A new season opens Sunday night in Houston.
But a new season opens once a year.
For the Texas Rangers, Sunday night is much more about a whole new ballgame, and a brand new Arlington power structure.
What we’ve known for the last five years was three of the most diverse characters in maybe the history of sports — Nolan, Jon and Wash — being directly involved in the total transformation of a franchise.
Unprecedented success on the field. Unprecedented fan support.
It was almost comical that a Nolan, a Jon and a Wash — a threesome from totally different personal and baseball planets — could actually survive together, disagree together, agree together and in the end build this thing into one of baseball’s best franchises.
There was absolutely nothing to fix.
Then, however, the egos came into play. With the egos came the fixers.
The fixers, of course, had other ideas that went far beyond the obvious patching up of the on-the-field product after the team’s off-season game plan ran off the road and ended up in a ditch.
Everything has changed for 2013.
Nolan got whacked.
He’s gone, either for good — if he decides to leave the club — or without the final say on baseball and business if he stays.
Jon is now the lone baseball muscle and the lone voice of authority.
Jon, Bob and Ray.
That’s the new Rangers’ threesome and shot-callers.
Bob and Ray are the big money-guy owners. But also don’t discount the input of some mouthy minority investors out of Dallas. It always becomes tricky when owners are directly involved. Real tricky. See Jerry. See Cuban.
Then there’s Wash.
Things changed for Nolan. Things changed for Jon. Things also changed for Wash, since Nolan being out of the loop removed the manager’s No. 1 front-office ally. Michael Young being gone removed his No. 1 clubhouse leader.
Hang on, Wash.
He’s the best manager ever for the Rangers in keeping a clubhouse together, and in maintaining respect from the players. In the beginning, yes, some Wash grousing from individual players at that time was heard.
Those players moved on. Six seasons later, and particularly over the last five seasons, the players and the manager have had a remarkable bond.
Even Josh Hamilton and Wash had that bond, and, gawd knows, that’s not an easy thing for a manager. Maybe you noticed. Josh is rather quirky, along with being extremely talented.
But Jon, Bob, Ray and the mouthy minority investors from Dallas are now The Show in Arlington.
Nolan is out. Wash is on his own. Just win, man.
It’s difficult to gauge if the seat is hot in the manager’s office.
Common sense says no. No way. But the guys in charge, particularly after the major move-down of Nolan, are jittery. If things go badly, they figure to be looking for someone to blame, and it won’t be them.
Hang on, Wash.
The Rangers have averaged 93 wins over the last three seasons. But everyone in the Rangers’ clubhouse privately admits this 2013 club is not those clubs, talent-wise.
On paper, this team is interesting, but in a different kind of way from recent times. The off-season brought only one upgrade from a year ago: A.J. Pierzynski at catcher.
The front office, and that’s Jon, didn’t do its job in the off-season.
For these Rangers, the production will have to come from within, come from players and pitchers who either return to form or step up immediately.
Those names are many:
Berkman, Kinsler, Moreland, Leonys Martin, Cruz and certainly Holland and Ogando, plus a questionable grab bag of bullpen guys who will be called on to work in front of closer Joe Nathan.
It’s going to be an adventure watching the Rangers this season.
It can be a 90-plus-win team again. It can also be a team that falls to the .500 mark.
The AL West is also an adventure waiting to happen.
Is this the season the free-spending Angels really pop? Was Oakland a one-hit wonder last season? Seattle is being called a surprise team by some, but really? Then there’s the newcomer, the Astros. Everybody should feast on Houston.
No matter what happens, however, Wash should not have job security issues. He’s got another year, right? He certainly deserves a year.
But they took down Nolan, didn’t they?
These are now totally different times for the Rangers.
The fixers are on the scene. And the fixers are nervous about the backlash over the Nolan whacking.
Only one baseball voice, instead of three, now matters.
Hang on, Wash.
Prediction (non-guaranteed): The Angels win the West with 90 W’s, Oakland falls back to third, and 85 wins slip the second-place Rangers into the postseason wild card, with an early exit coming next.