A Tale of Two Reactions: Rangers Sign Kyle Lohse, Call Up Matt Bush
The Rangers made Friday the 13th lucky for two different pitchers today, signing free agent starter Kyle Lohse to a minor league deal while promoting Frisco reliever Matt Bush to the major league club.
It’s safe to say the reactions to both will be different.
Starting with the 37-year-old Lohse, this is a flier on rotational depth from a team that still remembers 2014 where Tanner Scheppers and Robbie Ross started regularly. It’s one more chance for the former Brewer and Cardinal starter who posted four straight 2+ WAR seasons from 2011-2014. 2015 was an unmitigated disaster for the righty, who had a 5.85 ERA in 37 appearances.
Not that he was ever an ace to begin with – Lohse has a career K/9 of 5.75, striking out only 14.9% of the batters faced. He allows about a homer every nine innings, and as he’s gotten older has relied on his changeup more with a career-high 21% usage rate of the pitch in 2015. I can’t say that’s the reason he was so awful last year because like most of the baseball world I didn’t watch much Brewers baseball last season.
This is in no way Texas trying to add an impact arm to their rotation. It’s the team seeing AJ Griffin go down with a shoulder injury, Yu Darvish a little slower than announced on his way back from Tommy John, and subscribing to the notion that you can never have enough pitching. It’s a minor league deal, which means Lohse goes to Round Rock with the hope he can fix whatever ailed him last season. If he does, Texas has insurance against further starting pitching woes. If he doesn’t, no big loss.
It is worth nothing that the immediate comparisons of Lohse to Wandy Rodriguez aren’t terrible. Lohse spent the last eight seasons in the NL Central, where manager Jeff Banister coached and worked before setting up shop in Arlington. He probably saw enough of Lohse (though missed last season’s meltdown) that would give management some assurances that the risk is more than low enough to pay off any potential reward.
Make no mistake, though: Expecting anything out of Kyle Lohse is a mistake. This is a shot in the dark, nothing more.
The call up of Matt Bush is the real story of May 13th, 2016. The former 2006 #1 overall pick of the San Diego Padres will make his major league debut should he get into a game with the Rangers. It’s been a journey filled with mistakes, regret, and bad decision making for Bush. Levi Weaver at WFAA did a great job of encapsulating all this in a piece from earlier this spring. I recommend reading it a couple times.
When it comes to what Bush will offer bullpen-wise, it’s all power. He’s got a fastball that hits triple digits at times to pair with a slider and curveball. The stuff is live and has put away hitters at Frisco this year. The question becomes whether it can do the job against the best hitters in the world. It will be exciting to watch as strikeouts will be the order of the day.
Above actual baseball, though, a lot of people will talk about what this opportunity for Bush represents in general. As Levi details in his article, Bush did bad things repeatedly to the point where he was locked up for those things. He paid his debt to society in captivity, and when released Texas thought enough of him to give him a shot.
I can’t tell you how to think about this. I imagine a lot of you will think this is positive reinforcement for decidedly negative behavior. That you can drive drunk, injure people, and still play at the highest level of sport. That will anger plenty, and lead them to criticize the team for doing so. It happened when Texas signed Bush last December. I can’t imagine what the backlash will be if Bush comes in and isn’t good right away.
That said, this is a man that has shown remorse and handled things the right way since being signed. From all outward appearances, he’s doing the best he knows to do to turn his life around using the baseball opportunity Texas gave him to do so. We as Americans love a redemption story because we all know we’re not perfect, we make mistakes, and we desire forgiveness for those mistakes. Matt Bush made bigger mistakes than we often do, but it seems safe to say that he recognizes that as a 30-year-old convicted felon with one last opportunity to fulfill even a small modicum of the potential he showed ten years ago when San Diego made him the first player out of hundreds selected.
This also represents an axiom of life that most people aren’t comfortable with: If you’re good at what you do, you’ll always get another chance. If Bush couldn’t hit 100 or throw a slider hitters flail at, he’s not getting this call-up. He likely doesn’t get signed at all for that matter. It’s hard to find people that can do what he does. This dearth of elite level talent means taking chances on imperfect pieces. It’s fair to not like it, but it’s foolish to not acknowledge it.
That’s not Matt Bush’s fault. It’s not even the Rangers’ fault. They’re trying to win baseball games, and Matt Bush’s skill gives them an opportunity to do just that. They’re willing to give him what is likely his last chance in order to harness those skills and turn them into a positive for everyone. They offered him his last chance to put his baseball life back together after he spent a lot of time-shattering his and others in the wake of his destructive 20s.
Even last chances are a chance after all.