Without Hicks in Camp, Rangers Captain Michael Young Gave Press the State of the Team Address
It was exactly two words long, but the longest tenured player on the Rangers roster summed up exactly what Ron Washington needed to tell the team as full squad workouts began Wednesday.
No long speech designed to artificially inflate expectations beyond where the team currently stands and no need for a broke owner on his way out the door to tell his team they are better than they are to help sell tickets.
The Rangers are a good team that by all accounts should contend with not only the other teams in the AL West for a division championship but should also be in contention for top seeding in the American League playoffs.
I firmly believe and predict without fear the top two teams in the American League West will make the playoffs this season, ending a nice run by the AL East in the Wild Card race.
Not because I think the Boston Red Sox or Tampa Bay Rays are bad teams, or even teams that have gotten worse this offseason, far from it. I just believe at this point the teams in the AL West are better and will benefit from playing each other.
It would be shocking to a lot of people if all four teams from the AL West don’t finish the season with a winning record and the top two teams could need a playoff game to decide the winner.
This division is that close in terms of talent, something none of the other divisions can come close to boasting.
Now, since Tom Hicks is unavailable to give a “State of the Team” speech to the media, it is up to us to form our own.
The state of this team is the strongest in club history in terms of both major league talent and the farm system.
The competition for the final bench spots and the pitching staff will finally be filled with candidates that not only can make the team, but should make the team because they are above average major league players.
The Rangers AAA rotation will have guys that could start for any team in baseball because the Rangers have so many options.
That wasn’t the case last year, it wasn’t the case in the late 90’s division championship seasons and it hasn’t been the case in the history of this franchise going back to the 1960 Washington Senators.
What made the 2009 season frustrating was the Rangers finally put together a good season on the mound just to be undone by their offense. How many times in the past have people around baseball said “geez, if they just get some pitching in Texas they’ll run the table.”
The Rangers have improved the rotation and the bullpen regardless of who makes the final roster. The Rangers are literally nine deep in the starting rotation, I doubt any writer following the Rangers has ever been able to write that without being sarcastic.
They have added an apparently healthy Vladimir Guerrero to boost the middle of the order and bring back young players who gained very valuable experience in a pennant race last season. Along with power, the Rangers have electric speed throughout the order beginning with Elvis Andrus and Julio Borbon.
All of this is an improvement over an 87 win team from a year ago and we haven’t even touched team defense.
The Rangers move a centerfielder to left field in Josh Hamilton; have Nelson Cruz and David Murphy to play right field and speedster Julio Borbon manning the power alleys in centerfield.
The infield has the sure-handed Michael Young at third base, tremendous range up the middle with Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, and the well above average glove of Chris Davis at first base; remember it was his defense that kept Davis in the majors last season when he struggled at the plate.
Gone are washed up veterans with nothing left in the tank, gone are non-roster invitees who never did much on the mound in the first place and gone are the excuses that have followed this organization for some time.
Not only can this team contend for a division championship and even a World Series championship, they should also expect to and so should their fan base.
The state of this team is the strongest it has ever been and getting stronger each day.