What once began as an innocent little joke continues to morph into a Godzilla-sized “reality” for Jon Daniels, which means it’s time he answer the question: Are the Texas Rangers cursed?
“No,” he told me Wednesday in the Rangers’ dugout. “I don’t believe in that stuff.”
No one could blame JD, or the most defiant non-believer, if the events of the 2014 Texas Rangers didn’t cause him to reconsider his stance on curses. The Curse of Nolan Ryan is merely for those who believe in that sort of thing, but everybody can agree the Rangers’ Walking Dead act this season is a horror show.
What is not a joke is that it’s on JD now. There is no Nolan buffer. The team owners are all but invisible. There is no one wearing a suit for the Rangers who is as visible as JD.
And that is wonderful when you win. When you lose, the blame game is coming.
“It should be. That’s the nature of the job. I want that,” he said. “I’d rather it be directed at me and everybody else focus on what they need to do without having to worry about all of that.”
The All-Star break is roughly one month away, but pitchers have thrown enough innings and batters have had enough at-bats to have a fairly decent idea of what they are going to be this season.
This first season of the post-Nolan era has all the makings of barely average. It is just one of those years. After so much success, the Rangers were due for a stinker, and this season smells to high heaven. The Rangers are 21/2 games ahead of the Astros for last place in the American League West.
How it would have played out had injuries not destroyed this roster we will never know, and because of that everybody from JD to the clubhouse guys gets a pass. But beneath the Rangers’ injury report — that is longer than The Iliad — is a roster that remains shaky, and that is on the GM.
Of the many moves the team made, there is one JD regrets.
“We didn’t have a lot of starting pitching depth,” he said.
In fairness, what team does?
“That’s true, but I want to own that,” he said. “[Starting pitcher Matt] Harrison is the one. We knew he had substantial surgery and to count on him was a risk. The injuries to [Derek] Holland and [Martin] Perez we could not have seen coming.”
That’s three left-handed starters, all of whom were quality, in their 20s on multiyear deals who have combined for 12 starts this season.
The other major moves JD executed this off-season have had minimal impact.
Prince Fielder had only 150 at-bats before season-ending neck surgery, and when he did bat, he was a non-factor with only three home runs.
“You can’t really evaluate him because he’s hurt, and he was probably hurt when he was healthy,” JD said.
Other than his batting average — .261, Shin-Soo Choo has been fine. Is he worth $18 million a season? Only if the Rangers can afford it and are not prohibited from making other moves in order to pay his salary.
As much as I personally loathed these acquisitions because both players are locked in through 2020, it’s not possible to say either deal has flopped.
“They said the same thing when the Nationals signed Jayson Werth,” JD said. “That deal has worked out now.”
Full disclosure: I didn’t like the six-year, $96 million deal the Rangers gave Adrian Beltre, but he has been highly productive. The deal to land Yu Darvish was an approximately $100 million risk, which has worked.
JD didn’t say it on Wednesday, but all of the signs are there that this team will be sellers at the trade deadline. He has guys to flip for prospects, most notably right fielder Alex Rios and closer Joakim Soria.
As far as evaluating the rest, it’s a case-by-case basis.
“Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, Leonys Martin, Robbie Ross — those guys — how do we get the most out of those guys and how do they establish themselves?” he said. “That is the focus. Individual guys you can evaluate.”
To evaluate the team, given what has happened, is impossible.
It’s a stinker, but considering the circumstances everybody gets a pass.