The hot topic around baseball as the trade deadline nears is all about Roy Halladay and where he will end up going, if anywhere.
The Texas Rangers have been linked to Halladay because they are one of the few teams with the caliber of prospects necessary to acquire the ace.
Perhaps my initial call for Halladay was a blind knee-jerk reaction to both the history of pitching problems the Rangers have had, as well as the injuries in the rotation.
A second offensive shut-down that followed the Rangers home from Seattle has changed my perspective on what this team needs to make the playoffs.
The Rangers fell from first place with a horrible month of June, largely because they stopped hitting up and down the order.
Once they regained some consistency at the plate, they took two of three in Anaheim and regained first place, only to fall behind again, losing three of four in Seattle.
After the All-Star break, the Rangers started the second half at home against the Minnesota Twins. The lack of hitting once again doomed the Rangers, who continue to pitch and catch the ball extremely well.
If they hadn’t put together a string of hits and bombs to score five runs in the sixth inning last night, they would have dropped another home game to Boston.
Some have suggested the problem is with the legendary hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, an argument I will not honor with a slight bit of credibility. The problem is inexperience in key spots of the lineup.
Young sluggers are both a luxury and a curse, because the team is held hostage by their streaky nature. The good streaks are always very good and the bad streaks are always very bad.
A lineup as young as the Rangers will go through periods of inconsistency as they struggle to make adjustments to big league pitching. There is no better example of this than Chris Davis.
After hitting the cover off the ball last season, big league pitchers adjusted and Davis struggled making his own adjustments.
Now, I’m not just picking on the kids here. Another problem is aging veterans that are way past their prime.
Andruw Jones had a three home run game in Anaheim and hasn’t hit since, yet he continues to hit cleanup behind Josh Hamilton. It’s no coincidence Hamilton can’t get a decent pitch to drive.
The leadoff spot is a complete mess as Ian Kinsler can’t shake a slump quickly approaching its fourth month. Contrary to popular belief, his problem is timing and not the uppercut swing he has had his entire career.
Still, he has 22 home runs, rarely walks, and likes swinging early in the count. That makes him a middle-of-the-order bat, not a leadoff hitter.
The Rangers have a lot of talent both on the pitching staff and in the lineup, but the young hitters need some help. One impact bat will cost the Rangers less than a starting pitcher or bullpen piece.
Everyone in the league is looking for pitching, driving up the price for even the below-average pitchers. That’s not the case for hitters, and the Rangers need to find an impact bat.
I’m not talking about one of those coveted young players who are under control for a few seasons. The Rangers already have a roster full of those guys.
The Rangers need a veteran hitter that can bring some pop to the middle of the order. Guys like Aubrey Huff or Adam Dunn should be at the top of Jon Daniels' wish list, instead of various pitchers.
It’s hard to imagine a Rangers team with enough pitching and short a bat, but that’s what the 2009 Rangers have to deal with.
Luckily, the rest of the league needs pitching so badly that the Rangers can strike a deal for a hitter that helps them this year and doesn’t rob the team of its future.
They have 10 days to get a bat and bring some consistency to the lineup. If they succeed in jump-starting the offense, the Rangers can get on a roll similar to the one they enjoyed in May.
If they do not and continue to struggle with offensive consistency, the Rangers will be home in October for a 10th consecutive season.
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