Pitching and defense? Yep, the rebuilt Rangers are for real
Yes, the Rangers were a major league best 21-6 in June were tied with the Yankees for the best record in baseball through the season's first three months and are in first place in the AL West with the biggest divisional lead in the game. Yes, they have been blowing people out of the water lately: they hit a major league best .311 and scored 178 runs, with
But the big story deep in the heart of Texas -- aside from GM
The two men most responsible for the pitching renaissance are Daniels, who has done a masterful job of collecting talent, and team president
Ryan still remembers the moment he realized there was problem in Texas. It was April 1995, the Rangers were getting torched in their home opener against the Indians, and the most famous pitcher in franchise history was sitting in a box with then-general manager
Since taking over the club in 2008, Ryan's mission has been to reverse the mentality of a pitching staff that for so long had been resigned to failure. "The mindset here was you couldn't pitch in this ballpark, and that's baloney," he said of the launching pad that is the Ballpark in Arlington. "You can pitch in this ballpark. If this organization is going to win, it has to have pitching. We're not a ball club that's just going to blow people out of the water like we used to. You can't win that way."
An improved defense has been a big reason for the quick turnaround. The Mariners have been the poster children for baseball's recent defensive revolution, but the Rangers been as smart as anyone in using defense to turn into a winner. "As everyone talks about the Texas hitting and the pitching that's coming around, it's been the defense that's been steadfast," said pitching coach
The biggest problem with the pitching in Texas, though, was not the defense or the oppressive summer heat or the ballpark (and the jet stream in right field). The problem was the talent. As Wilson says, "It's not like we had
Added Daniels, "We had to collect talent first, that was stage one. When Nolan got here, it was, 'Okay we have talent here, now we're going to focus on fine tuning our development process and our pitching program with stuff like more long toss, live BP during the spring, and expecting guys to go deeper into games.'"
What make the Rangers truly dangerous -- not just this year but for years to come as well -- is the depth of their pitching talent.
Says a scout, "What's really interesting about Texas is that they still have that scary offense there. But now they have the defense and the pitching, too. And they have lots of it."
In other words, the Rangers are for real. And they're not going away anytime soon.