It's hard to believe that the Rangers were division champions just two years ago. They seem like they've been in decline for a while, but it's really just been one year. They haven't improved at all thus far from last year's 78-84 squad, and .500 seems like a best-case, overachiever scenario for them. They have one player batting .300+ (Adrian Beltre, currently on the disabled list) and on any given night you can expect to see six of the starting nine with batting averages under .240. Cole Hamels and ageless Bartolo Colón are the only starting pitchers holding onto sub-4.00 ERAs, and at this writing only one reliever had an ERA under 4.00. This is a bad team. Yet, the Rangers have beaten the Mariners twice through mid-May (once when Erasmo Ramírez served up some gopherballs, once when they started 45-year-old line-drive pillow Colón on the hill), which just goes to show you that even the bad teams can catch a break now and then.
Come July, expect a lot of this roster to turn over. Adrian Beltre is 39 now, and his Hall of Fame career seems headed to a DH-only phase in order to save more wear and tear on his increasingly fragile legs and extend his career. He was limited to just 94 games last year (65 at third base), and as we remember from his days in Seattle, he'll play hurt if at all possible. Hamels is 34, still holding his own as the staff ace, and should draw a lot of attention from other teams as the season progresses and Texas falls farther behind in the standings. 35-year-old Shin-soo Choo, 34-year-old Doug Fister, and 33-year-old Tim Lincecum (if he ever gets back on the big-league mound), and of course Colón, are all probable trade chips. There is some youth in Texas—Willie Calhoun, 23, will likely get called up to the Majors soon but was sent to Triple-A to begin the year to work on his defense as he converts from second base to the outfield; and there are a number of promising hitters at Double-A Frisco that could make a difference in the next year or two.
Players to Watch
Adrian Beltre: The former Mariners third baseman joined the 3,000-hit club last year on his way to a certain election to the Hall of Fame when he hits his first ballot. He had what had to have been the most frustrating season of his career last year when he spent more than two months on the disabled list; at 39, Beltre may not have many more seasons to play, but he'll give it his all as long as he can. He landed on the DL May 15th with a hamstring strain that could keep him out of action for up to a month.
Bartolo Colón: At 45 years old, Colón is the oldest active player in the Majors and is somehow still pitching like an ace. At least, an ace by Rangers standards; his 3.51 ERA is 23rd in the league among starters and he's served up the fourth-most homers in the AL. He is one of just ten AL starting pitchers to boast a WHIP under 1.00, though, and does not walk anybody—in 56 innings so far, he's issued just five bases on balls.
Nomar Mazara: Thought of as a future superstar in Dallas-Fort Worth, Mazara enters his third big-league season with high expectations after 2017's 101-RBI campaign. The free-swinging outfielder has issues, though, namely lots and lots of strikeouts and, not coincidentally, a lackluster on-base percentage. There's no doubt the young man has learned to hit; it remains to be seen if he can also learn to refrain from missing.
Jeff Banister: After taking the Rangers to the playoffs in his first two years as a big-league manager, Banister saw how the other half lives last season. Losing Adrian Beltre for much of the year and poor campaigns from Rougned Odor, Mike Napoli, Joey Gallo, and others consigned the team to mediocrity no matter how well Banister did his job. Three seasons might be too small a sample size to declare him one of the game's better managers, but having won AL Manager of the Year in 2015—without having had any managerial experience at any level before that—and been runner-up for the award the next year, it's possible this guy actually knows what he's doing.
Doug Fister: A free agent before last season, the best offer Fister had was a minor-league deal from the Angels. But they didn't really want him and put him on waivers. Luckily for Fister, the Red Sox needed him, claimed his contract, and he started 15 games the rest of the way, one of which was a one-hit complete game against the best team in the league, the Cleveland Indians. So far in 2018 he's put up numbers consistent with his last few seasons, serviceable but not exceptional.
Fister left the Mariners way back in 2011 in an ill-advised trade with Detroit. The M's got Charlie Furbush in return, who was a valuable reliever for a few years, as well as Casper Wells, Francisco Martínez, and Chance Ruffin, who were not useful in any capacity. Fister, meanwhile, went on to compile a 32-20 record with the Tigers over the next 2½ years with a 3.28 ERA Seattle would have loved to have.
|Texas Rangers||(1972 - present)|
|League Champions:||2010, 2011|
|Division Titles:||1996, 1998, 1999, 2015, 2016|