The Rangers’ Outfield: The biggest Question Going into 2016

hamilton

Greetings.  This is my inaugural post for SDI.  I’m pleased to be here, and am excited that everyone will finally be able to read my vast and considerable Rangers wisdom.  I plan to serve up hot opinions, thorough research and a good deal of humor (self-deprecating and otherwise.)  It’s a proven recipe.  I’ve just never taken it beyond Facebook and my own personal blog.

The Outfield

Josh Hamilton is a flake. This has never been in doubt, nor is it open to debate. It’s a law of science – like gravity. It’s not just his mental weakness that makes him unreliable. It’s his physical brittleness as well. I was vehemently opposed to the Rangers bringing Josh back, even at the dramatically reduced price. He has had such ophthalmological mysteries as “ocular keratitis,” “caffeine made my eyes dry,” “my eyes are too blue to see the ball in day games,” and “I slid head first into home and now my eyes won’t move when I turn my head.”

His knee is inflamed more than the never-extinguished Olympic Flame.  He throws about 4 dozen bats into the stands every season.  Spoiler alert: Josh is the reason that there is new netting behind the dugouts along first base line, not foul balls. He has zero self-control in his personal life or at the plate. The down and away slider is just as irresistible to him as drugs and alcohol are.  He quit on this team in 2012, then trolled the entire Metroplex (and all Rangers fans) on his way out of town, and was terrible during his time with the Angels.  He was so unreliable that the Angels were desperate to get him off the roster.

The first time Jerry Dipoto called Josh Daniels wanting to dump Hamilton back on the Rangers, I’d like to think that JD just hung up on him and laughed. Or laughed, then hung up and then laughed some more. Then Dipoto called back and made JD an offer he couldn’t refuse.

The temptation that Josh 2010 might still be hiding behind the guy who swings at every pitch no matter how low and outside it is, was just too great and the price was so low that JD somehow let himself be swindled by Dipoto.

That’s right… even the low salary of $6 million over three years is more than Josh is worth to this team.  He’s not going to play enough games, get enough hits, drive in enough runs, or even get on base enough to justify the money spent or the at-bats that someone else could put to better use. Someone right-handed.

Thankfully, JD has finally emerged from the hypnosis that Dipoto perpetrated on him and signed Ian Desmond to be the every day left fielder. Good thing, as I believe the Rangers will be be pushing it to get more than 75 games out of Hamilton this season.  If I were a betting man, I’d take the under.

Unfortunately, Ian Desmond played even fewer games in left field than Hamilton did last season. None. In fact, Desmond hasn’t even played one entire game in the outfield. But, he’s got a lot more to offer than Hamilton does. He’s physically reliable and he’s right-handed. And he’s a Good Dude™.

The concerns are that he’s never regularly played outfield before, and his production at the plate has declined considerably since his three consecutive Silver Slugger awards. I was really hoping the Rangers would have made a serious play for Justin Upton or Austin Jackson. The need for a right-handed bat with pop to play in the outfield is considerable.

It’s times like this that I miss Jeff Baker and his uncanny ability to brutalize left-handed pitching. He’s still a free agent, JD… might be worth a non-roster invite to spring training if nobody else has signed him in a couple weeks. Left field remains a huge question mark as spring training games are upon us. Will Desmond be able to step up and learn a position he’s never played in the big leagues? Will Josh Hamilton platoon with Desmond to face right-handed bats? At least we won’t have to watch Mike Napoli butcher routine fly balls in left field this season.

Delino DeShields exceeded even the highest expectations for 2015. It’s not often you hear about a Rule 5 draft pick paying off for the whole season like DeShields did for the Rangers. It was doubly delicious that JD plucked him from the enemy Astros.

DeShields lacks the physical defensive tools of Leonys Martin.  He’s not as tall, he has an average-at-best arm, and though he’s fast, he doesn’t cover the field as well as Martin.  This can be learned in time. At least the other outfielders can hear DeShields call for fly balls, which was a problem a lot more than it should have been due to Martin’s Tiny Tim voice. While DeShields is a downgrade defensively from Martin, I believe he is a considerable upgrade offensively. If DeShields can avoid the sophomore jinx and come close to last season’s performance, center field will be not be a question mark.

