Exceptionalism Made Easy
A phrase like “exceptionalism made easy” could accurately describe Josh Hamilton’s incomparable baseball talent. His powerful and beautiful swing, combined with his see-pitch-hit-pitch approach, and the fact that he spent three years away from the game would definitely lend credence to this description.
However, the phrase I lifted from Baseball Prospectus’ 2012 annual refers not to Hamilton, but the Rangers front office.
It’s an easy (and often fun) exercise for fans to comically assume that members of their favorite team’s front office are a bunch of fools, making decisions that you either know to be foolish or assume will end up looking foolish a few years down the line. You might even surmise that you could run a professional organization with more success, especially given the fact that you aren’t as prone to foolish decisions as the front office in question. The converse might also be comical if you blindly assume that the front office of your favorite team is filled with intellectually superior beings, those blessed with not only brains but also balls, to put it rather crudely. Baseball, like any other business, has its stars and its slouches, and the reality of that construct does in fact allow for some teams to be run by fools while other teams are in fact run by people who are very smart and very astute in their chosen vocation. While it’s not pleasant to be made aware that your favorite team happens to be run by people who aren’t that exceptional, it is quite refreshing to be told that your favorite team is under the leadership of people who do possess exceptional qualities. For fans of the Texas Rangers, allow us to offer that form of refreshment, as the front office for your team is in the top tier in the game.
While we as fans will never cease to debate the moves and approach the front office pursues, the track record of Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, A.J. Preller, and company has taken most of the fun out of the management questioning & critique exercise.
Even though high regard of the front office has become commonplace among fans, the Rangers faithful have still questioned a number of their decisions as recently as the previous offseason.
Let’s take a quick look back at a few of the major decisions they made over the winter.
There was a large contingent of fans who wanted to see the Rangers re-sign C.J. Wilson, and were nervous to see the team’s best pitcher walk after Texas made only a low-ball offer to bring him back. Wilson was the team’s game one postseason starter in 2011, and it is rare to see financially capable teams let their “ace” walk while continuing to try to improve their team. Wilson has been great for the Angels, going 5-4 with a 2.90 ERA and 1.15 WHIP so far this season in Anaheim, but still doesn’t qualify as what most would consider to be a true ace of a pitching staff. Instead, the Rangers gambled on Yu Darvish, despite the shoddy track record of Japanese imports coming to the U.S. Darvish has immediately become one of the most dominant starters in all of baseball, and one whom fans should feel confident in starting in a game one or seven postseason situation.
Many observers, including myself, wanted the Rangers to sign Prince Fielder with the intention of letting go of Hamilton following the 2012 season. Texas opted to go with a cheaper option in sticking with Mitch Moreland. While Moreland isn’t the player Fielder is, he is certainly providing significantly more value so far this season. A comparison through May, 26th:
The public opinion pendulum regarding closers has swung a little too far. In recent years, it has become trendy for fans to bash the role and criticize teams for offering up more than a bag of balls for a closer. Needless to say, the Rangers decision to give aging Joe Nathan a two year $18 million contract was not well received. Still, Texas opted to take a chance on one of the most dominant closers of the last ten years, despite the fact that he was coming off of Tommy John surgery and a couple of poor seasons in Minnesota. Nathan appears to have regained the form that enabled him to save 260 games with the Twins, touching 96 MPH with his fastball and demonstrating pinpoint command. In 19 ⅔ innings so far this season, Nathan has struck out 24, walked just 2, saved 10 of 11 opportunities, and managed an ERA of 2.41 and WHIP of 0.96.
Furthermore, Nathan’s addition essentially amounted to adding a starting pitcher for the same price, as it allowed Neftali Feliz to move to the rotation.
Yes, it is refreshing to know that the Rangers have an exceptional and intelligent front office. It is also empowering to have discovered an easy way to look smart – simply agree with everything they do.