Taking It Off Cruz Control
The hammer officially fell. Major League Baseball suspended Nelson Cruz for 50 games and the Rangers slugger chose to accept the suspension with no appeal. The big question is what does it mean for the playoff chances of Texas?
Many have called the loss of Cruz “devastating”. Texas is currently tied for the final Wild Card slot and are just 2 1/2 games behind the A’s in the AL West. So is the news devastating or not?
Cruz is being replaced, at least for now, minor leaguers Engel Beltre and Joey Butler, the latter of whom has no big league experience. Cruz had 76 RBI in 108 games. That’s about .74 runs per game. Texas won’t be able to replace all that from within. If Cruz’ replacements manage to cover a third of that production it still stands to reason the Rangers offense will score about half a run less per game without him. Texas pitchers will have to get used to the idea that giving up more than three runs a game will usually lead to a loss.
Fortunately, Texas pitching is good and getting better. Colby Lewis should be back in a week and Matt Harrison is just a couple weeks behind. On pitching alone, the Rangers should be able to stay in it to the end, even without trading for another bat. It won’t be easy. If Jon Daniels can’t find offensive help anywhere, one injury to Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler or Elvis Andrus and the result WILL be devastating.
Cruz can return for the playoffs if Texas gets there and his teammates want him, which I believe they do. If Texas makes it to the postseason, I’m not sure I want Nelly there, but not for suspension related reasons. In the World Series years of 2010 and 2011, Cruz was on the DL five times. Every time he came back, his timing was off and he looked terrible at the plate for two weeks. Does anyone really think he’ll have his timing right away? That’s a pretty big risk to take with so much on the line.
Like most fans, I’m disappointed in Nelson Cruz. Unlike Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, his apology was more complete. It couldn’t have been an easy thing for him to do. It’s possible Nelly has played his last game in a Rangers uniform. If so, I wish him the best in the future and I thank him for his contributions over the years.