As vehemently as I was opposed to reacquiring Hamilton, I was equally fervent in my plea to JD to sign Shin-Soo Choo, both in 2013 and 2014.  He’s one of my personal favorite players. The length and dollars in the contract were a concern but Choo is one of the hardest working players in baseball. This is the hallmark of the Korean work ethic shining through. It explains why he tried so hard to play every day despite a badly injured ankle in 2014, even though his injury was clearly causing problems at the plate.

Choo is famous for having significant injury problems every other year, which puts him on track to have injury problems in 2016.  Will he be able to break the trend?  If not, will Josh be able to fill in?

What about Justin Ruggiano?  Where does he fit in to the mix?  Likely as the 4th outfielder, at least for the first couple months of the season while Hamilton recovers from yet more knee inflammation. Can he play effectively every day if there is a plague of injuries like the Rangers had in 2014?

Will Ryan Rua see any time? Rua’s time will also be dependent on injuries – he’s not likely to see much time unless Hamilton and/or Choo have significant problems… or if one of the infielders gets hurt and Desmond is moved into the infield for significant time. And don’t think that possibility wasn’t part of JD’s thought process in signing Desmond. With Adrian Beltre aging and oft-injured, Rougned Odor still somewhat unseasoned, and Elvis Andrus being a general disappointment after signing his big contract and specifically having a monumental mental meltdown in Game 5 last year, chances are fair that we will see Desmond get some significant time in the infield dirt this season, opening yet more outfield time for someone else to fill.

Speaking of Desmond in the infield….

Next time, we will investigate the Elvis Andrus conundrum. How his 2015 season ended, how his off-season went, and where he is physically and mentally going into 2016.

Jeremy Stroop on sabyoutubeJeremy Stroop on sabtwitter
Jeremy Stroop
I'm a life-long baseball and Rangers fan from about 1975. My dad covered the Rangers for the Associated Press when I was a kid, so I went to a LOT of games. I'm not a Rusty Rose-colored glasses-wearing Pollyanna Rangers fanboy. I love the Rangers like no other sports team, but I'm a realist. My wedding had a Texas Rangers theme. Public servant. Outdoor enthusiast. The details of my life are quite inconsequential.

22 comments

  • Late to the party, having just seen this link to a different piece at MLBTR. Pretty much agree with the tenor of most of the comments.
    That said, I commend the site owners for being willing to post provocative pieces. And I commend the author for accepting the criticism in a positive manner.
    The beauty of having free speech for all is that while I may not personally like or agree with someone else’s speech, I embrace their right to express it. That’s too often lost in the anonymous world we live in via the internets, :).
    Overall, like the site a lot. Thanks to you all for the hard work and passion.

  • This is coming from the perspective of a fellow writer, and I just wanted to chime in here because I’ve been in your shoes.

    You say you didn’t intend a personal attack on Hamilton, but the exact definition of “flake” in the context you used it is “a crazy or eccentric person.” You can’t say that, follow with an inflammatory statement like, “The down and away slider is just as irresistible to him as drugs and alcohol are,” and then say that it’s nothing personal. That’s exactly personal, and it’s the reason you’ve seen so much negative backlash from it. There are ways to introduce Hamilton’s issues without going the route of inflammatory speech and “hot takes” like that zinger about the down and away slider.

