Cruz, Choo, Fielder, Kinsler and the Lost Season of 1997

Hey look!  I’m writing a blog post.

Nelson Cruz is second in the league in HRs (13) and fourth in RBIs (38).  The Rangers are led in HRs by Sin Soo Choo and Adrian Beltre, each with 4 and in RBIs by Alex Rios with 24.  With the addition of Fielder and the loss of Cruz, I never worried about the Ranger lineup losing its power.  I was wrong, apparently.  Would Cruz have these power numbers had he stayed in Texas?  Who knows.  The same question goes for Ian Kinsler in Detroit.

Kinsler is hitting .316 with 4 HRs.  If you evaluate that trade as Kinsler for Fielder, clearly Detroit got the better end of the deal so far.  But, I look at it as trading Kinsler to make room for Choo to leadoff, and in that sense, I still think the Rangers are better off with Choo over Kinsler, in the long run. For example, Choo has a .424 on base percentage, while Kinsler has a .344 on base percentage.  Would Kinsler be hitting .316 in Texas?  I doubt it.  I think the trade to Detroit lit a fire under his butt and gave him something to prove…some motivation.  He played the last two seasons in Texas like he didn’t care at all.  I don’t see how another season in Texas would have changed that.

I think both Kinsler and Cruz are playing with chips on their shoulders this year because of how the Rangers dealt with them, and so it’s not surprising that they are off to good starts.  I just wish they could have found a way to get motivated in Texas.  For all those people that say Ron Washington is a great “players” manager, he sure didn’t get the most out of Ian the last two years, and it’s looking like he could have done a better job with Nelson Cruz, as well.

All that being said, the Ranger season is in the crapper, and I’m guessing Kinsler and Cruz couldn’t be happier.  Both Baltimore and Detroit are leading their divisions, Detroit by 6 games!  The Rangers, on the other hand, are 8 games back and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better.  Gone are the good ‘ol days when the local sports media were asking Ranger fans to just wait a bit until Colby Lewis and Derek Holland came back.  Then they’d have a solid rotation and a great offensive lineup to go after the A’s in the second half of the season.  Not so much.  Lewis has been mediocre in his return with a 5.40 ERA.  Darvish has been the only consistent starter, and while losing Martin Perez was devastating to an already depleted rotation, he had lost his last three starts seeing his ERA balloon from 1.42 to 4.38.  The Robbie Ross experiment has been awful (1-4,  4.78 ERA) and don’t get me started on Alexi Ogando.  I would be fine if he never pitched for the Rangers again.  When you start thinking that Mitch Moreland might be a good option out of the bullpen because he can throw mid 90s, from the left side, with good breaking stuff, you know it’s time to re-think the possibilities for the season.

I heard some chatter on the radio this week about the Rangers’ previous playoff run in the late 90s.  In 1996, ’98, and ’99 they won the division (only to lose to the Yankees in the first round all three seasons), but in 1997 they were bad.  They finished 77-85, the only losing season in a six year period starting in 1995.  They would finish third in the division with an outfield that had Damon Buford and Warren Newson as starters.  Who was the starting shortstop?  Anyone remember?  While Juan Gonzalez had 42 HRs and 131 RBIs (man wouldn’t that be nice), the starting rotation consisted of Bobby Witt (4.82 ERA), Darren Oliver (4.20 ERA), John Burkett (4.56 ERA), Ken Hill (5.19 ERA), and Rodger Pavlik (4.37 ERA).  Darren Oliver was the only starter to log a winning record at 13-12.  This was clearly a down year.  However, the next two seasons they vastly improved and made the playoffs both years.

In 1998 Juan Gonzalez had 45 HRs and 157 RBIs (GOOD LORD), and the team as a whole had three players with 100+ RBIs (Gonzalez, Rusty Greer, and Will Clark).  Ivan Rodriguez had 91.  That season was all about offense.  They still didn’t have a starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.00, but Rick Helling went 20-7 and Aaron Sele went 19-11.  John Wetteland saved 42 games.

1999 was much of the same.  No starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.00, but man look at that lineup.  Here are some slash lines from that season:

Ivan Rodriquez  .333/35/113

Lee Stevens .282/24/81

Todd Zeile (Todd Freakin Zeile)  .293/24/98

Rusty Greer  .300/20/101

Juan Gonzalez  .326/39/128

Rafael Palmeiro  .324/47/148

Man, how this season makes me long for the steroid era, LOL!!

All that being said, maybe this is just a down year, plagued by tons of injuries and an offense that can’t find it’s rhythm.  And, next season we will pick back up and look back as if this is just another 1997.  We can hope, right?

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