Uneasy Lies The Crown
“I do not like this, Sam I Am…” Dr. Seuss
We Rangers fans have been spoiled the past two years. Two trips to the World Series, long winning streaks, explosive offense.
If you haven’t been watching my favorite team, all you know is they hold a 5-game lead over the Angels as we near the last two months of the season. This lead has been as little as two and a half games and as much as seven games over the second place team. Texas has not seen anything except first place for all but one day of the season and that was when the season was only a couple of games old. So all is good in Texas Rangers land, right?
That’s where we Rangers fans say, “No Sir!” and we’d be right. The way the month of July has gone, the Rangers can consider themselves very lucky to still have a five game lead in the AL West, because it seems to be accomplished through smoke and mirrors.
It looked like the old explosive offense was there when the Rangers erupted for five home runs in Saturday’s 9-2 pasting of the Angels. It was the baloney in the sandwich that was Friday and Sunday night’s losses, where the offense was as predictable as it has been all month. In other words, almost non-existent. It made one think Saturday wasn’t really a case of the Rangers offense being that good, it was more a case of Angels starter Ervin Santana being that bad.
Here’s what’s really bad. Josh Hamilton came to the plate in the 9th inning Sunday night with two runners on. A home run would tie the game up. Just what Rangers fans want, right? Wrong! Hamilton was the LAST person I wanted to see up in that situation and he did just what fans have come to expect: he struck out swinging.
Here’s what’s not happening offensively for the Rangers in 2012. Michael Young is having easily career-worst numbers, hitting just .271 with only 38 RBI and a .648 OPS, just 20 extra base hits from the Rangers #5 hitter. Ian Kinsler has hit just .229 since June 29th without a stolen base. Mike Napoli, his 2 home runs Saturday night notwithstanding, is at .233 for the year, with his hot weekend (5 hits vs. the Angels) bringing his average up to .203 since June 17th. Nelson Cruz has arguably been better, but is still hitting just .259 since June 24th. His Sunday home run was his first since June 23rd. And then there’s Josh Hamilton. The American League Player of the Month for both April and May has this stat line for the months of June and July: .201 BA, .686 OPS and 51 strikeouts in 149 at bats.
There is not a Rangers fan alive who isn’t concerned about Hamilton’s bat. The Dallas Morning News has said Hamilton has looked bored in the clubhouse. Manager Ron Washington, who rarely says anything negative about his veterans, openly questioned Hamilton’s approach at the plate. Josh is swinging at virtually everything, no matter the location, and has struck out on balls so low and away even pitchers with a bat in their hand would lay off them.
Add to this the word that Monday night’s starter, Roy Oswalt, will miss his start due to back pain. This is the same Oswalt who hinted at retirement last year because of his back, and the same Oswalt who’s had all of five starts for the Rangers, with extended time off before his last start due to the All-Star break. He will be replaced tonight by Scott Feldman. But wait, folks there’s more!
Colby Lewis, who just came off the disabled list on Tuesday, pitched one game and has now returned to the DL with tendonitis in his pitching forearm. He’ll be replaced by rookie Martin Perez.
The Rangers have the second best record in the American League. By the stats, they are the league’s best hitting offense at .277. But it’s only 11th best in the AL for the month of July with no real signs of improvement on the horizon.
If there is a positive to take out of all this, I can’t understand why more people can’t give Rangers manager Ron Washington more credit. I know he doesn’t have a good reputation as an in-game manager, but think about this. In 2010, he brought his team to its first World Series despite five combined DL trips for Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz, along with Hamilton missing a month at the end of the season. In 2011, Cruz had two more DL stints, Hamilton missed a month in April and May and Adrian Beltre missed a month in August and September. And here in 2o12, the Rangers have had significant time missed by Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe, Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland, Beltre has had a gimpy hamstring most of the season, and the offense, as spelled out in great length here, has sputtered for the better part of two months now. Over the past three seasons, Texas has had significant missed time from key members of the team. Yet here Texas is once again, with the second best record in the AL. This team plays hard, no matter how many pieces are missing, and the manager deserves credit for that.