    Furthermore, you mention Elvis “being a general disappointment after signing his big contract”. For reference, do you realize that prior to the 2015 season, his annual salary topped out at $6.475 million? It’s available on Baseball-Reference, the very site your player links point to. If you look at the same data, you’ll see that only in 2015 did his salary jump to $15 million, which he’ll make again in 2016. If we’re going on a $/WAR basis — and I’m going to because it’s widely-used in the industry and is no longer relegated to “grasping for straws” status — Elvis’s performance has fallen pretty much in line with his contract to this point. All things considered, if he continues playing exactly like he is now, his deal breaks even. We can talk ad nauseam about how his bat hasn’t developed the way we had hoped or how, yes, his defense has regressed in recent seasons, but claiming that he’s been a disappointment because of his “big contract” is merely an emotional reaction because of your aforementioned expectations. Is it Elvis’s fault, or the organization’s fault, that you had higher expectations for him than what you’ve had? Because the fact is, if either Elvis or the organization had such high expectations, Elvis would be making something closer to $20-25 million per season, not $15 million, which is almost exactly in line with what you’d expect to pay a 2-2.5 win player.

    In any case, I just wanted to chime in. I understand what it’s like to be a fan and to write about something so close to you. It can be hard. I don’t know if any of my points even make sense, but I’ve tried to point out some various ways to maybe take a different angle on what you were trying to say. I don’t think most had a problem with the substance of your piece, merely the way in which it was approached. Just keep writing and improving, and best of luck to you. Like I said, all of us have been in a similar position to the one you’re in right now. Just keep enjoying what you’re doing, and everything else will follow.

    • Thanks for your reasonable response, Brandon. I appreciate it.

      That’s not the definition of flake that I was implying. Flake means someone who is unreliable and doesn’t deliver on promises/commitments/expectations, who can’t be trusted to be there when you need them (for whatever reason.) Crazy eccentric person was not my implication. Sometimes when I write, and I’m using a word as a talking point that I think could be misinterpreted, I will add the definition of the word as I’m presenting it at the beginning of the piece. I probably should have done that here.

      The reason I say Elvis has been a general disappointment is that he was given the contract extension with $118M dollars and 8 years based on his performance and yearly improvement to that point, and the expectation that he was young and would continue to improve. In fact, he’s steadily declined every year. I think Elvis himself would be the first to say that he’s not happy with his stats tracking downward in general the last 3 years. This is all stuff I’m going to talk about in a future article, though so I won’t go into details just yet. Believe me, I’ll still take Elvis over all but two or three other shortstops in the MLB. I love Elvis. Between him and Beltre, I’ve never loved two Ranger teammates more. But it’s not an emotional reaction to be disappointed that someone doesn’t live up to the expectations of a contract. If ever there was a Ranger that I would go fanboy on and over-inflate his worth as a player… it would be Elvis.

      Thanks for the encouragement and constructive criticism.

  • While I may or may not disagree with the content of the post, I do think there was a good deal of intentionally inflammatory language regarding Josh.

    We get that you don’t like the deal. I won’t even disagree that there’s a chance for him to be a distraction. However, I don’t think a listing of his past misdeeds is necessarily appropriate for those that read this site. 95%+ of the readers know Josh and are familiar with his myriad of issues staying healthy and playing everyday, as well as how he left and came back to Arlington. Your point could have been made with several simple sentences and had more gravitas and rationality than the flowery language used.

    “Josh is not a clubhouse cancer. He’s had his issues on and off the field. He’s more of a distraction than his production is worth on his contract. I didn’t want him to come here from Anaheim because he’s an X-factor. Not an X-factor in a good way. He is more likely to be a detriment to the team and roster construction than he is to play 100+ games of productive left field any given year.”

    You have an interesting style. It’s not personally my favorite, but you make good points. I for one just got caught up in some of the illustrative phrases and found myself having somewhat of an emotional reaction to the prose of the piece.

    Your style is very different from most of the writers here, so I’m curious as to how your voice blends with the other SDI writers.

    PS – on mobile, so excuse typos.

  • Well…opposite of the other commenters, I liked it…I think brining Josh back was a huge mistake for many reasons and while I’m a Rangers fan, I admit I am more on the casual side compared to a hardcore stats guy so I won’t argue those but think your profiling of some of the other guys is mostly fair…I don’t think anything wrote was from a hate perspective or to rile people up, rather it’s one person’s opinion of the current state of the Rangers

  • So, I dislike this article and while I’d love to go through it all line by line and show how much Jeremy is just talking out of his ass, I’ll just do the first little bit because it honestly pissed me off to see this on SDI.

