The Rangers have 47 games left. They have a 2.5-game lead over the Astros. And a 5.5 lead over the Mariners.
The West is a three-team race. The Angels thought they could make a run for it and decided not to trade Shohei Ohtani. Since then, they’ve gone 2-7. Arte Moreno strikes again. The second-stupidest owner (after the Orioles) in baseball made the call to roll the dice and try to go for it, when his team was so far back to begin with.
So, instead of getting a boatload of talent in exchange for Ohtani, all they will get for him is a late-first-round draft pick. Not only that, but they traded away what little value they did have in their system for a couple marginal players to try to help them make that last impossible run.
The Rangers should still stay relevant for the next few years. The Astros will be, too. And the Mariners are a team that is on the rise. Or, at least, that is trying. The next few years, the A.L. West will be a three-team division, with the Angels and Las Vegas Athletics fighting it out for the basement.
But, back to the 47 games ahead of the Rangers. As good as they are and as good as they have been, they have very real obstacles in front of them.
They lost their All-Star Rookie of the Year third baseman. If he comes back, it’s at the end of the season. Like, very late September end of the season. They have their best guy who would be MVP if there wasn’t Ohtani, nursing a thumb injury. When he plays, he is still elite. But, to keep him from re-injuring his thumb, he won’t play every game. That’s a window the Astros and Mariners can take advantage of.
Then there’s the missing person reports issued on Ezequiel Duran and Leody Taveras. When Seager went down earlier in the season, Duran was a godsend. He filled in admirably. Taveras wasn’t even slated to be the opening day centerfielder. But when Bubba Thompson proved he wasn’t a major league hitter, Tavers got the job by default. And he excelled. Until recently.
Ezequiel Duran’s first half of 2023: .308 average, .344 on base, .870 OPS. Ezequiel Duran’s second half, so far: .156 average, .260 on base, .526 OPS.
Leody Taveras’s first half of 2023: .295 average, .338 on base, .812 OPS. Leody Taveras’s second half, so far: .191 average, .221 on base, .536 OPS.
So, with Jonah Heim and Josh Jung out and Corey Seager limited and Duran and Taveras suddenly irrelevant, the Rangers offense isn’t as supercharged as it used to be. The Ferrari is now a Honda. Good thing the rotation was beefed up at the trade deadline.
The Rangers have 47 games left, with three in San Francisco as the beginning to the end run. They have two legitimate contenders to deal with in Houston and Seattle. Three if you count injury.
But with where this team has been the previous six seasons, no matter what happens in these final 47 games, Rangers fans cannot complain.
It could be worse. The team could be owned by Arte Moreno. It could have Jon Daniels calling the shots.