deeds. Finally, Hicks’ Bi-PODism has led to more change than consistency in Rangers’ baseball personnel. An organization where managers, GMs, pitching coaches, scouts, and farm system personnel are constantly changing is not conducive to developing pitching talent and turning potential into capable.
Maybe it’s organizational psychology. For complex reasons, some organizations have capabilities that others don’t. Take innovation in the auto industry for example (just innovation, not selling, reliability, etc.). Some companies, like Chrysler, seem to be able to churn out innovative new concepts and production models at whim. Others can’t seem to innovative their lineup to jumpstart their business no matter how hard or long they try, like Chevrolet. Like people, some organizations are naturally good at some things while others couldn’t do the same thing to save their lives. The Rangers don’t have the DNA or the organizational psychology to develop pitching. It’s just not in their blood.
Maybe it’s the Ballpark. It’s one of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball. When the biggest thing that separates minor-league talent and potential from major-league capability is the mental aspect of pitching – the mental ability to be the center of a game and play the toughest position in sports – the Ballpark is far from a conducive setting for young pitchers to develop their mental game. It just heaps more pressure on pitchers, because mistakes are usually punished hard through a wide outfield alley or into the stands. And with little to no foul territory, the Ballpark doesn’t hand pitchers many easy outs.
Maybe it’s the heat. Can’t find information on this, but I’d be willing to bet that The Ballpark offers the hottest average game-time temperature in all of baseball. Extreme heat tires athletes. Tired pitchers loose their stuff and control sooner and make mistakes. Loosing your stuff, your control and making more mistakes is especially hard for younger, developing pitchers to cope with.
Maybe it’s… does it matter?
If you can’t develop pitching, don’t draft it.
So what should they do? Thoughts on that tomorrow…