In honor of the first spring training game taking place yesterday, I decided it was about time for me to share my thoughts on my favorite team—the team that gets me all excited when they come out of the gate running, and the team that tears my heart out when they fade in September.
At any given time I love them and hate them, but they will always be my team.
The first part of any team, and one that often gets overlooked when previewing the season, is management. This includes the ownership group, the GM, and the on-field coaches.
In this day and age of circulating coaches, it is more important than ever to win fast and win often. The Rangers have assembled quite a good group that will hopefully do just that.
Like many Rangers fans, I am thrilled with the new ownership group led by Chuck Greenberg. He has a reputation as an owner that really appeals to the fans. He seems to realize that it is the butts in the seats that actually make him money.
He is already talking about making improvements to the ballpark, including replacing the outfield scoreboard, and rumors are circulating they may finally dome the ballpark. (These are purely rumors, and I won’t believe it until I see it, but we can dream, can’t we?)
The real excitement for me in this ownership group is the involvement of Nolan Ryan as part owner and team president. He has shown in only one year the effect he can have on a pitching staff, and in turn the team.
In essence, he told the pitchers to stop being babies and play like men. He all but eliminated pitch counts and forced the pitchers to bring their best every day or go home. It is the same mentality that kept him on the mound forever, and we have all seen the results.
I must admit that in Jon Daniels' early years I truly hated him. Not just didn’t like or wasn’t a big fan of—I hated him. He traded away Adrian Gonzalez, John Danks, and Edinson Volquez and got very little in return. (Josh Hamilton is a fine player, and I am a big fan, but we needed a pitcher, not a hitter.)
But in recent years he has greatly redeemed himself. The Mark Teixeira and Eric Gagne trades come to mind first. They were practically steals, and the organization as a whole is now much stronger. Let’s hope he keeps making wise deals and good decisions.
When it comes to the coaches on the field, it obviously all starts with Ron Washington, and to be honest, I couldn’t be happier. He is a players’ manager that preaches fundamentals and defense. It is amazing that after 120-some odd years it all comes back to playing defense and pitching.
The fruits of his efforts have come through in the form of wins that we have all been longing for. Last year was especially impressive with all of the injury troubles and movement of major players such as Hamilton and Chris Davis. If this team continues to buy into what Washington is preaching, their success will only grow.
Much of the credit for the aforementioned pitching success must also be given to Mike Maddux. He has shown the ability to coach pitchers right on par with his brother’s ability to be a pitcher.
He worked with an extremely young staff last year that had numerous injuries and helped them all to succeed at whatever they did best. He didn’t try to make pitchers be something they weren’t. He taught them to pound the strike zone and get outs, and that is exactly what they did.
The departure of Rudy Jaramillo was a good thing for everyone involved, in my opinion. He is an amazing hitting coach, and I wish him all the success in the world, but sometimes you just need a change, and that appeared to be the case with this team. They lost their offensive dominance, and sometimes you just need a new perspective to find it again.
Clint Hurdle has some big shoes to fill and a tremendous reputation to live up to, but if yesterday’s game is any indication of what we have to look forward to, the offensive explosion is back. It will be interesting to see how the offense develops as the year goes on.
There are numerous other coaches and trainers who play a vital role in the success of this team, but it would take all day to mention them all. Suffice it to say that I love the Rangers' new style of play with good pitching and defense, manufacturing runs through steals and bunts, and forcing pitchers to step up and push themselves to higher levels.
It should be a fun year with these leaders, but the next group that needs to step up for this team to succeed is the starting pitchers...
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