Ranger Talk With Mike Rhyner
Mike Rhyner: I’m surprised by many guys on this team in one way or another. I didn’t know what to make of Leonys heading into the season. I only believed it was important that he turn into something useful, and he’s at the very least doing that. Will he become a star? I don’t know, but his development as he’s gotten more playing time has been neat to watch. I’m excited about him but I think I’m more excited about the year Mitch Moreland is putting together. Good at bats are becoming the rule for Mitch and when he first came up, that’s the kind of player I thought he would be. He got seduced by home runs to the point where this was make or break for him. I believe they still want to see more, but we are duly impressed.
SDI: Cotts, Ross, Scheppers and Nathan have been dynamite. Is there a better group in the game this year?
MR: The Rangers bullpen has been very good. But look out that window and tell me what you see….no–I’ll tell you what I see: I see good baseball teams in both leagues. And all the good teams have good bullpens. The Rangers’ is good now. How good will it be if they’re trying to fend off September challengers? These guys are getting a lot of use–I mean, a LOT of use. And I get that; that’s why they’re there, and every manager lives for today. I wonder, though, about the down the road of it .
SDI: The Swingin’ A’s aren’t going away anytime soon. Is their performance over the last 2 years the most surprising in baseball, or is it this year’s Pittsburgh Pirates?
MR: Surprising? Give me the A’s. A part of me can’t help but admire them (and yeah, I know–heresy). But I love the way they play this game; I love the way they grind; I love the way they don’t seem to care one whit about their circumstance; I love their intensity as the game situation ratchets up; I love the way they look like they’re having great fun; I love their edge, and if you’re going to beat ’em, you gotta be ready to go hard all 27 outs. Pittsburgh is a great story. I like Clint Hurdle and I’m pulling for them, but remember last year–they put together a really good first half and then it all got away in the second half. This year’s team is considerably better, with a better bullpen and Gerrit Cole, whom I think could be the impact player of the entire National League in the second half. But before I go all in, they gotta show me two strong halves.
SDI: We are at the hallway point. What is your biggest concern for the Rangers heading into the 2nd half?
MR: I have a lot of concerns, far more than I probably should about a team that’s been this good so far and put together this record. I am worried about Beltre (Adrian, not Engel) and his hamstrings holding up. I wish they could talk him into drumming up some phantom injury and hitting the disabled list for a spell, but they need him too much and he would have none of that anyway. I’m worried about falloffs in the second half from the everyday lineup; they gotta have their guys going all out all the time. I’m worried about how they’re going to hold up when it gets soul-sucking hot around here; I’m worried about the bullpen, the rotation. You name it; I’m worried about it.
SDI: How would you solve the Profar/Kinsler/Andrus log jam heading into 2014, assuming all three are here?
MR: There’s only one way I see to solve it and that’s the way they’re doing it. Profar is the odd man out. I don’t want him traded; it’s very clear to all of us why he’s been hyped as he has on the way up to the big club. This is talent rarely seen around here and that’s saying something. But if Elvis and Kins are here next year, I don’t see him displacing either, so he’s got to learn another position and that position has to be in the outfield. The only way around this is if Kins walks into the office and volunteers to move somewhere and that ain’t gonna happen. There are few things more unthinkable than moving or offloading Elvis, so the possible scenarios dwindle until you’re left with the one. They’ve got to try to get him with the program and hope that it takes.
SDI: Is there anything you would change in the way this team is managed? For example, more hit and runs, bullpen management, etc.
MR: We can all pick over the way every game is managed, but how many teams hit and run and use the sac bunt and all that stuff? This is not National League baseball of the ’60’s. You try to get guys on base and get ’em moving more than one base at a time, and the way you do that is by hitting doubles and home runs, not with managerial manuvering. As is, they do enough of that stuff for me. The bullpen is another matter entirely…see my answer to the second question.
SDI: There is a ton of speculation on Giancarlo Stanton. Do you think he is moved before Opening Day ’14?
MR: Let’s worry about those who are here, not those who are not. I don’t have any more of an educated guess on Giancarlo’s status with Miami, what he thinks about his situation, or what the Rangers think about what kind of fit he would be here than anyone else. I love the guy myself; his power is astonishing and fans would love him but has he got enough all-around game to make it work here? I will say this (and it’s going to be the most absurd thing I will say on here): he has sounded off about his frustration with the Miami situation. He may be frustrated now but I bet it’s not going to take that team long before they’re good again. It’s no way to run a railroad but if you’re going to do it, then make good trades and draft well and I bet they’ve done both…and this franchise has shown the knack for knowing how to do this “tear down completely and build it back up” thing.
SDI: Do you believe that Nelson Cruz and/or David Murphy are playing their last year in Arlington?
MR: I believe that this is surely it for Cruz and most likely for Murph. David might be back next year, but if he is, I bet it will be as 4th outfielder once again. This just has not been the kind of year he needed to have so far. In addition to coming free at the end of the year, Cruz has the Biogenesis thing hanging over his head. They’re trying to outrun that and I believe they and everybody else will be able to. Baseball doesn’t want to have September determined by Biogenesis, so I don’t think we’ll see anything happen on it until next year. But we all know that Cruz has been named and when it comes down, he will get busted and I think the Rangers will not want any part of it. If he somehow gets off the hook, it will then depend on what kind of free agent interest he attracts. With the year he’s had so far–and he’s still got to finish it off strong–it should be significant. The Rangers will miss him when he’s gone, but I can’t see him being someone they go all in on. That’s why a trade for Alex Rios may be something to look at; also, keep an eye on Engel Beltre as long as he’s here, however long that may be. [It’s a] Miniscule sample size and he’s in a little over his head, but I’m digging the tools and he’s got a little charisma.
SDI: Is there a favorite stat or group of stats that you like to look at to measure a player or team?
MR: Do they get on base? When they do, what happens then? Do they go from first to third and score from second on singles and from first on doubles? How do they hit with runners in scoring position and in big situations? How many pitches do the hitters see? Do they get anxious when they’re behind in the count? Can they slow down for the change up? Do the pitchers get strikeouts? Do they get swings and misses? What pitches do they get those swings and misses on? Do the fielders make the plays they should make? Can the bullpen guys get wrong side hitters out? For me, the essence of the great game of baseball lies in those areas, to name just a few. And I look for numbers that indicate those things.
SDI: Can we look forward to a second half prediction on “The Hardline”, or can you share that with us here?
MR: I’m staying where I’m at. This team will finish second in the AL West behind Oakland and it will not make the post-season due to the chaotic AL East. That was my Opening Day prediction and we’ll roll with it. I do hope I’m wrong about it, though…because I love the Rangers.
You can hear Mike, along with Corby Davidson and Danny Balis from 3 pm to 7 pm, Monday through Friday on SportsRadio 1310 AM The Ticket, www.theticket.com.