Time to win.
We’re catching the playoffs
in bits and pieces, and Max, at age five going from a little confused to more
than a little upset, isn’t quite on board with the fact that baseball is still
being played but the Rangers aren’t. Not
unlike his favorite player.
Not interested in celebrating
the club’s second straight second-place finish, and its first winning record in
five years, a better win-loss mark in fact than the Twins, whose season lasted
until yesterday, Michael Young had these things to say to the local press as
the regular season was coming to an end:
“Right now, I don’t care about the future or
how our team shapes up for next year.
It’s about winning or going home.
We did not get it done. And that
is really an unpleasant feeling.”
That first sentence in
particular: Do you want your team’s front office or ownership thinking that
myopically? No. Is that how you want the media to analyze
things? No. Is that the mindset that you, as a core
Rangers fan, adopt? Probably not.
Is that the attitude you want
from the players on your team?
Better believe it.
More from Young:
“The Angels deserve a lot of credit for
overcoming a lot of adversity and doing what it took to win. From our side, we’ve got to get better. It’s as simple as that.”
We can all agree on that.
I don’t buy moral victories or look at the so-called positives.”
Days later, Young’s tone was
a little different, a bit more upbeat, but the message was basically the same:
“We fell short of the ultimate goal, but I
think we believe we’re a winning team now.
We expect to win when we play.
That’s a good feeling.”
What about all this talk that
2010 is The Year, that it was going to be The Year all along?
“Winning should never be assumed. It isn’t easy. You can’t just put your finger on a year and
say ‘That’s going to be the year.’ The
big leagues are a lot harder than that.”
The organizational message to
the fan base after 89 wins in 2004 advocated “managed
expectations.” Not that the players
excused what happened thereafter.
“After ’04 we took steps backward. That can’t happen again.”
Certainly true the way this
team, as opposed to the 2004 club, has been built, the way it’s positioned.
“The simple fact is we can’t have any weak
links. Anaheim has good depth, and twice
our payroll. We know we’re going to be
young, but we need to step on the gas.
Like I said: The aftermath of ’04 can’t happen here again. It’s time.”
Time to what? To take the next step, to expect more out of
the team’s young players, to make sure there’s not a 2005-like regression?
Sure, but it’s simpler than
“We’re all upset right now, but right
around Christmas, we’ll get the juices flowing and get fired up. Time to win.”
Time to win.
The idea that 2010 is this
franchise’s time to win has been the popular media and fan mantra for more than
a year now, and maybe an organizational mission statement as well, even if
internal, unspoken, unlike 2005′s “managed expectations” reticence.
The players didn’t buy into
that idea going into 2009, and you wouldn’t want them to. Regardless, for the Rangers and 24 other
teams, 2010 is now.
The arrows in Texas are
collectively pointing forward. The
defense improved dramatically. The
pitching showed more moxie, more consistency.
The offense regressed in most spots (Texas suffered a greater decrease
in runs scored this season than any other team), but hitters are easier to
acquire than pitchers, and Jon Daniels has hinted that while Texas may not
participate at the highest levels of free agency this winter, one way to alter
the offensive attack may be through the trade market. (David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution speculates that the Braves are going
to come after Nelson Cruz.) (Braves
outfielder Matt Diaz crushes lefthanders, and has a lifetime on-base percentage
of .358, including .390 in 2009. Hmm.) (But Diaz is two years older than Cruz, is already
in his arbitration years, and isn’t the defender that Cruz is.)
(Milton Bradley? The reports are all over the place, but the
latest local story says, point blank: “The Rangers are not interested in Milton
Bradley. Sources have made that clear. He is not coming back.”)
And there are young players
all over the roster who fought through acclimation erratics in 2009 and, with
an added year of experience, could take the next step in 2010, like Tommy
Hunter did this year.
No franchise had a greater attendance
improvement in 2009 (22 teams actually saw their attendance drop). One team had a greater TV ratings increase in
2009. I’m seeing more Rangers caps
around town, and the growth in Newberg Report subscribers this year was about
400 percent greater than in any previous year.
There’s room for improvement everywhere, but the trends are good: This
fan base is a sleeping giant.
Lots of the club’s loyal fans
were at Rangers Ballpark on Saturday Morning, taking part in the annual Season
Ticket Holder Play Day event. Max was
among them, hitting in the cages under the tutelage of Ellis Valentine . . .
. . . getting pitching tips in
the bullpen from Mike Bacsik . . .
. . . taking grounders on the
field from Todd Van Poppel and Jeff Russell . . .
. . . and squeezing in a bunch
of other memories. I still remember, at
age 6 or 7, getting to meet Jim Fregosi and Bill Fahey and Roy Smalley and a couple
other Rangers players at Northaven Field at a North Dallas Chamber of Commerce event
that kicked off the Little League season.
But that was Northaven Field, not Rangers Ballpark, and the players were
in golf shirts and Bermuda shorts, not Rangers jerseys. Pretty awesome day for me and Max on Saturday,
one that he’ll probably remember forever.
He wasn’t real happy, though,
that the Angels and Yankees – the two teams in all of sports he detests – finished
off sweeps on Sunday. The off-season is
tough enough for him (my trick of recording a couple Rangers games in 2008 so
he could have something to watch all winter worked when he was four; I don’t
think I’ll be able to slide that by him this winter). Having to endure Angels-Yankees in the ALCS
in the meantime is going to be sorta unpleasant.
(For Dad, too.)
All I’m saying is that there
are five-year-olds, and adult baseball fanatics, and journalists, and an organization
and its players, who all seem to share an expectation at this point that, a
year from now, the Rangers will still be playing, and that Season Ticket Holder
Play Day is going to have to pushed way back on the calendar, and that there
won’t be any quotes from Michael Young about moral victories or backwards steps
or not getting it done.
For all those people,
everyone who works for the Rangers or plays for them, everyone who makes a
living covering them, and everyone else who cares about the team the way we do,
we all subscribe, maybe in different ways, but maybe not, to the same notion:
It’s time to win.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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