Mercifully, at least to some, the Texas Rangers have only 12 games left this season after facing the Oakland A’s on Saturday in a game the Rangers trailed 8-5 at press time.
But don’t count Shin-Soo Choo, age 37 and fully aware that he and his team will be sitting out October, among those happily counting down the days.
Choo appreciates every day he spends in an MLB uniform. He doesn’t have a sense of entitlement in his 15th season and with career earnings of around $125 million.
He leads the Rangers in games played this season.
All players, but especially the younger ones, should aim to match his professionalism and passion for the game.
Next season, the last of his once-cumbersome contract and perhaps his career, would be a good time to start.
More than anything else, be it a starting pitcher or a third baseman, Choo said the 2020 Rangers need to have more players with more passion.
“You can’t have the best players at every position,” Choo said. “A winning mentality. Maybe less skill, but more hungry. Appreciate the major leagues, work hard. That’s the mentality. It’s hard to make 25 games like that, but at least 20 or 22 guys like that and we have a good chance to win.”
Choo entered Saturday batting .262 in 139 games. He matched his career-high in homers Friday night with his 22nd.
He thinks he has played better than his numbers show, but those 139 games mean something to him. He has been healthy and has more in the tank for next season.
“I feel like I’m 25 or 30 years old,” Choo said.
He wasn’t bagging on his teammates as he discussed the shortfall of passion. He didn’t name names. The Rangers have used more than their share of young players this season, and they are learning what it takes to be a big-league player.
Manager Chris Woodward has witnessed the effect Choo has on the clubhouse. Players are watching him go about his business and how he’s the same each and every day.
“The consistency of who he is every day, regardless of if he’s doing well,” Woodward said. “He’s a constant. Every day you know what to expect, and I know what to trust from him. He wants to be great. He brings it every day.
“He’s a great example for everybody, pitchers included. This is how you prepare. And he’s also worked a lot on newer ideas, learning new things about the game he maybe didn’t learn before. He’s been an absolute pleasure.”
The coaching staff and front office likely have an idea of which players need a jolt. Woodward said that he doesn’t want there to be a sense of entitlement with any player, and he doesn’t have worry about that with Choo.
Choo has told Woodward that he is driven by the possibility of losing his job to a young player.
“You have to appreciate the major-league level. That’s the most important thing,” Choo said. “You have to have passion. You have want to be better. A little less talent but with that mentality, that’s more powerful.”
Don’t get Choo wrong: He would gladly take an additional veteran starting pitcher for next season. He said that the rookies on the roster have the talent to help the Rangers win next season.
“Those are the things I like to see,” Choo said. “We’re not playing just OK teams. We’re playing good teams, so it’s a really good challenge for them to see good pitchers and good hitters. Those are good things.”