Woodward: Rangers players have chip on their shoulders
The loudest voices these days responding on social media to the Texas Rangers’ off-season seem to be the malcontents and those short on information.
They are the ones who can’t understand why or accept that the Rangers are rebuilding, what typically goes into a rebuild as far as finances and time, and the ones who hate general manager Jon Daniels and want Nolan Ryan to ride back into the organization.
You know who you are.
And that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to an opinion about how the hometown baseball team ought to be run.
But the screams and cries for more spending and less losing aren’t going to sway the Rangers from their plan, which they believe will lead them back to a window to contend for the World Series. The last window was open from 2010 to 2017.
That seems to be conveniently lost on the naysayers.
And there’s this from Daniels and manager Chris Woodward at the annual MLB winter meetings: The Rangers are not going to tank this season.
They might not be very good, based on the 67 wins in 2018 and the commitment to playing on the inexpensive end of free agency this off-season, but the goal is to improve and be more competitive.
But how do they win? A lot of it comes down to players buying into the new direction of the club.
“I don’t think we’re going to put limits on the team,” Daniels said. “It’s one thing to prioritize right now vs. prioritizing a little bit of a longer horizon, but you’re trying to be successful in both unless your strategy is to pull all the way back and not try to win. We’re not going to do that.
“With Woody and the staff, I’m really excited about a lot of the things they’re doing and talking about, and they’re going to be more successful if they’re able to develop talented players.”
The young players, in theory, will be better with experience. The pitching staff needs help, especially a starting rotation that right now is being held together with surgical tape.
The hope is that a deeper dive into analytics and research and development will help.
It seems far-fetched for the Rangers to make a leap like the Oakland A’s made last season or the Minnesota Twins made in 2017, but Daniels isn’t looking to lose as many games as possible, either, to get the Rangers into a winning mode.
“It doesn’t have to be three years of losing 100 games and picking first in the draft,” Daniels said. “There are a lot of good and consistent decisions and developing our players. There have been a lot of champions before that didn’t tank. You look at how other clubs have been built over time, and there’s a lot of ways go to about it.”
The reigning champs, the Boston Red Sox, had the highest payroll in baseball. The three previous World Series champs went through a total tear down before ascending to the title.
The Rangers didn’t trade away all of their best assets over the summer, and their rebuild didn’t start from scratch. Some of what the players still around will be asked to do and how to do it will be different, but with the intention of maximizing what they can offer.
That’s where Woodward and the coaching staff come into play. They are committed to doing the most with what they have and are given.
“If you asked every player on our team … they’ve got a little chip on their shoulder,” Woodward said. “I don’t like to put expectations on how many wins we’re going to have. I want our guys to compete, and I want our guys to understand how they’re successful, how they’re going to be successful and adjust the flaws that they’ve had in the past.
“When you talk about winning games, there’s a way we’re going to have to play the game to be competitive. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing or when we’re playing them, our guys are going to go out there, hopefully, with a conviction about themselves. That’s our recipe for success now. That’s going to be our recipe for success when we have all the pieces in place to put a championship team together.”
Reality isn’t lost on the Rangers. They know that they probably aren’t going to be contenders in 2019. But they intend to win as many games as they can rather than go in the tank, and do it by believing in the course set in 2019.
“They’re going to be able to start that believe now, whether we win 70, 80 or 90,” Woodward said. “They’re going to have a plan for when we do turn the corner and we do become a championship team.”