Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Texas Rangers and the Season of Expectations

The defending American League Champion Texas Rangers come in to the 2011 season with a new set of expectations that have never before been put before them. They’ve never been expected to do much else than at least be in the AL West race up until the All-Star break.

After that, they were expected to fall apart. Most of the time, they did just that.
However, 2011 is a completely different story. Not only are they expected to repeat as champions but they could be expected to bring the franchise’s very first World Series title home to Arlington, Texas.

While that might be going a little far, don’t think for a second their fans don’t have these kinds of expectations. Don’t think for a second they don’t think this team can and should go all the way. They showed potential last year. This year, it’s time to close the deal.

From closer to starter?

One of the biggest topics making its way around spring training surrounds a young man who spent the 2010 season at the back end of the Rangers’ bullpen.

Of course I speak of young phenom, Neftali Feliz.

In 70 appearances last season, Feliz successfully closed out 40 of his 43 save attempts and finished the year with a 2.73 ERA. Not bad for rookie, right?

Now the Rangers want to see how he handles himself not as a second year closer, but as a starter in the rotation. They know the kind of stuff he has as a pitcher and they know what he brings to the table. But they want to see how his stamina and control holds up when he has to throw five to seven innings instead of his usual one or two.

His first start wasn’t great. He pitched two innings and allowed two base runners in each of the two innings.

While that might be enough to put the experiment back in the box they took it out of, the Rangers know that one start in spring training doesn’t tell the entire story.

They’ll try it again a few more times and, if he improves, they know they might have one of the more dominant young starters in the game today. If he continues to fail, they still know they have one of the best closers in the league.

It might be a win-win for both sides.

Michael Young is still a Ranger…but for how long?

When the players and management reported to Surprise, Arizona for the first days of spring training, the only thing the media wanted to talk about was the drama that surrounded long time Ranger Michael Young and general manager Jon Daniels.

The questions were answered at length until finally Young held a team meeting with just his teammates to answer any questions they may have about his demanding a trade out of town. He wanted to put the talk and speculation behind them to focus on the season.

While the talk seemed to have died down, at least for now, the question is still on everyone’s mind. How long is Michael Young going to be a Ranger?

That’s a question we may not be able to answer, at least not until the end of spring training. Once the team gets a week from the start of the season, we may see the trade talks start to warm up again.

For now, Young will continue to work out with the team and play like he always has for a so many years. He’ll wear the Ranger uniform until Daniels and Nolan Ryan tell him it’s time to go.

 Can the Rangers repeat?

There’s no simple answer to this but I’ll sum it up as easily as I can.


They have the talent offensively, they have guys who can drive in runs and hit the long ball and they also have the guys who can move runners when they need to.

How far they go is up to their pitching staff and their bullpen. The Rangers go as they go.

If they see the same success they did this season as they did in 2010, there’s no doubt they will be a force to be reckoned with once again.

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