I’ve learned so many valuable things from experienced and excellent coaches during my fourteen-year coaching career, and the majority of those lessons have nothing to do with X’s or O’s, but life lessons and how to handle adversity. One of the clichés that I have heard at various times throughout my career is, “it’s never as good or bad as you think.” I’ve learned to not overreact to the moment (good or bad), but rather let things settle and focus on the positives, build from them and get back to work and continue getting better. That lesson was a difficult one to follow on Thursday afternoon after the devastating news that Prince Fielder will probably miss the remainder of the season due to his neck/back injury. But, I had to rely on that cliché (or run the risk of going into a deep, dark Rangers depression) as I sat and reflected on the remainder of the 2014 season. I won’t even try to take the “it’s only May” route and downplay the injury because this is a crucial loss for a Rangers team that needed Prince’s bat in the lineup. Arlington needed to see a summer of a healthy and productive Prince to help carry these Rangers back in the mix and on track for another post-season run. The red flags around his injury are too many to count, and when you combine that with his massive contract, it could potentially be a crippling financial situation that the club struggles to recover from if Prince cannot at least be productive for some of his contract. We have time to worry and discuss that long-term issue later, but right now how does this 2014 Rangers team stay afloat?
When the Rangers signed Prince Fielder (9 years and 214 million) and Shin-Soo Choo (7 years and 130 million) to their long-term deals this off-season, I doubt I was alone when I immediately thought of the Anaheim Angels and their big money signings (that us Ranger fans laughed and scoffed at, mind you). I didn’t hate the players, and I thought at the time the signings made sense to address the needs that the Rangers had, but long term deals with two veterans who were already in their 30’s didn’t feel like a Jon Daniels move to me. Today as the news broke about Fielder’s injury, and the similarities arose between this team and the Angels failures the last two seasons after attempting to spend big money and compete in both 2011 and 2012, I forced myself to focus on the positives and what may pull this bad situation into a positive one.

Reasons to Believe in 2014:

The Farm System

The Angels had Mike Trout to keep them afloat, and while the Rangers may not have a player of that caliber in their farm system, they have a stable full of talented young players that are either currently on the big league club or will keep this team competitive in the near future. Names like Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, Chi-Chi Gonzalez, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, and Luke Jackson and Lewis Brinson and…and I know there are several others that could and should be listed, but I think the point has been made. The point is this system isn’t as deep as it used to be, but the talent is still there, and unlike the thin and empty Angels minor league system, the Rangers have internal options down the road without being forced to spend more money on possible free agents or suffer a long miserable road downhill into mediocrity. Most of the guys on this list and in the system can’t help in 2014, but it makes the possibilities in 2015 and beyond exciting and promising for the Rangers chances of competing each year long-term.

Yu and Dutch then pray for Lunch?

I apologize for the terrible attempt at recreating the Spahn and Sain then pray for rain battle cry used by the Boston Braves, but let’s hope that Derek Holland will be back before it’s a lost cause. It looks more like a July return for Holland, and if this team can just stay in the hunt for the Wild Card race, it’s hard to argue with a 1-2 punch of Darvish and Holland down the stretch. Holland may not be sharp, but IF he is effective and can be a solid number 2 or 3 in July, August, and September, I think this team can stay competitive and in the race at least until the kids go back to school in late August. That may not sound like much, but keeping this squad in the mix for five months could be Ron Washington’s greatest accomplishment as the Rangers manager. A rotation of Yu, Holland, Lewis, and scraps may not be ideal and what this organization envisioned in December, but I think it still gives them a chance to stay relevant and that’s all that matters.

Adrian Freaking Beltre

Go look at big league rosters around the league and come up with a Top 5 list of players you want on your side when your team is backed into a corner and must fight its way out. I’m confident in saying that Beltre should be and would be on ALL of those lists. I worry about his age and how long he can hold up, but there are very few players in this league that I would want in my foxhole than Adrian Beltre. He has expressed his disappointment in his struggles early on this season, but I doubt many Rangers fans have given up on Beltre at this point in the season. Much like Josh Hamilton when he was with this team, we know that at any point Beltre could pick this team up, throw them on his back and carry them for an extended period of the season, offensively. The offensive weapons seem thin at this point, and if Beltre continues to struggle, I do believe it will be impossible for this team to compete throughout the season, but I’ll take my chances with number 29.

Who knows what will happen this season, and if things go south, I think this farm system and organizational structure will keep things afloat for the long haul and future seasons. Really that’s all that matters. Injuries cannot be controlled, and even the most successful franchises have seasons where they wonder just like Forrest did if, “sometimes I guess there just aren’t enough rocks.” Hopefully the Rangers have enough rocks left to get through the 2014 campaign, but if not they have plenty in storage for the future.

Jeff Johnson

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