    So everyone is on the same page, at the start Jeremy was making a joke about his vast and considerable rangers wisdom after stating his self-deprecating humor since he obviously isn’t wise and doesn’t know much beyond how to write incendiary articles. We should prepare for uninformed and unwise discussion then in the remainder of the article.

    First, you open your article with an immediate personal attack against a MLB professional player who has worked very hard for *8 years* in the majors. Anyone who does not have a hard working outlook to baseball does not make it in the majors. So, obviously being a flake happens anytime your own body, due to time, age, and use reduce your capabilities. Yeah, sorry you poured your entire body into this game Josh, but you’re just a *flake*.

    “I was vehemently opposed to the Rangers bringing Josh back, even at the dramatically reduced price. He has had such ophthalmological mysteries as “ocular keratitis,” “caffeine made my eyes dry,” “my eyes are too blue to see the ball in day games,” and “I slid head first into home and now my eyes won’t move when I turn my head.”

    And now you see why players don’t like to talk about their game. Oh, look, here is a hardball times article (http://www.hardballtimes.com/how-does-eye-color-affect-daynight-splits/) about how “Eye color affects day/night splits” that is a great and well-researched discussion on it rather than a layman’s view on how a MLB professional knows his own body and job. The article found that it probably doesn’t matter, at least to stats, but *that* is the right way to show your willing to do “thorough research” rather than just insult someone for how they do their job and know their own body at a very high level.

    “His knee is inflamed more than the never-extinguished Olympic Flame. He throws about 4 dozen bats into the stands every season. Spoiler alert: Josh is the reason that there is new netting behind the dugouts along first base line, not foul balls.”

    Good thing no one else throws bats into the stands: (http://www.justbatreviews.com/mlb-bat-throwing/) I know, its a joke, but all you keep doing is stating bullshit to lay on josh that has no merit to his production. Would you take Trout if he threw more than 4 bats into the stands? If yes, *then this argument is pointless, does not contribute to the article about why Josh is bad for the team and bad as a player now*, instead it just highlights your own personal distaste for the man and makes you look like a stay-at-home father who posts his opinions on facebook and should remain there.

    Finally,

    “He has zero self-control in his personal life or at the plate. The down and away slider is just as irresistible to him as drugs and alcohol are.”

    Did you read these two sentences before you submitted this? I’ve already talked about his work ethic, but I love that this is was included in an article on SDI because I am glad we finally have our own version of Rev Halofan (http://deadspin.com/sociopathic-angels-blogger-posts-now-deleted-rant-about-1700641867) . An antagonistic, opportunistic, inflammatory know-it-all.

    P.S. I couldn’t help but also get rightly fucking heated when you said ” Adrian Beltre aging and oft-injured”. I fucking went through the transaction data (via http://www.baseballheatmaps.com/disabled-list-data/ also, adrians player ID is belta001 which I find enjoyable as a word), because DL days, as far as I can tell aren’t fucking tracked anywhere for some reason, and found Adrian Beltre who was homering and fielding with a busted thumb for months, had a total DL time from 2010 to 2015 of 78 days, 40 of which were in 2011. What an OFT-INJURED PLAYER.

    P.P.S. Jeremy, if you want to know how to write articles for the public that don’t look like facebook posts, those articles I linked are all great examples.

  • Ok, you couldn’t have done much more to guarantee I’ll never read anything else you write. Needlessly trashing Hamilton and casual racism aren’t my cup of tea. You can send this one back, SDI.

    • Racism?

      • I don’t get where the “racism” thing is coming from. It’s pretty cheap to toss that out there “Anonymously” with no explanation.

        I disagree with the Hamilton deal being a negative IMHO. It’s quite harmless, and technically his WPA last year paid for year 1 in very few AB’s.

        That being said, good stuff. I got a reaction in my gut reading it, and it seems like a genuine piece of work.

