Thursday was a big news day in the United States, the highlight of which was that O.J. Simpson was granted parole and can walk out of a Nevada prison as soon as Oct. 1.
The Juice looked pretty good for a 70-year-old former NFL running back, accused murderer and convicted armed robber. He didn’t say so, but he’s looking forward to his release so that he can resume tracking down the real killers of his wife and her friend in 1994.
He was charged, tried and ultimately acquitted of all charges Oct. 3, 1995. Nomar Mazara had just been born. Rougned Odor was 20 months. Joey Gallo was about 2.
But Jason Grilli, 40, was a freshman in college and remembers exactly where he was when the verdict was handed down.
“I was in college at Seton Hall and was in the cafeteria,” Grilli said. “Everybody remembers, don’t they?”
A far less important verdict in the grand scheme of things is coming soon on the Texas Rangers’ trade-deadline fate. Maybe it’s already been made.
The Rangers are looking more and more like sellers.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 9-7 loss to the Baltimore Orioles and a four-game sweep.
1. There’s still time for a turnaround that will keep the Rangers in playoff contention, manager Jeff Banister implored after the Rangers dropped their fifth straight game despite leading 5-1 in the fifth inning with Cole Hamels on the mound.
“Five losses, that doesn’t do anything for our case to say, ‘Look, this is a team that is going in the direction it needs to go,’ ” Banister said. “Absolutely not. That’s fair. However, this is a viable team that can scratch and claw to win baseball games. We’re five or six wins from being back in a position from where we need to be.”
Then, with a little more oomph behind it ...
“There’s still two-plus months to play,” he said. “Obviously, there’s a date that everyone is fixed on. But the only date in my mind is tomorrow. We have a baseball game tomorrow.”
That date is the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and the Rangers Reaction Trade-Deadline-O-Meter continues to lean toward the Rangers being sellers.
It’s more than a lean.
“J.D. and I are in communication every day where the state of this baseball team is,” Banister said. “This is a team that prior to the break was swinging the bat well, pitching it well, throwing it well. To say that’s going to vanish for an extended period of time, I don’t believe it.”
Urgency, focus and energy are going to get the Rangers where they need to be, Banister said a day after saying his team is not short on energy. He doesn’t want them to get frustrated or panic, as that would take their attention away from the task at hand.
It seems something has already done that.
2. So, with Trade-Deadline-O-Meter firmly on the sell side, who are the Rangers selling?
My guesses (purely guesses): Napoli and Jonathan Lucroy.
The Rangers have been trying on Lucroy, still (in my opinion) a quality catcher who could help a contending team without a quality catcher. They know who they are.
Napoli is the one that might come as a surprise, considering he batted .194 in the first half. But he is also getting hot, with seven home runs this month and a .381 average since the All-Star break that has lifted his season average by 15 points.
The guy is a winner. He can still hit for power — his three-run homer in the fifth inning was his 21st of the season — and he can still hit left-handers.
The Cleveland Indians, the team he helped take to the World Series last year, reportedly tried for J.D. Martinez before seeing Detroit trade him to Arizona. Napoli and Terry Francona are tight, the Indians still love him and could use a bat.
The Rangers are going to listen to offers on Yu Darvish, but will have to be really overwhelmed to move him. Maybe that will happen, in a package akin to the one the Chicago Cubs sent to the New York Yankees last year for Aroldis Chapman.
That worked out for the Cubs, didn’t it?
It also worked out for the Yankees, who scored some prized prospects and were able to re-sign Chapman in the off-season. The Rangers could do something similar with Darvish, I suppose, but there could be some anxiety that once he’s gone, he’s gone for good.
The Rangers still want to keep him beyond this season.
Working against the Rangers is the availability of starters who have control beyond this year. Sonny Gray, the Oakland ace, comes to mind. There are also other rentals out there besides Darvish, something that could affect his market.
This all becomes moot if the Rangers string some victories together and are clicking by July 31. After this series, that looks like a big if.
3. The one thing that no one in the media can say about Hamels is that he’s never at his locker after a start. He’s there good or bad, and Thursday certainly wasn’t good.
The problem, he said, was his inability to execute once he was in a position to put away hitters. He had no problems getting to that position, by the way.
The Twitter was quick to point out his career-low strikeout rate. One angry tweeter said that Hamels is tired or was tired. As steamy and miserable as it was Thursday, a case could be made that he was tired especially after laboring in the fourth and fifth.
He didn’t offer that as an excuse. He didn’t offer any excuses. He shouldered all the blame, saying he needs to be better in those situations and needs to search for the right pitches that will get him strikeouts or easy outs.
Hamels was charged with seven runs, two of which scored after he exited as a Rangers reliever once again didn’t prevent the runners he inherited from scoring.
“We’ve got to be better in those situations,” Banister said.
Hamels, despite the concerns folks after having about him as he courses through his 12th season, will be better. Hello, he had pitched 24 consecutive scoreless innings before Jonathan Schoop homered in the fourth.
He just wasn’t very good Thursday at a very bad time.