Baseball Notes: Rangers from the West
This weekend I made it to a Texas Rangers game as they came a'visitin' Target Field as the winning-est team in the Majors.
It wasn't the fourth of July game, but military appreciation day so there was a pretty cool National Anthem ceremony that included the field-size flag and active duty troops lining the foul lines. At the end of the anthem there was a flyover of two military helicopters that was more interesting than fighter jets buzzing by because they dramatically made a turn over the field to give a better look.
Shin Soo Choo shin soo chose to start the game with a lead off jack. He hasn't had a lot of playing time this year due to injury but in the last three games he has led off two of them with first pitch homers off the Twins and Red Sox, respectively. The Rangers this year have been a bit of a cut and paste operation due to injuries and inefficiencies.
Mitch Moreland at first base and anyone who has manned catcher has underachieved for them this season and super-prospect Joey Gallo hasn't found a way to catch on with the team. Prince Fielder's batting average has sunk at times below .200. Shin Soo Choo has missed most of the games so far this season, and Josh Hamilton is out for the year in their outfield. Colby Lewis, and Derek Holland have hit the DL in the last few weeks and Yu Darvish only has three starts as he finds himself in his second stint with an injury this year. Despite all of these blights on their roster the Rangers are a win away from being the top team in the Majors.
The interesting way that the Rangers have managed to succeed this season, mostly of late, has been by utilizing the tallents of four middle infielders, two of whom (Profar and Odor) are 23 years old or younger. Jurickson Profar has been playing all over the infield, but recently has been able to reverse the problems of having Moreland at 1B by getting some starts there or at DH and Fielder playing 1B. Ian Desmond has been a breakout All-Star this year as he is currently nearly 30 points higher than his career best batting average while playing positions in the outfield he had never played before this season in a league he was new to.
Another prospect in his early 20's, Nomar Mazara, has brought some extra pop to the lineup. He hasn't hit as many home runs in recent weeks as the pace of his first two months, but he has been more reliable in getting on base and his ability to field than the tastes of the big leagues the Rangers have seen from Joey Gallo (and Mike Olt before them). Along with the provenance of Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder, the Rangers are back in the position to out power almost any team they face, much like the teams of Ivan Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez of the 'roided out '90's.
Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, and Jose Canseco all tarnished their careers or wore down their bodies with excessive PED's to keep themselves out of the Hall, but Pudge Rodriguez added masterful defense that will surely outshine the stink of steroid allegations. Palmeiro's gold glove the season he only played 28 games at first base certainly won't put him over the top. Beltre has been so consistent for so long, and has played so well with fellow infielders so much younger than himself that he will have a very solid shot at the Hall with his .285 average and 425 homers, even as he has signed an extension to keep playing for a couple more seasons to come. Prince Fielder will have a realistic shot at the Hall of Fame if he can figure out the ups and downs of his batting average the last few years. It seems every other year there are calls that he is wearing down and his career is over, then the next year he is the best power hitter in the league, then the next he is worn out again. At 32, he still has a few more years of ups and downs before the MLB gets tired of him.