A Simple Plea

What a season to start writing about my favorite team.

Midway thru another piece, I felt compelled to stop down and write this plea to the Rangers organization, if only to keep my own sanity for another day.

Tanner Scheppers is the most recent victim of the 2014 injury plagued season, succumbing to elbow inflammation for the second time in two months and likely doomed to miss a good chunk of the rest of this season. The DL move marks the 20th of the season for the Rangers, a devastating statistic for even the deepest teams in the majors. My biggest concern, however, revolves around one of the few starters who has avoided a DL stint this season– Shin-Soo Choo.

For much of the season, excluding the recent surge in the middle of the order by Adrian Beltre and Alex Rios, Shin-Soo Choo has been the Rangers best hitter and an on-base machine during his first season in Texas.

Choo was exactly as advertised from day one – a guy who will get on base by any means necessary to set the table for a potent middle of the order. In his first twenty game of the season, Choo had a .432 OBS, .314 AVG and a .932 OPS, leading an offensive struggling to find it’s rhythm due to early season struggles from Prince Fielder and nagging injuries throughout the lineup.

During the April 21st bout against Oakland, Choo landed awkwardly at first base legging out a hit, leading to a 5 game absence from the lineup and being listed as day-to-day with left ankle soreness. Choo picked up right where he left off pre-injury, ultimately reaching the offensive apex of his season on May 6th, where he finished the night with a .500 OBP, .370 AVG and a 1.054 OPS.

Since then, the lingering effects of that sore left ankle have rendered Choo ineffective at the plate. His average fell 81 points to .289 and his OBP dipped to .412 – Still very respectable numbers. The decline, however, has continued to trend downward at an alarming rate. He’s currently riding a 4 for 39 with 10 strikeouts in his last 12 games (9 of those at home) with only two extra base hits.  In the month of June, he’s slashing .097/.317/.129 with a .334 OPS.

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Choo Hot Zone – 2014 – Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information Group
Simply put, Shin-Soo Choo is getting zero drive off his back foot at the plate, limiting his ability to turn on inside pitches, essentially rendering him a walk-or-out hitter in the lineup.

Yes, the thought of conceding a season of Yu Darvish dominance as he inches closer to free agency is a bit unsettling, but the core of this team is locked up for the foreseeable future:

– Alex Rios has a club option for next season

– Adrian Beltre is free in 2017

– Yu Darvish becomes a free agent in 2018

– Derek Holland in 2019

– Shin-Soo Choo, Prince Fielder and Martin Perez become free agents in 2021

– Elvis Andrus is free in 2024

So this is my plea to the Rangers: Don’t run our 7 year, $130 million dollar leadoff hitter into the ground during a season where the playoffs are nothing more than a pipe dream. Choo turns 32 on July 13th – he’s been the leadoff hitter we hoped he would be and can be for years if given the opportunity to get healthy without enduring the daily grind of starting in left field daily while hampered with this ankle injury.

I 100% believe Choo is fighting to stay in the lineup – he knows how dire the injury situation is on this team and he’s probably right to think that he’s a better alternative on one foot than what we can throw out there to replace him right now.

I know the collective groan of the fans will be loud enough to reach the furthest corners of the metroplex. The crowds are going to get more sparse as the season goes on and this team slips further into obscurity. This is going to happen with or without Choo in the lineup.

I want this team to succeed. Watching Choo round first base on a single-turned-bases clearing double made me wince in pain, as the usually fleet of foot left fielder failed to advance further despite Giancarlo Stanton giving him every opportunity. No number of wins against a sub-par team like the Marlins (don’t tell me they are tied for 2nd in their division – that team is years away from relevance) is worth a potentially more severe injury for Choo.

I’m still going to watch every night. I might not stick around for the severe beatings and I don’t have plans to order a Daniel Robertson road jersey (or commemorative Phantom of the Opera mask), but I’m still going to be there to watch these kids endure character building road trips like the one that starts tonight in Seattle against Felix Hernandez.

Choo needs more than one night at DH, and this organization owes it to him and to the fans. Please don’t let this season affect the greatness that could be next year.

DJ Ringgenberg

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