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Know Your Enemy: Texas Rangers

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Not to be confused with those fired by Ma Ferguson

Rangers beat Blue Jays 7-6
#NeverForget
Richard W. Rodriguez/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

There are many things I will never understand when it comes to MLB’s decision-making. Why do they think “runner on second in extra innings” enhances the game? Why does Pete Rose’s betting scandal trump Curt Schilling’s lunacy when it comes to the Hall of Fame? Why do they insist on scheduling White Sox vs. Rangers games in Chicago in April when it’s 40 degrees here and 70 degrees in Arlington, and in Arlington when it’s 107 degrees there and 80 degrees here?

But I digress. Let’s get to what you’re really here for ...

2020 Texas Rangers: 22-38 (fifth in AL West)

The first season of new Globe Life Park was 2020, so that big, shiny new stadium (with a roof) was empty. The Rangers were one out of 14 teams that did not trip their way into the extended playoffs and had the dubious honor of finishing with the second-worst record in baseball. To say they had a “not great” season would be a gross understatement because clearly more went wrong for the Rangers than what went right.

Last season plagued the Rangers with a lot of injuries. Corey Kluber lasted exactly one inning of his Texas debut before he was hurt. José Leclerc, Danny Santana, Shin-Soo Choo, Willie Calhoun, Rougned Odor, and Joe Palumbo had a range of “injuries that cost the entire season” to “injuries cost a chunk of the season.” Elvis Andrus was playing through a back injury that definitely impacted his season, no matter how few games the season was. Injuries were to be expected with the stop-start of the 2020 season (and squeezing in 60 games to a couple months), and while it wasn’t solely to blame for the Rangers poor season it certainly didn’t help. The Rangers had the worst winning percentage on the road in all of baseball (6-24). Strict COVID protocols caused a few teams to struggle on the road, but no one struggled nearly as bad as the Rangers.

The offense limped in to the offseason with a franchise-worst 76 OPS+ (pushing the 1972 Rangers out of the record book). They also ended the season with a .217 batting average and only scored 224 runs in 60 games. Joey Gallo, the face of the Rangers, struggled through 2020 with a .181/.308/.378 slash. Texas pitching was slightly better, with a 5.02 ERA (11th in the AL) but they failed at being a better strikeout team than in years past by posting nine strikeouts per game.

All this to say that there was very little good in 2020 (Lance Lynn was the lone standout from the rotation, the team was more aggressive on the base paths by stealing 49 bases, and two Gold Glove winners). This season will be spent giving playing time to the crop of younger players on the field.

2021 Manager: Chris Woodward

For those who didn’t really know Chris Woodward before, he definitely rose to infamy by complaining about Fernando Tatís Jr.’s 3-0 grand slam with a seven-run lead in the Padres-Rangers game in August.

It was all very “unwritten rules are real, get off my lawn!” and Tatís Jr. ended up apologizing even though he shouldn’t have (one thought would be to throw pitches that don’t result in bases being loaded or grand slams, but what do I know?).

Woodward’s option was extended by the team through 2022, so he should be sticking around next year, too. His record of the last two years is a winning percentage of .450, so he’s proving to be some sort of “middle of the road”-type of manager. Not exactly a Hall-of-Famer Baseball Person, but not exactly Buddy Bell. Woodward also has had only four career ejections, which is pretty mellow all things considering.

2021 So Far

The White Sox traded Dane Dunning for Lance Lynn, which has worked out so far for voth teams. Elvis Andrus and Aramis García were sent to Oakland in exchange for Khris Davis, Jonah Heim, and Dane Acker, in a strange deal because I can’t imagine Andrus as anyone but a Texas Ranger.

The team is currently 9-10, which isn’t the worst in the AL West (hi, Houston) or baseball as a whole (an honor bestowed on the Rockies right now) and the starting rotation has the best ERA in the American League so far. Plus as White Sox fans all know, a team of young players is often pretty fun to watch. They had a comeback win in the road series against Anaheim. and Woodward has been banging the drum of “we are better than the writers are saying.” The team is supporting each other, and that kind of energy can be sustained all season (ah, the energy of youth).

Also Odor was shipped off to the Yankees recently. Texas ate his contract, and Odor had to shave his beard — which is just a weird look.

Series Matchup: Best ERA in the AL vs. José Abreu

We have an old friend alert with Dane Dunning pitching tonight’s opener. Dunning currently is 1-0 with a 0.60 ERA and 16 strikeouts; this is going to be Dunning’s fourth start of 2021, and I’m sad he’s not still ours.

Saturday is going to have our Sox facing Kyle Gibson. Gibson has been the Texas ace this season, with a 2-0 record and 2.53 ERA. It’s worth noting that Gibson hasn’t been scored on in two of his last four outings, so maybe we have some guys who can break that streak.

Sunday has Kohei Arihara closing out the series. He’s currently 2-1 with a 2.21 ERA. He posted a victory against the Angels on the last road trip, earning himself an extra day of rest. He’s trending upwards, posting wins in the last two outings.

Why Does Everyone Hate the Rangers?

I don’t particularly hate the Rangers. Old Globe Life was a beautiful park with zero shade (a terrible choice of engineering in Texas) and apparently there’s a lot of fair weather fans in Texas, land of football.

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(^^my favorite one tbh)