Seven-time American League Division Champion and consecutive World Series contender (2010 and 2011), the Texas Rangers have suffered a reversal of fortune since their last successful campaign in 2016. The team has languished on the lower rungs of its five-team division, and its 2021 year-to-date performance has continued the trend. Under the direction of age 45 third-year field manager Chris Woodward, who spent parts of a dozen seasons as a light-hitting but slick glove working infielder, is now posting a mere .429 career MLB managerial record — low enough to maybe prompt doubts from Ownership and Front Office personnel — the Rangers stare up from the bottom of a steep cliff. At the conclusion of the June 22nd play, the 2021 AL West standings were:
The Problems. Among everyday regulars, the only consistent hitter has been Center Fielder Adolis Garcia, who is 28 years of age and presumably in the midst of his most productive seasons. He leads the team in every important offensive category, including 18 home runs to go with 50 driven in, leading to an outstanding .833 OPS mark. Starting pitching may claim the only 33-year-old right-hander Kyle Gibson in earning his contract. His 14 starts have produced a 5-0 Won-Loss slate, derived from a sparkling 2.17 Earned Run Average. No starter has put together a complete game effort, and, as a team, the hurlers are like the hitters — at the low end of League averages in all conventional measures. (Exception: Manager Woodward seems attracted to the running game, as the Rangers’ 48 stolen bases are good for 2nd in the League.) Team Defense has been fine: its .984 fielding success rate earns it the 5th spot in the 15-team American League.
Where Lie Any Remedies? The franchise has, since 2010, operated under Ranger Baseball Express ownership, one whose principals are legendary Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, who concluded an illustrious career with five Seasons in a Texas uniform. They and Executive VP and General Manager — now in his second season as Ranger Front Office helmsman and former All-Star game pitcher with the San Diego Padres — Chris Young, face decision time. As certain as hot weather on a Texas mid-summer day is, the Team will be a “seller” as the July 30th Trading Deadline approaches. Any hopes to restock a generally weak Farm System will depend upon astute negotiation of veteran Rangers for “prospects” obtained from other teams. Those in contention but feeling a player or two shy of advancing deep into the 2021 Playoff rounds may be interested in either Garcia or Shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Both Gibson and right-handed closer Ian Kennedy — 27 strikeouts in 24 innings contributing to a team-leading 12 saves — could be welcome additions to several rosters. Additional far-sighted decisions will be needed throughout this year’s mid-July amateur player draft in which Texas holds the #2 spot. Experts rate the Ranger farm system at an uninspiring 21st tier among all 30 MLB teams. No Ranger prospect has yet landed in the Top 50 class. A 2019 Ranger first-round selection out of Texas Tech, third baseman Josh Jung is now at AA ball and rated #63 among them all.
A Positive Pair. 1) Doubtless owing to a Texas relaxation and ease of the usual Covid-19 restrictions imposed by the Other 49, Ranger 2021 home attendance is so far eye-catching. With 36 home games in the books, a per-game average of nearly 28,000 faithful have poured through the turnstiles — the highest in the Majors. (No coincidence that the Houston Astros are close behind). 2) Texas owns season-winning 4-3 margins against both Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, whose talented clubs vie with one another for the top layer in a rugged American League East Division.
Conclusion. So, while having much about which to feel disappointment, Ranger fans are entitled to indulge in at least a small measure of optimism. Improvements in the future are possible — depending upon Senior Management decisions reached in the coming six weeks.