      • Ok, Jeremy; I want to apologize for blowing up and storming off. That’s not how I usually act and it was uncalled for. You also deserve some explanation for why I said what I did.

        First, making your inaugural post something filled with so much anger, especially when most of it is directed at one person, is a lousy introduction to your writing. It makes me think, “Oh, he’s going to be one of THOSE guys, who always writes about the negative and how he hates this or that.” Therefore, I have no interest in what you’re going to write in the future. I don’t need to read a Rangers hate blog.

        Second, you not only chose to kick a dead horse, you seemingly decided to try to find a new level of invective, as if you wanted to make it PERFECTLY clear to everyone how you felt about Josh Hamilton. It was so unnecessary that I don’t understand why you would want to spend time writing it, unless you were interested in running a hate blog, as I mentioned above.

        Third, “Korean work ethic” is a race-based description that uses a traditional western stereotype to describe a player. Your comment didn’t appear to be a targeted racial attack, ergo I described it as “casual racism”.

        And, for the record, your comment about Choo playing through injury really makes your lack of mentioning such a thing with regards to any other player telling, as it gives the appearance that you are being very selective in how you wish to view the players.

        Fourth, your reference to the Elvis Andrus “meltdown” and the “Elvis Andrus conundrum” echoes the comments heard almost every week since last season ended, viewing Andrus from an emotional standpoint rather than logical. Therefore, I’m led to conclude (without evidence, I admit) that you’re going to jump on the “dump Elvis” bandwagon, and I don’t need to read that for the 1,000th time.

        All of which, in the end, leads me to decide that I’m not really interested in reading anything you have to say. Which wasn’t a good decision on my part, either; and is why I felt I owed you an apology for blowing up and walking out. I still don’t like what you wrote, and if I continue to dislike what you write I will, of course, stop reading, but my initial comment was purely an emotional response, and anyone taking the effort to put an opinion out deserves better.

        • Roy, you’re certainly entitled to your opinions, and they’re mostly valid. I respect that you came back and took the time to explain yourself, thanks for that. Believe it or not, I appreciate all the comments, not matter how angry they are. Apology accepted.

          As I’ve stated many times, this wasn’t a hate piece. I understand that people interpreted that way – and can see how they did. I’m not a hateful person. It wasn’t a personal indictment of Josh Hamilton. I have nothing against Josh the person. It was an indictment of Rangers management choosing to bring back Hamilton despite the many reasons not to; a topic about which I am passionate. I understand it came across as a hate piece, and that was definitely not my intention. I’m grateful for all the responses. Even if they’re given with vitriol, they all will help me in the future. As another commenter said, the article did come across a little like a Facebook rant.

          I do take exception to you calling me a racist – you don’t know me and you have no idea what my basis for that statement was. I was expressing appreciation for a facet of a culture that I have *great* admiration for. People who know me for real know of my deep admiration of the Korean culture. The desire to work hard for Koreans is not a stereotype, it’s a point of pride in Korean culture. One of the highest compliments you can pay someone in Korea is to tell them that they worked hard. If you see that as racist, that’s a leap to a conclusion on your part that has no foundation in fact whatsoever.

          • I didn’t call you a racist; I don’t know you and I’m happy to assume you’re not. I was referring to the comment only; people can make racist comments without being, themselves, racist. But, I didn’t make that clear in my original comment, so I will state categorically that I don’t think you’re racist.

            However, the “Hard Working Asian” stereotype is one of the best known stereotypes in America. It’s been around for over a century, and is even named as part of the concept of the “Model Minority Stereotype”. Or to look at it from a different direction, “the desire to work hard” is a traditional part of EVERY culture, not just Koreans or Asians. But it is stereotypically linked to Asian culture by Westerners. It’s on memes websites! Do a search for “memes asians work hard”.

            Shin-soo Choo can work hard without being Korean. To say he works hard BECAUSE he’s Korean (“This is the hallmark of the Korean work ethic shining through.”) is a racist comment. The implication is that Choo is a good ball player because of his work ethic; his work ethic is because he’s Korean; therefore Shin-soo Choo is good ball player because he’s Korean.

