Football is (sadly) over which means it is only a matter of days before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Outfielders, too, who are entering their final chance with the same team.
Pressing on sans football, it’s time to turn some focus on to the local professional baseball team, and the state of national disaster that was the franchise formerly known as The Texas Rangers.
Before pressing on, a word of warning: When reading sports writing, tuck in the back of your mind the reality that the author may not be rooting for the outcome of the event, but they are supporting a particular story line, or a prediction. It is the desire to be right, or to see a “sellable” story line flourish and continue. Or, again, it’s the desire to be right.
In this case, it’s Mitch Moreland.
I was (am) convinced he can be a productive major league hitter for the Texas Rangers, or another team. There is a good big league hitter in there. Ever since he hit a home run in Game 3 of the World Series at the Ballpark against the San Francisco Giants in 2010, I was sold he had the tools and the hitting mechanics to do it.
The Rangers have patiently given him multiple opportunities since then, and he has become a maddening player for fans and team execs. He is one of those guys whom the current regime label a “Nolan Guy”; be sure if Moreland ever comes around, this current regime will only too gladly take credit for sticking with him. Because this team has no reliable proven option at the corner outfield spot opposite Shin Soo Choo, Moreland is going to get one more look.
To the disappointment of a great many, Mitch will be reporting to spring training for what surely has to be his final shot to actually do something with the club. He had ankle reconstruction in June of 2014, which ended his season after 52 games. He said two weeks ago the ankle had been bothering him for years, and he will be fine on Day 1 of spring training.
“It feels good. It feels good,” he said. “It affects every part of your game. It’s good to feel like I have my legs back under me.”
Ohhhh ... so it was the ankle that was the reason he was never a consistent hitter. Yeah - I don’t believe that either. But if the player believes it, and the productivity soars, who cares?
I asked Moreland if he felt that this was going to be his last shot to make this club
“I don’t know, man. I just try to get ready to play every day,” he said. “That doesn’t really change who I am or what I do.”
In 1,565 career at bats, Moreland is batting .252 with 65 home runs with 209 RBI. Not terrible. He will have stretches of dominance, and stretches of stink.
By comparison, Chris Davis was far less productive in his time with the Rangers before they gave up on him and shipped him to Baltimore. Davis had 882 at bats with the Rangers and was batting .248 with 42 home runs and 124 RBI when the Rangers dealt him.
Moreland is 29, and he has been in the bigs for five seasons. He has had time, and he has chances, and for the time being he is out of neither with the Rangers. But this is his last shot. For the sake of the club, and my own prediction, it would be nice if he - to use a baseball term - “finds it” right about now.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7760