Relax, Ranger Land
I’m going to break a few rules of writing for my first article on shutdowninning.com. Actually I’ll probably break rules in all of my articles. Since this is my first time contributing to SDI I feel it necessary to briefly introduce myself. I grew up in Central Texas and have fond memories of watching Rangers games with my family on Channel 54 the “WB” in Austin. At first I watched baseball because that is what Dad did, and aren’t sons supposed to emulate Dad? But as I grew older I felt this magical pull to baseball. I love other sports too. Football is king in Texas, basketball is entertains me to some degree, and hockey is fun to watch live. But baseball is more. Baseball consumes me. When I’m not watching baseball, I think about it. I have not played an organized game of baseball since 2006 yet I still have dreams of making perfect contact with a belt high fastball, or throwing out a would-be base stealer at second. There is a beauty to the game of baseball no other sport can offer.
Thanks to all the guys at shutdowninning.com, I now have the opportunity to share my passion for both the Texas Rangers, and baseball as a whole. One important thing to note is I am not a reporter. The differences between me and a reporter a far too numerous to count, but the main difference is access. I don’t have the ability to get a quote from Wash after a big win, or see how Feliz is holding up after he inevitably gets knocked around for the first time as a big league starter. That is a job for guys like Evan Grant and Richard Durrett (and they along with the rest of the local beat writers do a fantastic job). What I can and will do is offer my opinions and insight about what I see, hear and read. Am I going to be wrong? Yep. Will you disagree with some of the things I write? Almost certainly, and I welcome that. Baseball is the most thought provoking sport on the planet and that is my goal. Thanks for giving me a chance to do so.
I’ll admit this has been a rough week in Ranger land. Losing your opening day starter to a division rival is bad. That same rival signing the best player you have ever seen is worse. Everywhere you look people are saying “What will the Rangers do now?!?” Sounds familiar, huh? This is the same narrative we heard last year when Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies.
Then came January when Jon Daniels and company made some extremely savvy moves obtaining Adrián Beltré and Mike Napoli. We all know how that turned out. I don’t pretend to know what moves Jon Daniels is working on, but you can trust he is working. The only GM in baseball who works the phones harder than Jon Daniels is Toronto’s Alex Anthopoulos. Ranger fans are fortunate enough to support a team with a clear goal, and the right leadership in place to reach that goal. I trust Jon Daniels to improve this roster, and you should too.
One name no one is really talking about is Carlos Beltran. The casual baseball fan will remember Beltran almost single-handedly leading the Astros offense on their way to the World Series in 2005. Or maybe they will remember the huge disappointment he was for the majority of his time with the New York Mets. I want to look at the player Carlos Beltran really is. In his prime, Beltran was a true threat. A centerfielder that could cover tons of ground, steal 30 bases and get on base at an impressive rate (.361 Career OBP).
But alas, like most 34-year-olds, Carlos isn’t what he used to be. 2011 was the first time he played in more than 81 games since 2008. He has well documented knee problems, and many people around baseball thought his career might be over before 2011. Beltran quietly had a great year in 2011. He was traded from the Mets to the Giants mid-season (after it was rumored the Rangers attempted to acquire him). Between the two teams, Beltran posted impressive numbers while playing in 142 games. Now that he is a free agent, there has been a little buzz surrounding him, but surprisingly his market seems quite small. Again, I am not a reporter so I do not know that for certain. Beltran could very easily sign a 3 year deal somewhere and the majority of the league would say that is what he deserved. But maybe not.
Beltran and the Rangers are an intriguing fit for many reasons. The Rangers will not offer him a 3 year contract. Of that I am almost certain, but how tempting is a 1 year deal for Beltran? Beltran is an ideal candidate to replace someone like Endy Chavez (who is nothing more than a replacement player himself). Beltran is past the point of being a marquee centerfielder, but he has shown he can still be productive. Beltran is a true switch hitter, with impressive numbers batting both LH and RH. Last year Beltran posted an impressive 152 OPS+ and that was batting in lineups far inferior to the Texas lineup. If Beltran signs with the Rangers he has a legitimate chance to win a championship as well as set himself up nicely for a future free agent contract.
With Beltran in the mix, the Rangers could break camp with an outfield of Hamilton, Cruz, Murphy, Gentry and Beltran. This would allow the Rangers to platoon Gentry and Hamilton in centerfield, as well as give them greater depth. If there is one thing we can count on, it is that either Cruz or Hamilton, and maybe both, will miss time with injury. Beltran gives you greater insurance if/when that happens.
Will Carlos Beltran be a Texas Ranger in 2012? Probably not. But, in my opinion, it is an option worth exploring. It has been a rough week in Ranger land, but every time you start to get depressed just think about how fun it is going to be to watch Albert Pujols fall apart in a Los Angeles Angels uniform for $25 million + , and smile. Relax Ranger Land.