The equipment trucks are on their way to Surprise. The players are making their last-minute preparations. The front office is looking for more candidates to fill the bullpen. The Tommy John surgeons are on speed dial.
February is here. In two weeks, so too will be baseball. And with it, hope.
This year the hope will be dimmer than in previous seasons. And it might flicker and burn out totally before all the pages of April fly off the calendar. But, still, there is hope.
True, there is no hope of a post-season for the Texas Rangers. Not in 2019. Not unless The Astros, Athletics, Angels, Indians, Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays each have monumental collapses. And even then, it’s doubtful.
And, there is little hope of .500.
But as long as there is baseball, there is hope.
The hope that Joey Gallo figures out a way to add twenty points to his batting average by cutting down on his strikeouts, even a little goes a long way. Doing so would make him a legitimate offensive force rather than just a guy who has forty-some jaw dropping at-bats in 2019. The hope is that Gallo looks up and notices all of humanity has vacated the entire left side of the baseball field when he bats, and if he would just bat the ball to the left side of second, he will have a twenty-minute head start before the nearest fielder can get to it. The hope that he realizes that while home runs are his thing, wouldn’t standing on second base in order to give your teammates a chance to drive you in also be a thing? According to baseball-reference.com, and I researched this extensively, not a single runner in the history of baseball has been driven in while sitting on the bench after grounding out. But he’s only 25, so there’s hope.
There’s hope that June and July and August Rougned Odor shows up and that April and May and September Rougned Odor stays home. One of the more Jekyll and Hyde players, Odor was very good in 2014 and 2015 and most of 2016. Very bad in 2017 and half of 2018. But that other half of 2018? He was phenomenal. He was a one-man wrecking crew. What he was, was fun to watch. He’s only 25, so there’s hope.
There’s hope that Nomar Mazara takes the next step. Or two. His career seems to be like waiting for Uber and every time you look at the app, the little car icon hasn’t moved at all and it’s been stuck in the exact same place seemingly forever and you’re like, Is this guy on his way or not? Is Mazara on his way or not? He’s only 23, so there’s hope.
There’s hope that Ronald Guzman and Mazara develop into the Rangers version of the Bash Brothers. Guzman showed flashes of brilliance in his first season. He’s hit at every level, so there’s no reason to think he won’t hit in Texas. And he’s only 23, so there’s hope.
There’s hope that Willie Calhoun isn’t the next Mike Olt or Ruben Mateo and that he pans out and becomes a permanent fixture in the Rangers lineup. He has hit in the minors but has mostly missed against major league pitching, hitting just .233 in two tours of duty. But he has more than twice as many hits as strikeouts in the minors and that’s encouraging for a team desperately in need of contact hitters. Now if he can just learn the hitting part of being a contact hitter. But he’s only 24, so there’s still hope.
There’s hope that Elvis Andrus plays so well that he’d be crazy not to opt out. Not that I want him to opt out, but that I want him to play so well that his market value is high. He seemed to be heading toward a monster 2018 season until he broke his wrist.
There’s hope that Shin-Soo Choo continues being the on-base machine he is when he’s not injured. His contract has two more years and he hasn’t shown signs of slowing down yet. Maybe he won’t out-age his contract. We can only hope.
And mostly there’s hope that the Rangers reinvention of the front office, the coaching staff and the pitching development philosophy pays off. It won’t happen overnight. But it can’t be any worse than it’s been.
There is hope.
Mainly the hope is that Rangers core of young players, combined with their new direction, bring us hope.