ARLINGTON — We didn’t know it, but inevitability hung at Rangers Ballpark for the first two months of the season like the humidity that resides here.We were unable to see it because this team kept winning in ways that we now take for granted.Since the humidity made its way to the Ballpark, so has the inevitable stench that now trails our Texas Rangers.This was always going to happen; it was merely a question of when.You can’t lose Cliff Lee, Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, C.J. Wilson and then suffer a couple of standard baseball injuries and avoid what the Rangers are going through. This is more like what we thought this team was going to be when the season began — they are good, just not as good.“The ‘cumulative effect’ of losing players? May as well go back to Juan Gonzalez when we lost him in 2003,” Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler told me, which is a great answer. “Every team is different. We’ve been a formidable team [this season], and one of the best teams in the league.”Said outfielder David Murphy: “This team is every bit as capable as the last three years.”No one on this team is going to agree with my theory, nor should they. But something does not feel right, not even after the Rangers ended their six-game losing streak by defeating the division-leading A’s on Monday night. Thank A’s starter Dan Straily for helping to end the Rangers’ losing streak.No team can lose its two best starting pitchers and biggest run producer in consecutive off-seasons and not feel the effects.The more impressive feat is that until right now your Texas Rangers had always found a way to compensate for losing guys such as Lee, Napoli, Hamilton and Wilson because someone else filled in so admirably.The Rangers have been begging for such a scenario, and now it’s here. Because baseball’s regular season feels like about 15 months, we are far from panic time. But it’s time to get real about some things, beginning with the designated hitter.This by-committee approach to replacing all of those pretty numbers from the departed Hamilton and Napoli isn’t going to work if the designated hitter has become a designated out, and the high-dollar shortstop isn’t more than a decoy.The off-season signing of veteran Lance Berkman was a brilliant gamble provided he, you know, hit.But he’s 37 with multiple knee surgeries, and right now he looks 47.Rangers manager Ron Washington gave Berkman Sunday and Monday off in an attempt to give him a rest. I asked Wash if Berkman’s recent slump is any chance a case of an older guy being, well, older. That this is a bat speed issue. Wash said no, and Berkman insists this is a mechanics issue.Whatever the case, hitting .192 over the past 28 days as Berkman has done isn’t quite going to do it.This isn’t only Berkman’s deal. Shortstop Elvis Andrus may not be the next Derek Jeter, but $15 mil per season has to buy more than a .243 average.Every team in a 162-game season is going to have a stretch of stench, but this one for the Rangers looks and feels different than your average slump.I asked Wash before Monday’s game if this stretch o’ stench feels any different than any other slump he has been a part of. “Yeah,” he said, which I was not expecting. “Normally, when you’re in a slump you’re scoring some runs. But in this one, this is the first one where you just don’t score runs.”The depth of this rotation past Yu Darvish is also a concern. Middle relief is a concern for every team in baseball.The biggest concern is intangible — something feels not quite right, not the same as in previous seasons.The team is confident, but what appears to be lacking is the fun swagger that the Rangers of the three previous seasons had in abundance.This will get laughed off the lot, but don’t rule out the departure of veteran Michael Young from the clubhouse not having an impact. His bat has been replaced but his voice may not have been just yet.Despite this recent slump I can’t see this team, barring a catastrophic injury, not being around it in September. They’re good enough to be around it, but beyond that, something just doesn’t feel right.It was inevitable.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @macengelprof