If you go out to The Ballpark in Arlington you'll find many things that you can find in any major league ballpark. A typical baseball fan can enjoy the fireworks after every home run, the wide array of food and drinks the concession stands have to offer, and even fun little games and videos between innings that will make you laugh or sometimes even shake your head.
One thing you won't find at the home of the Texas Rangers is pitching.
The last time the Texas Rangers won the AL west was in 1999. It was their third division title in four years and expectations were up in the Dallas area that their first playoff win was just around the corner.
The Rangers had hot bats in the likes of Juan Gonzalez, Rusty Greer, Ivan Rodriguez, and Rafael Palmeiro. They also had solid pitching with starters Aaron Sele and Esteban Loaiza and closer John Wetteland.
Then for some reason after four years of winning seasons the franchise started going down the drain. If one looks at the numbers or follows Texas Ranger baseball the reason for the demise is very simple. Terrible pitching.
Every year from 1996-1999 the Rangers had at least three pitchers with an ERA under 5 and stellar front end pitching with at least two starters every year breaking double digits in wins.
Since then it has been nothing short of a catastrophe.
Since the new millenium has started the Rangers have never been in the top half of the league in total pitching, and if you just look at the major league rankings in overall pitching it's downright embarassing.
2000: 30th 2001: 30th 2002: 27th 2003: 30th
2004: 18th 2005: 26th 2006: 18th 2007: 24th
The real problem is not that the GM Tom Hicks won't spend the money on players as seen by the record signing of Alex Rodriguez in 2001. It's just that he always chooses hitting over pitching.
Hicks will go out and get the big named power hitters like Sammy Sosa or even Josh Hamilton this year, but continue to trade away young pitchers that can help build a foundation for the team. '
It seems like every time I turn on the tv or check scores on ESPN there is another pitcher that used to be a Ranger helping out another team. Adam Eaton is pitching well with the Reds, Chris Young is one of the best young pitchers in the NL with the Padres, and Edison Volquez is currently first in the NL in strikeouts and ERA. Meanwhile the Rangers "ace" Kevin Millwood just dropped his 10th straight road start tying a franchise record.
It's frustrating as a baseball fan to see the Cowboys go 13-3 in the NFL, the Mavericks win 51 games in the NBA, and the Stars battling for the Stanley Cup while the Rangers are just trying not to have the worse record in baseball.
Everyone in Dallas has been complaining of the Jason Kidd signing costing the Mavericks the season and their future while in the meantime the Rangers are still paying the Yankees millions of dollars for A-Rod's contract and over the past 5 years are the same team that gave Chan Ho Park a 5-year 65 million dollar deal.
According to mlb.com at the beginning of the season the Rangers had the 3rd best farm system in the majors. Pitchers like Eric Hurley, Kazuo Fukumori, Neftali Feliz, and Matt Harrison give Rangers fans a hope for the future.
As someone who keeps up with the Rangers and enjoys going to baseball games here in Dallas, I pray Tom Hicks finally opens his eyes and sees what everyone else in the baseball world sees. The key to success and great baseball starts with one thing, pitching.