With 81 games played and 81 to go, 2007 has been the best season for the Rangers since 1999.
“What?” you might ask.
Since 1999, the first full season of Tom Hicks’ ownership, the Rangers organization has been out of touch with reality. Every year under Hicks’ ownership and John Hart or Jon Daniels’ general management, the front office has acted as though the team was only one or two players away from returning the organization’s pinnacle era of late 90’s success under Doug Melvin and Johnny Oates. In the process they’ve robbed Rangers fans of having anything worth getting too excited about.
Despite four straight last place finishes followed by three consecutive 3rd place seasons in the least competitive division in baseball over the same time period, the Rangers kept bleeding talent out of the organization through short-sighted trades intended to help the club “win now” (or at least “sell tickets now”). But most rational people could see that the Rangers have been far from one or two players away from contending for, much less winning, a championship for the past seven season (and in reality, they’ve probably never been that close because of the consistent lack of pitching necessary to win in the playoffs – even when they did make the post-season). Continued through last season’s Carlos Lee trade, the delusional management approach – also fueled by Hick’s top priority of making money which has translated into trades to keep fans hopeful and buying tickets later into the season – has turned the Rangers into a joke.
By opening the season getting swept by the Angels and not seeing .500 since April 14th, reality has slapped all of Rangerdom in the face. Despite recent comments (which better just be posturing for trade negotiations) that he likes the way the Rangers are playing right now (which is certainly better but far from the performance of a contender), Tom Hicks and Jon Daniels will have to be “sellers” during this month’s pre-trade-deadline frenzy.
That alone will be a dramatic departure from the team’s approach. I can’t remember the last time the Rangers were heading into July ready to be sellers. Plus, they actually have some assets left that could fetch pieces of the puzzle for building a championship-caliber team.
Mark Teixeira should be traded and should return a ready-to-break-out major-league starting pitcher plus a prospect or two. Gagne, and maybe also Otsuka, are in high demand from talent-laden teams chasing a championship this season. Lofton and maybe Sosa should also return players who can contribute to the Rangers’ rebuilding efforts.
Without a horrible start to the season, Hicks and Daniels would undoubtedly have continued their delusional approach. Instead, maybe they’ll finally get their priorities straight – pitching first, hitting second=winning=excited fans=profits=more winning – and possibly Rangers’ fans best chance to finally have a championship-caliber team for the first time.
Then again, we are talking about Hicks and Daniels, so the odds are they will still find a way to get it wrong.
But in the meantime, here’s to the best Rangers’ season yet this millennium!