Randy Galloway

March 29, 2014

The baseball gods are angry, but pray for the Rangers

Lack of a closer and a grab-bag lineup mean the team needs help to keep up with the A’s.

Maybe it was Nolan’s Revenge, as colleague Mac Engel was predicting even before Christmas.

Maybe it was Kinsler’s Karma. What did Ian know and when did he know it with that “0-and-162” wish?

Maybe it was a message to Jon Daniels to clean up his “sleazeball” act. But it’s a little late for that, isn’t it?

Maybe it was punishment for Bob and Ray ownership stupidity. And boy, are those rich guys baseball stupid.

Maybe, and this one gets my vote, sticking that cheesy corporate name this winter on the beautiful ballyard in Arlington pushed the whole organization over the cliff.

Whatever the case, however, this we know:

The baseball gods are really hissed off.

The most positive development for the Rangers of the last week — well, make that a pair of ultimate positive developments — are:

(1.) The team left Arizona.

(2.) Yu Darvish is still standing. He’s not pitching immediately, but the ace is still standing, a mere sore neck included.

For now, the disabled list wreckage of the Arizona outback gives way to Opening Day in Arlington on Monday afternoon.

The baseball gods, for whatever reason or reasons, delivered their message of displeasure, starting with Derek Holland’s dog story before spring training even opened.

It had not been necessarily a good Cactus League campaign in preparing for the regular season, but the last week in Surprise sent the Rangers into shell shock. One long DL stay after another kept popping up.

But on the other hand, it’s nothing that can’t be eventually overcome just as long as Darvish can crank back up in a couple of weeks and still front what is now a totally mysterious rotation.

Yes, the bullpen is still a mess, starting with the closer situation, but Daniels allowed that closer spot to get away from him early in the off-season. Neftali Feliz? That was a hope and a prayer that wasn’t answered, and apparently only Daniels thought Nefty could be the answer.

First things first, however. The rotation has to be right. That’s iffy, of course, with Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez, Robbie Ross, Joe Saunders and, good grief, Nick Martinez, now your starting five.

But Yu should be back quickly, and then starts the month of May guessing game on Matt Harrison and possibly Colby Lewis.

Outside of closer, the major criticism of an under-the-gun Daniels is his failure to bring back Nelson Cruz for the batting order. Local media apologists for Daniels passed it off as Cruz not wanting to DH here, so he signed with Baltimore, where he will spend plenty of time, yes, DHing.

The free-agent market caved on Nellie, and the Orioles got him for a mere $8 million on a one-year deal.

According to people in the Cruz camp, he offered to re-sign with the Rangers for the same contract and didn’t balk at DHing here. Daniels, however, would offer no more than $6 million.

Jon will regret that. The GM has Alex Rios as his five-hole hitter, which is not a Rios strength. But after Rios it’s a grab-bag collection of Mitch Moreland platooning with rookie Michael Choice, the catcher of the day, the second baseman of the day now that Jurickson Profar is out, and center fielder Leonys Martin.

Prince Fielder and the Choo Choo Man were big-dollar off-season acquisitions, but overall, this is not a good batting order, or an improved batting order, from a year ago, even if Profar and catcher Geo Soto were healthy.

Plus, Daniels did something that went against everything he ever preached around here. He tied big money down the road to aging players with the trade for Fielder and the free-agent signing of Choo Choo Man.

Fielder, yes. The club desperately needed a power bat. Paying him 20 mil-plus when he’s in his late 30s was a necessary evil. But Choo? Yes, he was needed, but at $130 mil overall, with the same huge financial impact attached to five years down the road?

Did I mention Nellie Cruz, a proven five-hole hitter, would have come back for one year, at $8 million?

You were thinking what, Jon? Or does Jon even have to think? He’s got sugar daddies Bob and Ray in his hip pocket, so the only guy sweating his job will be manager Ron Washington. Daniels is here for life, or as long as Ray Davis has a say, and will be given the injury excuse if things don’t go well this season.

Speaking of that, how do we factor this season when it comes to predictions?

Vegas odds for 2014 puts the over/under wager on Rangers wins at 86 1/2. I would have bet the under at the start of spring training. Obviously, there’s no reason to change. Pray for 85 wins.

But the AL West is wide open. Injuries have also hit the Oakland A’s rotation. Same with the Seattle rotation. The Angels? Who the heck knows if that club will ever pop.

All we know about Houston is it’s a guarantee the Rangers won’t have a 17-2 seasonal feast again on the Astros.

For now, however, let’s go Oakland as a repeat winner in the West. To keep it close on the A’s, the Rangers will need help from the baseball gods.

Those same gods, of course, who were obviously hissed off in Arizona.

Contact Randy Galloway at rnjgalloway@gmail.com

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