Spring Training and Opening Day bring new hope to most baseball fans around the country. Yet for Rangers fans, Opening Day is typically the only sellout of the year and the beginning of a summer of heartbreak.
However, excuse me for beating the dead horse of optimism just one more time. Old habits die hard.
"Sports Illustrated" wrote in a recent edition that, within the next two years, the Rangers could be the next Tampa Bay, and I agree. The keys to Rangers success not only this year, but next year as well, lies in the hands of Jon Daniels and well-executed trades.
Of course, any trade made needs to be for solid pitching, preferably on the bookends of the game. One or two decent young starters and a shutdown closer are what separate the Rangers from a playoff run.
The first two Rangers that need a plane ticket are Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla. If Millwood can stay healthy for a whole season, he could be a quality late-rotation starter for a team looking to make a deep playoff run. In an article on texasrangers.com, Millwood said he is feeling in much better shape and is pushing himself to stay healthy the whole season.
"But it's just as big to go out and pitch well again," he says in the article. "I've had two bad years in a row. I want to get it turned around and get back on the right track."
The strongest starter to get the nod the past few seasons for the Rangers is Vicente Padilla. While when he is on, he could be an asset for the Rangers, he's getting well up in years and will eventually run out of gas for the team in the future. Like Millwood, Padilla could be another great low-end rotation starter for a deep playoff team.
The two other players that could be dealt for big returns are Hank Blalock and Marlon Byrd. Blalock could make a great DH for any American League team, and could try his hand back at third base, or even first base if a team suffers a mid-season loss due to injury.
With hitters like Teagarden and Andruw Jones on the bench, the Rangers have their DH spot filled.
Byrd demonstrated his hitting capabilities two seasons ago and is a solid glove in the outfield. If he could prove his power is still around, he would be a fine addition to any team.
With the young pitching talent being incubated in the Rangers farm system, and a few intelligent trades, the Rangers could actually have a solid pitching corps for the future.
The fate of this season, however, relies on the availability of the market to bring in the pieces needed for who is on our block. Early season injuries would help, especially in the outfield and the corners. If nothing turns up until late season or the trade deadline, I would only hope for another .500 season finishing in second behind the powerhouse Angels. The silver lining to this is look out for 2010.
In the field, look for Taylor Teagarden to have a stellar year. In his 16 games played last season, Teagarden hit .319 with six home runs and five doubles. If he can extend these number throughout a whole season, he will take the starting job from Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Teagarden has much more experience behind the plate, and could limit Saltalamacchia's playing time to only facing right-handed pitchers or a DH role.
"From my standpoint, I've done everything I wanted to do," Teagarden told texasrangers.com. "I've shown I'm a good catcher who can help a pitching staff and I've worked on my leadership skills."
This is Jon Daniels' season to shine. Will this be the year Rangers fans can have hope, or will they have to wait until next year?