At least here’s a song to distract you from reading
This week, ESPN’s Keith Law came out with his top-100 prospects list, his organizational rankings, and a writeup of his top-10 Rangers prospects. (Insider required for all.) Pretty much from here through the end of spring training is the time of year where I have my biggest hard on for baseball.
As a Texas Rangers fan, 2015 is new territory for me. From 2000-2008 I more or less expected them to suck, and suck they mostly did. By 2009/2010 I, as well as many others, were sensing some marked improvement, and when the Rangers arrived for a return appearance to the World Series in ’11 the franchise reached the pinnacle of its existence. After beating Detroit in the ALCS, Ken Rosenthal wrote that Texas were “the new standard-bearers of the AL. For now, and the foreseeable future.”
Between 2009 and 2013 — a five-year stretch — in all of MLB only the Yankees (475) won more games than the Rangers (457). After a dreadful 67-win campaign in 2014, Texas will certainly be overlooked this season, because recency bias, but it seems like most people forget that not very long ago this was a legitimate perennial powerhouse — particularly between ’10 and ’13 where they won 90-plus games each year, making three playoff appearances and going to two World Series’. And even at that it still feels like they underachieved.
It’s sad to say, but the 2015 Texas Rangers are almost nothing like those teams. The roster has been gutted over the last three years, from mammoths like Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton, to Michael Young and C.J. Wilson and Nelson Cruz and Koji Uehara and Mike Adams and I could keep going. The Rangers are currently riding on the fumes of their post-glory years, but the franchise isn’t completely dead.
Edit: Oh, yeah. And the fucking manager isn’t the same, either.
And that’s what makes 2015 so interesting. Yes, I was a little disappointed that Texas only checked in at #11 on Law’s top farm systems list, but that doesn’t really alter the big league roster, which is what I’m more concerned with at the moment. Aside Jake Thompson and Chi-Chi Gonzalez, very few of the Rangers’ top-10 prospects will be playing or pitching significant innings this year.
If PECOTA is any indication, the projections aren’t going to like the Rangers very much this year. I’m expecting a similar 83-win figure whenever Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS comes out. Texas currently have the 22nd-worst odds (40:1) to win the World Series, according to Bovada.
My confidence level notwithstanding, 40:1 odds are sort of a joke. Especially when you consider the Royals, mostly an average team during the 2014 regular season, won 89 games and parlayed a wild card game berth into an American League pennant. I mean, 40:1 is what I pay for a straight flush on three-card poker, or a dragon on EZ Baccarat; it’s a bonus hand. If you have five bucks and feel like gambling on the Rangers, it’ll net you $200 if they win the World Series in 2015.
Since the Super Bowl is over now, baseball is the shit for the time being. Yeah, college basketball is still awesome, but it isn’t the Rangers.
Of which, I can see two scenarios this year, with less room in the middle.
1) Yu Darvish and Derek Holland pitch like co-#1’s, or at least two TORP-quality starters, Yovani Gallardo throws 200 innings and gets three wins, Prince Fielder and Elvis Andrus and Shin-Soo Choo all bounce back, and the Rangers compete for/win the AL West.
2) Fielder continues to age and decline, Choo declines, Andrus pretty much is what he is, Beltre starts showing age, and Texas finishes in with a high-70’s amount of wins.
Either way, I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to understand.