Five Frustrating Things
For Texas Rangers fans, the beginning of the 2012 season will be the start of 26 weeks of therapy, in which the demons from a devastating 2011 World Series loss will be exorcised. A clean slate will be presented, and once the current version of the Rangers begins to stack up victories again, the aching losses of the past will be easier to bear. For the sake of full disclosure, Texas Rangers fans will also need to be prepared for the following 5 things that will be frustrating during the course of the 2012 season.
1. The bullpen being mis-managed
Ron Washington is the greatest manager in the history of the Texas Rangers, and it’s not close. He has seen this team’s win total increase each season under his watch, despite going through rebuilding years, bankruptcy, a cocaine usage, and player egos and drama. The majority of the job of the major league manager is handling the personalities and mentalities of the guys on the roster, and Washington has excelled at that. One thing that Washington does not excel at is in-game management. In most cases, the smoking gun of this deficiency is a flawed decision in the use of the bullpen. It does not happen every game, but when it does happen it tends to be blatantly obvious and irritating to all, including Washington.
2. Elvis Andrus making a lazy error on defense
Andrus is one of the game’s top defensive shortstops. His combination of range, arm strength, and feel for the game makes him an extremely valuable asset at the most premium position on the defensive spectrum at shortstop. The Rangers starting pitchers see the fruits of Andrus’ effort in terms of a southward trending ERA. Even though he is a wizard at making spectacular plays, Andrus is prone to make mistakes on some of the more routine plays defensively. In 2011, Andrus made a career high 25 errors, second most in the league behind the Cubs Starlin Castro. The optimistic side is that Andrus is still only 23 years old, and Washington is extremely hard on him when he makes these kinds of mistakes. In his fourth major league season, we should see fewer of these casual errors, but it’s doubtful they go away completely.
3. Derek Holland’s personality
Shutdown Inning writer Dan Allsup had a great perspective and insight into Derek Holland. Holland’s goofy personality is essentially his way of releasing pressure, and it makes him a more focused competitor on the field. I hope that this is the case, and that Holland continues to do whatever he needs to do to be a successful starting pitcher for the Rangers. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to be a major source of irritation to see or hear Holland do a goofy interview or impersonation during the season, especially when it is immediately following a poor outing. Rangers fans can only hope that in this case perception is not reality, because the perception is that Holland doesn’t care about what happens on the field. I know that is not the case.
4. Michael Young playing SS. Or 3B. Or 2B. Or probably 1B, too.
Michael Young has been my favorite Rangers player for a while; I admire and respect his approach to the game, and the success he has had on the field due to his discipline and hard work. Unfortunately, the reality is that Young, who was once an above average defender, is now well below average. His first step is not quick any longer, and in comparison to players like Andrus, Adrian Beltre, and Ian Kinsler, Young’s ability to glove the ball is sub-par as well. The Rangers will utilize Young as a utility infielder once again this season, with the majority of his playing time coming at DH, but significant time will be seen at 1B, or assuming injuries, at 3B, 2B, or SS. The dropoff in the Rangers total team defense upon having Young fill one of these key positions is significant, and the phrase “past a diving Michael Young” will be all too familiar.
5. Boneheaded baserunning mistakes
It is a long season in Major League Baseball, and it is a grind. It should be more than understandable for players to lose their focus at times, due to the level of intensity they compete at day in and day out because of the rigorous MLB schedule. From a fan’s perspective though, this justification is not relevant when a player is picked off or runs into an out on the bases because he wasn’t paying attention. The main culprits of this tend to be Andrus, Kinsler, or Julio Borbon. The counterpoint is that these players also make these mistakes because they are highly aggressive, and fans need to take the bad with the good. The payoff for aggressive baserunning is often significantly higher than the occasional blunder.
Now you are fully prepared to enter the 2012 season of Rangers therapy, without fear of incurring additional emotional scars because of these minor sources of frustration. In the long run, none of them will play a significant factor in the outcome of this season. So take comfort, Rangers fan, in realizing the little stuff isn’t worth sweating, and that most importantly, baseball is almost here.