Unless the Texas Rangers close out the 2021 season with an 8-3 record, it will be the first 100-loss season for the club since 1973. 100 losses seemed inevitable a few weeks ago, but when the Rangers went on a 9-4 run from August 29-September 12, which included a 6-3 road trip, it looked like the club may avoid the century mark.
But last week, the Rangers went 2-5 at home against the Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox — two clubs that are primed for deep postseason runs. In those five losses, the Rangers were outscored 49-6.
And in the first two games against the New York Yankees, a team that's fighting for their postseason lives, the Rangers have continued to struggle in multiple facets of the game, including an abhorrent 5-for-59 stretch with runners in scoring position over the past nine games.
"We've got a little ways to go to kind of compete with that. So it was just kind of was a reminder of where we're at, I guess," said Rangers manager Chris Woodward after Sunday's loss to Chicago. "The effort was there, just the ability to execute, we got outclassed a little bit."
If there was one quote that encapsulates the 2021 Texas Rangers, it would be this one. Fans may look at the club's record or the lack of star power on the roster and think, Gosh, they're terrible or They're not even trying to put a winning team on the field. But the fact of the matter is this is a young and horribly inexperienced ballclub. A 55-96 record through 151 games shouldn't surprise almost anyone.
Rangers leadership was forthright at the beginning of the season that 2021 was going to be a year of evaluation, growth and development. President of baseball operations Jon Daniels, general manager Chris Young and the rest of the decision-making team has made a number of moves to accomplish two things: deepen the farm system and open up finances for future seasons (eating over $42 million in the process).
With the trades made by the club this season, the Rangers now only have around $28 million on the books for next season and only José Leclerc's $6 million club option in 2023.
As for this season, it's a painful-but-necessary step: figuring out who internally can contribute to the next team that plays winning baseball in Arlington. In previous years, players like Isiah Kiner-Falefa who needed a couple of years to fight, scratch and claw for playing time while learning what it takes to stick in the big leagues were hidden by a couple of stars names, several veterans and more publicized younger players.
But the 2021 Rangers is chock full of Isiah Kiner-Falefas, so to speak. There are no superstars and only a few veteran role players on the team. All of the younger players are exposed and were thrown into the fire this year.
"Everybody is kind of on their own journey to figure things out," said Rangers manager Chris Woodward prior to Tuesday night's loss to New York. "As far as being productive, we knew there were going to be some inconsistencies there. We've had stretches where the team kind of struggled a little bit, but we bounced back. We had a good stretch for two or three weeks, but obviously there's going to be some ebbs and flows — more so when you have a young team. When you have no stabilizing force in the middle of the lineup, it makes it difficult to be consistent on a daily basis, as far as winning games or having a reliable offensive output every single night."
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For even more perspective, a former Rangers rookie who has held a record for 35 years had to go through the same thing. That record, the most home runs by a Rangers rookie in one season, was held by Pete Incaviglia until Adolis García tied the mark on September 14. Just one more homer will give 'El Bombi' sole possession of the record.
Incaviglia recently visited Globe Life Field on September 17, hoping García would break the record that night. Prior to the game, Incaviglia met with a few reporters and had time to speak on García tying his record, and also reflect on his rookie season in 1986. Despite earning a record that stood for three and a half decades, that season included its fair share of growing pains.
"Any time you're dealing with young players, there's going to be a learning curve. You've gotta be patient," Incaviglia said. "There are going to be guys, it's either sink or swim. They're either going to get here and be overmatched and never recoup. Then there's gonna be the guys that will make an adjustment here and there, get better and you'll have something. But you've gotta be patient ... Nobody is gonna walk in here and be Mike Trout or Barry Bonds."
2021 has been painful, there's no doubt about that. There's no easy way to swallow 100 losses. But when a rebuild is done the right way, there are bound to be painful years. The inexperience of the Rangers has shown that they aren't in the class of the best clubs in the American League. They probably won't be next year either.
But maybe after a couple years of learning, adjustments and painful growth — along with some offseason additions — the Rangers could be closer to that class.
They're just not there yet.
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