It is baseball that best reminds us that you can’t dance with the one that brung ya.
Sometimes you have to dance with all 57. Or in the case of the injury-wrecked 2014 Texas Rangers, all 64.
“Fifty-seven players is what we used last year,” manager Jeff Banister said. “You don’t do it with the same 25. I don’t believe it’s possible to do it with the same 25, effectively and efficiently.”
The 2012 season is best remembered — and forgotten — by Rangers fans as the year the club, defending two-time American League champions, blew a five-game division lead in the final nine games.
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That team tried to dance with what brung them.
Seven position players participated in at least 147 games. Eight players aged 30 and over regularly played.
The 2012 Rangers used only 39 players, only 16 position players for 10 or more games. After spending 156 days in first place, the Rangers wheezed to the finish, eventually losing the wild-card game to the Orioles.
General manager Jon Daniels was quick back then to shoulder the blame.
“We let these guys down,” Daniels said. “We should have done more to help them.”
We need quality players at the Double-A and Triple-A levels that can help when they are called upon.
Development director Mike Daly
At Triple-A Round Rock that season, however, the cupboard of ready replacements included the likes of Joey Butler, Matt Kata, Brad Nelson, Mike Bianucci and Tommy Mendonca.
Not exactly like dialing 1-800-PENNANT.
Consider it, however, a history lesson that was learned. As Saturday’s 7-5 exhibition victory over the Giants again suggested, the major league Rangers should not have to wince this season, if they have to call for reinforcements.
Top prospects have matured to the Triple-A level. And Daniels and his staff have done a frugal and efficient job of buttressing the youngsters with players who already are familiar with the big leagues.
Ike Davis, James Jones, Steve Johnson, A.J. Griffin and Pedro Ciriaco are among those with major league experience.
The Round Rock team likely will also see Joey Gallo, Jurickson Profar, Lewis Brinson and Nomar Mazara in their Opening Day lineup.
Banister considers it his duty to see that all the healthy ones see the field in spring training.
You get them around as much as you possibly can, so they feel the environment, but also to have those guys ready.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister
“It’s always a conscious effort,” he said. “You’ve got your development players, your minor league players, and you try to get them in these type of scenarios, especially if they have not been in them at the major league level.
“You get them around as much as you possibly can, so they feel the environment, but also to have those guys ready. So whatever they do in the minor leagues, they’re prepared, not only physically but also mentally, to come up and play — to help.”
Daniels was criticized by some for rushing top prospects to the majors. Profar, in particular.
But it’s not like the organization has had guys lined up at Triple A, banging down the major league door.
This year may well be different.
“There’s some clear strength in our upper level position players,” said Mike Daly, the team’s player development director. “It’s a great problem to have.
“I think you see, year in and year out, that you need depth to go through the major league season. The 25 guys you break camp with are not the 25 guys on June 1 or Sept. 1, or not the 25 playing October baseball.
“We need quality players at the Double-A and Triple-A levels that can help when they are called upon.”
The Rangers have them this time. Operators will be standing by.