Apr 7, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers designated hitter Lance Berkman (27) rounds third base after hitting a home run in the first inning of the game against the Los Angeles Angels at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Whether we want to admit it or not, Rangers fans stopped believing in the team last October.
After an epic collapse late in 2012 that cost the Texas Rangers the American League West crown last season, Rangers fans lost their heart, lost their passion for the team.
After Josh Hamilton’s lackadaisical conclusion to 2012 and icing-on-the-cake dropped catch in the final game of the regular season, the Rangers gave up on themselves.
Rangers fans stopped believing this offseason when the Rangers lost Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young. They gave up on their favorite team when Zack Greinke and Justin Upton went elsewhere.
But I am here to tell you all…
The Rangers are still pretty darn good.
Texas is out to a fast start again this season. At 6-3, they are only a half-game out of the West lead just two weeks into the season.
Pitching has dominated early this season, and if it wasn’t for Matt Harrison’s two poor starts, the Rangers might be 8-1.
Harrison is on the DL now with lower back issues, but fifth starter Nick Tepesch filled in nicely this week, winning his major-league debut. Yu Darvish dominated in his first start of the season, and was solid in his second against the Angels.
The bullpen is holding leads, except Derek Lowe.
You questioned your team… “How are we going to replace 43 HRs and 128 RBI?” “How are we going to get production without Young, Napoli and Hamilton?”
You cannot replace those numbers Josh Hamilton put up. But you can replace his clubhouse attitude. You can replace his willingness to give up on his team in crunch time.
You’re right, you cannot get that production without Napoli, Hamilton and Young. But at the same time, our new faces, Lance Berkman, AJ Pierzynski and Leonys Martin.
Berkman has been the Berkman of old to start the season. He is hitting .480, slugging over .700 and he reaches base 60% of the time. That is unreal for a 37-year-old power hitter. The Houston native is showing his true colors in his first year with the Rangers. He is a leader in the clubhouse, and he knows how to play the game.
Apr 9, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Nick Tepesch (45) throws during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Pierzynski on the other hand, has offered offense and defense to a catcher position that has, honestly, struggled since Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez left the club.
Martin has filled a void in the outfield. He may not have the hottest start at the plate, but it is still better than Hamilton’s .138 AVG. Martin flies around the outfield, and he isn’t giving up on anyone. He bunts when asked to bunt, he swings away when asked to swing away, and sacrifices himself to make sure the run has a chance of scoring.
AJ is hitting .346 and slugging over .500 while anchoring a pitching staff that has allowed just over 3 runs per game to start the season. He has caught Darvish, Holland, Harrison and Ogando well, and has commanded the bullpen well through the latter innings.
The Rangers main surprise, Nick Tepesch.
The 24-year-old Missouri native made his major-league debut Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Tepesch went 7 and 1/3 innings while allowing 1 earned run and 4 hits. He worked around 3 walks and struck out 5 Rays to impress the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington crowd.
If you haven’t noticed by now, the Rangers are still a good club. They may not win a record-number of games, but they will contend. For a 4th straight season, the Rangers will give us a reason to keep watching.
We need to start showing up and supporting the Red-Shoe Rangers, and give them a loud and proud reason to keep playing.