The Texas Rangers have arrived at a rather abrupt start to the offseason. After going one-and-done in playoffs Nolan Ryan and company are back to the drawing board again.
A few hot topics still sit on the table for the Texas Rangers; the biggest being whether or not to resign outfielder Nelson Cruz and closer Joe Nathan. Both played crucial parts in the winning season Texas boasted this year and deserve to have their contracts reconsidered.
Let’s start with Cruz. The first thing that comes to mind when fans think of the 33 year old Dominican is ‘cheater’. His 50-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy noticeably hindered the Rangers in the second half of the season. Specifically looking at the month of September when the team went 5-15 in the first 20 games one can see very clearly how powerful of an impact Cruz’s absence had. Adrian Beltre went through a short slump and without Cruz in the lineup homeruns were just not being produced. However, as negative of a statement as that was it is easy to see that Nelson Cruz is a big part of the Rangers team. Could the team continue to win 91 games year in and year out without him? Doubtful. Texas needs players who can launch the big fly and, while he is playing, there are few better than Nelson Cruz.
Now, let’s take a trip to the bullpen to talk about closer Joe Nathan. Nathan had a phenomenal season putting up a 1.39 ERA with 43 saves and 73 K’s. He exited the 2012-2013 season with the fewest blown saves as well. As far as statistics go, this guy has got it all. There is no foreseeable reason why Joe Nathan should not receive a contract extension this winter.
Apart from the need to resign these two players there are a few basic skills I think the Rangers should tune up on this offseason.
Stealing: I am a huge advocate of teams giving their base runners the green light to swipe second base. Stolen bases not only occasionally result in placing a runner in scoring position but they also keep the defense on their toes and force the middle infielders to adjust their positioning. The hit and run is one of baseball’s most effective weapons; yet, I don’t see teams taking advantage of it as much as I would hope. There are some players on the Texas Rangers who should not even bother trying to swipe second base: A.J. Pierzynski, Lance Berkman, Mitch Moreland… However, as a whole the Rangers have a lot of speed. In the last season Elvis Andrus had as career high of 42 stolen bases and hopefully that number will continue to rise in seasons to come.
Scoring Runners from Second: Too often, especially in the last couple months of the season, the Rangers stranded important runs on second base. It seemed like they were never short of doubles scoring runners all the way from first, but once the runner actually got into scoring position it was near impossible to get him home. When just going up to the plate and swinging away isn’t working for a team that means that the team has to dive into the baseball book of tricks and pull something unusual out such as a hit and run, a double steal, or a push bunt. Next year look for a Rangers team who plays effective baseball and makes fans’ jaws drop with their crafty ways of scoring their runners.
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