Mac Engel

Rangers need pitching overhaul for 2018 or fans will stay home

The Texas Rangers rewarded their fans they accommodated by refusing to flip the “Hurricane Harvey series” with the Houston Astros by being swept at home.

In turn, the Rangers fans who were graciously accommodated repaid the club by not showing up for the afternoon series finale on a pleasant Wednesday afternoon.

It was appropriate that the Silver Boot Series finale ended with Rangers’ third baseman Will Middlebrooks getting picked off at second base.

The Rangers reported 26,053 showed up for the team’s 12-2 loss to the Astros. That feels about 8,000 fans on the heavy side. One team source told me that a mid-week game against the Mariners earlier this month drew about 12,000.

Blame zero fans for this. Fans may be blindly passionate, loyal and protective of this franchise, but they know a stinker.

The Rangers stink and need major additions outside of the organization to fix this. It turns out a $185-million payroll just doesn’t go quite as far as it once did.

The Rangers’ brain trust of Jon Daniels, Jon Daniels and Jon Daniels better come up with something to sell us, or the trend of empties at the ballpark is only beginning.

We’re a fickle bunch here, and the competition for our entertainment dollar is too fierce for us to go out and watch junk.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, the brightest man in baseball, is entering the final year of his contract in 2018, and there are no signs that his bosses don’t love him. So he’s going to have the support to rebuild this mess of a roster that he constructed.

Is it effort?

“Coming out of the All-Star break and the trade deadline, these guys continued to try to push through and grind through,” Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “I’m proud of how they really tried to get this thing done. We got eliminated from the postseason, that’s an emotional and physical hit. I don’t think there is any question on professionalism or effort or how they have gone about it.

“Now there are mistakes inside losses, like getting picked off at second base to end a game is unacceptable. However, up until these last few games, I am proud of how they have gone out there and grind.”

So if it’s not effort or professionalism, it’s just about talent and ability. The Rangers simply don’t have enough.

At the single most important time of the season, with a wild-card spot possible, the Rangers showed up and lost six straight by a combined 50-9 score.

On the bright side, no one protested the flag, the national anthem or the Republic of Texas.

The ticket-buying fans should be protesting. The best they can finish is 80-82, which will require a four-game winning streak against an A’s team that just swept them in Oakland.

#DontEverEverQuit has been replaced by #WhoAreWeKidding.

And, no, finding a sacrificial lamb and firing the hitting coach, batting coach, or bullpen coach is not going to sell season-ticket packages. Expect one of those options to be exercised in the next few weeks. Someone always gets fired after such a blah season, and it’s not going to be the GM.

This team needs players, not another uber positive “coachy coach” who can only work with what the GM hands him. Changing the coaching staff isn’t going to matter when what is needed is a major upgrade to the pitching staff.

Don’t think the fans have not noticed this.

The Rangers rank 11th in MLB in attendance, averaging just a tick over 30,000 per game. And speaking of #FakeNews, they are on pace to draw about 2.5 million this season.

The good news is the team’s TV rights package is so lucrative the owners can take a hit in the stands and not feel it quite so much in the wallet.

Other than Adrian Beltre collecting hit No. 3,000 — which was genuinely a fantastic moment — the best news about this team is Arlington Tax Hike Friendly Stadium will break ground on Thursday morning complete with an appearance by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

A new stadium won’t fix the problems on the field, but it always draws fans for a year or two.

That stadium won’t open until 2020, meaning the club has two more years of enticing fans to come out to the ballpark.

When I asked center fielder Delino DeShields if he expects the club to make major changes in the off-season, he said: “Not necessarily. The same guys that are in this locker room right now were here last year.”

He may be right, but there is no way he’s right. JD has to find a way to add real pitchers or his team is doomed to repeat this in 2018.

The 2018 version will need at least three starting pitchers and two or three relievers to to improve on this season. The top young starting pitcher in the organization is all the way down in A ball.

It either gets better or there will be even more seats available at the ballpark next season.

Mac Engel: @macengelprof

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