In the late evening of Thursday, April 24, the Texas Rangers were on a flight home from a seven-game losing streak in Boston and Detroit. The Rangers were 7-15 at the time and had the worst record in all of baseball.
Back in April, the bullpen couldn't hold any of the leads they were given; the hitters couldn't hit the ball with runners in scoring position; and manager Ron Washington seemed to have a one-way ticket out of Texas.
Just over a month later, the Rangers are one of the hottest teams in baseball. They have a record of 27-27 and sit only five games behind the Angels.
Today, Josh Hamilton is a Triple Crown contender; Milton Bradley leads the AL in batting average and on-base percentage; David Murphy is the leading player for AL Rookie of the Year; Ian Kinsler leads all AL second baseman in hitting, runs scored, home runs, and steals; and Vicente Padilla is one of the winningest pitchers in baseball.
How did this happen?
One source could be the veteran players-only meeting on the charter flight back from Detroit. Michael Young, Milton Bradley, Eddie Guardado, and Kevin Millwood sat in the back of the plane and talked out the players plan of accepting personal responsibility and picking each other up.
Another could be the youth movement that the Rangers front office seems to be using and believing in. Since April 24th, the Rangers have brought up several productive players from their Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City.
Texas has brought up outfielder Brandon Boggs, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, first baseman Chris Shelton, infielder German Duran, starting pitchers Scott Feldman and Doug Mathis and relievers A.J. Murray and Kameron Loe.
All of these signs have lead to short- and long-term positive results in a franchise that has not had many in the past ten years.
The question that baseball—and Ranger fans—is asking is: can this team keep up their current pace?
If they do, the Rangers will finish with an even 81-81 record (which won't make the playoffs), but the Rangers have been below .500 every year since 2004.
If the Rangers continue to play the way they are, their record should be above .500, but with the amount of everyday youth players that Texas has, history tells us that there will be some downs on this roller-coaster of a season.
But if the players can keep up the pace, they will have some pretty impressive numbers come the end of the regular season.
Currently batting .329 (72-219), 13 home runs, 3 triples, 15 doubles, 132 total bases, and 58 RBI
End of the season - batting .329 AVG. with 216 hits, 39 home runs, 9 triples, 45 doubles, 93 extra-base hits, 396 total bases, and 174 RBI...MVP???
Currently batting .294 (64-218), 7 home runs, 12 doubles, 99 total bases, 32 RBI, and 44 runs
End of the season - batting .294, with 192 hits, 21 home runs, 36 doubles, 66 extra-base hits, 297 total bases, 96 RBI, and 132 total runs scored.
Currently batting .329 (55-167), 8 home runs, 16 doubles, 29 RBI, 33 walks, 30 runs, and .435 OBP
End of the season - batting .329, with 165 hits, 24 home runs, 48 doubles, 285 total bases, 87 RBI, 99 walks, 90 runs, and .435 OBP
Currently batting .279 (61-219), 5 home runs, 14 doubles, and 37 runs
End of the season - batting .279, with 183 hits, 15 home runs, 42 doubles, 273 total bases, and 111 runs
Currently batting .289 (61-211), 6 home runs, 19 doubles, 100 total bases, and 28 runs
End of the season - batting .289, with 183 hits, 18 home runs, 57 doubles, 300 total bases, and 84 runs...Rookie of the Year???
Currently 7-2 record, 3.67 ERA, 73.2 innings pitched, and 52 strikeouts
End of the season - 21-6 record, 3.67 ERA, 221 innings pitched, and 156 strikeouts...a Rangers pitcher with 20 wins?!
I'm not saying that the all of these players will keep these numbers up all season long, but then again, there is room for some of them to improve.
If the Rangers players can continue to perform at this level, then the team will at least have a winning record and will do something that they have not since 2004; play games that matter in September.