The All-Star Game, the traditional half way mark of the major league baseball season, is almost upon us. At this point, the Texas Rangers have 41 wins and 28 losses. They have a three and a half game lead on the Angels. The Rangers may actually be the real deal this year. However, if this ends up like last year, they may fall out of contention with a week left to play. As a transplanted fan, here are some ideas that I’ve come up with that should allow the Rangers to make it to the post season for the first time in over ten years.
Keep the pitching fresh– At this point, the Rangers have the eleventh best ERA in the majors, and the fourth best ERA in the American League. The Rays, Twins, and Yankees are the only teams with better ERAs and not by much. The post season is won in part by good pitching. To be able to make it to the end of the season in first place, the Rangers need to keep their pitching staff fresh. Washington, in part, is already doing his best to keep the pitchers as rested as possible. He tries to give the staff an extra day off as often as he can so they don’t tire themselves out in the 100 to 110 degree heat. This is something that they need to keep in place.
Another pitcher in the rotation would go along way as well. Currently, the fifth starter that they are using is Dustin Nippert. The Rangers have a couple of options: trying to get Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners, trading for Roy Oswalt of the Astros, or seeing if a free market pitcher like Pedro Martinez is available. Although Oswalt has the connection with the Rangers due to his relationship with club president Nolan Ryan and would be a welcome addition, he may end up being a pricer option once his contract expires. Lee is currently in the first year of a three year deal with the Mariners and the Rangers have a plethora of pitching and catching that they could trade without giving away the farm. If the Rangers can get one more front line starter, then they should be solid enough to last the rest of the season and make it to the post season.
Keep 2008 Josh Hamilton, scare away 2009 Hamilton- True, last years club almost made it to the post season without Hamilton’s hitting. However, it doesn’t hurt having the old Josh Hamilton in the line up. Currently in the midst of a 16 game hitting streak, Hamilton has been able to rediscover his stroke that made him the big comeback story of 2008. With Hamilton being the offensive weapon that he is this year, opposing pitchers now have a tough decision whenever Vladimir Guerrero comes to bat. Do they walk Vlad, taking the bat out of his hand, only to face Hamilton? Once Nelson Cruz returns from the disabled list, the Rangers will have the potential of a line up rivaling the Giants teams of the nineties, with Bonds, Williams and Clark. As long as Hamilton plays team ball and keeps hitting the way he is, the Rangers will be well deserving of the title of one of the best hitting teams in the majors right now
Leave Neftali where he is- Yes, I know he has a fastball running over a hundred miles an hour. Yes, I know he has a great curve ball. Yes, I know he’s lights out. However, for all of you who think he belongs in the starting rotation, let me set this straight: Neftali Feliz needs to remain in the bullpen. Aside from the fact that he is doing a tremendous job as closer, who do the Rangers have to replace him if Feliz is moved to the rotation? Not Nippert, not Francisco, not Oliver. So, unless the Rangers make a trade for either a closer (maybe Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals) or half the rotation ends up on the disabled list, Neftali will only be throwing heat for one inning at a time.
So Mr. Ryan and Mr. Washington, if either of you are reading this, feel free to use this blue print to take our boys to the post season. You make it that far, then I’ll give you the blue print for making it to the World Series.