A quick check of Rangers related blogs shows that Rangers fans are clearly very frustrated with the team's losing record after the first two weeks. My question for all of those frustrated fans is simple, what did you expect from this team? You absolutely cannot judge these Rangers on wins and losses. To do so would be extremely unfair to Ron Washington and Jon Daniels. It would be unfair to veterans like Michael Young because they are surrounded by young players that simply haven't learned how to win at the big league level.....yet.
So, the obvious question is what can you judge these Rangers on? Sure, winning is everything once the team is built, but the Rangers aren't there yet and won't be for a couple of seasons. With that in mind, I've come up with a checklist of what exactly Rangers fans should be looking for.
Let's start with the major league team and their pitching. We all know what we are going to get out of Millwood at the top of the rotation. What we don't know is how Brandon McCarthy and Luis Mendoza are going to develop. For the Rangers to contend next year, these two pitchers have to take their lumps and show signs of improvement toward the end of the season. Can they make the transition and become reliable starting pitchers? The bullpen has had it's ups and downs this season, but CJ Wilson has shown that he can be a consistent closer at the big league level. However, can he be dominating like K-Rod? Can Benoit, Littleton and German continue to develop into dominating set-up relievers?
The Rangers also have youngsters scattered throughout the position players, including David Murphy and Josh Hamilton. Can Hamilton and Murphy establish themselves as everyday outfielders and run producing hitters. Hamilton just needs to stay healthy, he's proven himself to be an outstanding defender and power hitter. Murphy, simply needs to prove last season wasn't a fluke and that he's the real deal. The early returns on both are very good, but can they keep it up throughout the season? Ian Kinsler has already established himself as a good second baseman in this league, but can he take it to the next level and become an all-star second baseman?
Now, for those Baby Rangers in the minor leagues, the only question for all of them is can they take the next step toward the big club. Can Chris Davis force the Rangers hand and crack the big league roster in September? Can Salty force the Rangers to trade Gerald Laird at the deadline to make room for him? Can Elvis Andrus start hitting to match his already all-star caliber defense? Can Eric Hurley turn the corner and dominate AAA the way he did each of the previous levels? Can Kiker and Harrison start making their push through the minors?
These are the baby steps to contention that Rangers fans should judge the organization on this summer. If you expected them to make the playoffs this year, put down the kool-aid and regain your sense of reality. They are at best a third place team this year and nothing more. If everything comes together with both the kids and the veterans then they might be able to contend in 2009. A more realistic timetable is to contend in 2010 and dominate the AL West in 2011. They just have to take it one step at a time, something the Rangers bloggers haven't figured out yet.