(Surprize, AZ) — The Texas Rangers will be one of the most fascinating stories of the 2013 MLB season. I was so happy to be able to spend four days out in Surprise, AZ., during the Texas Rangers Spring Training.
The Rangers won the American League Pennant two years in a row and looked to be in good shape last season before the bottom fell out at the tail end of the season.
They have the best farm system in all of baseball, but to steal the quote from former football coach Jon Gruden, “It’s one thing to be young and talented. It’s a whole other thing to be good.” They are one of the most talented organizations in baseball but are not the same team at the Major League level in 2013.
They lost a ton of leadership in Michael Young, Mike Napoli and Josh Hamilton — though one could argue that Hamilton’s leadership and effectiveness might have been headed the other way in the last year. The increased role of GM Jon Daniels and the elevation of others in the Rangers organization appear to signal a youth movement that may not have room for Nolan Ryan. If Ryan were to leave the organization, what effect would it have on the clubhouse?
The first thing to understand is that expectations have not changed for the Texas Rangers as an organization. Ron Washington in no uncertain terms made it clear that the expectations have not changed.
A few things make the start of the season so important for the Rangers. They have to play every team in the American League West 19 times. The defending division winner Oakland A’s are a better team, as are the Angels. Nobody can expect the Angels to start as slow as they did in 2012. While I believe everyone thinks the Rangers are better than the Seattle Mariners, they still have King Felix and most chalk his starts as almost unwinnable.
That is what makes the Rangers a must-see for the first few weeks of the season… if you can get in the stadium. The Rangers, because of the lack of established leadership, must start the year strong because they may not have the leadership to bring them back from a tough start.
April 5 – 7 – at home against the Los Angeles Angels
April 8 – 10 – at home against the Tampa Bay Rays
April 19 – 21 – at home against the Seattle Mariners
April 22 – 24 – In Anaheim against the Angels
Yes, the MLB season is 162 games long but the Rangers will go a long way towards determining the trajectory of their club during the first month of the season. Questions like whether they have a 5th starter in the rotation will be answered within the first month. Do they have the leadership in the clubhouse? Do they have the clutch hitting to challenge in the West? Can Ian Kinsler start the year well and stay that way? Does Ron Washington have the right strings in the right places to win in 2013?
The questions won’t all be answered but I won’t be able to take my eyes off the first month of the 2013 season for the Texas Rangers because it will say so much.