            • We’ll have to disagree on that one. I never said he was a good ballplayer or even worked hard *solely* because he is Korean. My point was that he played through his injury because he wanted to help his team, felt the need to live up to his contract, and because that’s how he was raised. Any racism perceived by you is putting words in my mouth. It might be stereotypical to you, but it comes from a place of respect and appreciation, having been a keen observer of Korean culture for a decade. Trust me, there’s nothing racist or stereotypical about it. I’ve never seen a meme to that effect (though I do love me some memes. See what I did there?)

            • Racism and stereotyping are two completely different things. What Joe says appears to be a stereotype not racist.

  • I don’t mean to be one of “those” internet commenters coming in to crap on someone’s effort, but I find this article to be a rare miss on SDI’s usual quality writing. I hope this isn’t the start of a theme where we will see more personal attacks on players. No one cares that you don’t like someone as a person, and you just look petty when you can’t keep it on the field or in the front office. Also, his name is Jon Daniels, not Josh.

    Hamilton had to put up a little less than 1.0 WAR over the 3 years, and he did it already. It has already been worth it, and THAT is not up for debate like you claim him being a “flake” is. He’s a broken man in more ways than one, but he’s already held up to his end of the deal on the field. He’s being paid literally $0 by Ray and Bob this season, and they can opt out of the next season if they want. A 4th/5th outfielder really shouldn’t warrant this much vitriol, especially one that at the very least is an amazing thing to rub in the faces of every Angels fan.

    Anyway, hope to not see stuff like this in the future here. I’d rather not see this site run with the facebook post narratives of Elvis not caring or Dutch being a goofball. Not because they may be true, but we’re on the sidelines. We can’t know that stuff. We see them on the field and in the clubhouse. Speaking of which, those two were in there every day with your favorite Korean work ethic guy this Winter. They’re all great guys and they all do a lot to prepare. We should be proud of all of them.

    • Sorry for the typo on JD. That’s on me – I had Josh Hamilton on the mind. I should have proofread one more time.

      This wasn’t a personal attack on Hamilton. It was an assessment of his contributions on the field. His off the field problems are very much part of the equation. His personal problems and his vulnerability to a myriad of legit and questionable injuries/ailments impact his ability to play on the field, or to even get on the field. This has all been well-documented in the past and I didn’t make any of it up. I never said he was a jerk or a bad human being. I don’t know any of that because I don’t know him personally. When I say his is a flake, it means he’s unreliable. That’s a fact, and not going to change any time soon.

      A WAR of 1.0 or greater over 3 years might make it worth it to you, but I don’t see it that way. We don’t have to agree, though. Discussion is the point, right? That’s what we’re doing.

      I appreciate your comment. I’m sorry if my article doesn’t meet your standards. I’m a Rangers fan, one of the biggest, but not everything I write is “Pollyanna” where the Rangers are concerned. I’m a realist and sometimes it hurts to hear that someone thinks that one of their heroes has some blemishes. I’m not taking away anything from what Hamilton accomplished before 2012. 2010 and 2011 were awesome, and he was a huge part of that. But 2012 happened, too. I haven’t heard of one Angels fan who is upset that Hamilton is back on the Rangers. They’re glad to have him off the roster and giggling behind their Mizunos that he’s not contributing anything of substance to the Rangers. They might be annoyed about the fact that they’re still paying him to not contribute to a division rival, but that’s not anything to hang our hat on.

      I’ve got no problems with Holland. He’s been one of my favorite Rangers during his stay here. I like that he has a healthy sense of humor and shares it. I’ve been a big supporter of Elvis (one of two authentic jerseys I own) for his entire career and his enthusiasm is never below an 11. Sometimes his focus dips, and he’s certainly not lived up to the expectations of his big contract. My concern for Elvis this year is that I hope he can put Game 5 behind him and resume the mantle of leadership that he has carried for most of the last 4 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.