What is it about the Rangers and pitching? No matter who is in charge, year after year, they never seem to address the gaping holes in their pitching staff. This winter was a case in point -- needing at least one more starting pitcher, the Rangers added . . . absolutely nothing.
Okay, we'll grant you the fact the Rangers' pitching staff, under coach Orel Hershiser, finished a surprising fifth in the AL with a 4.53 staff ERA last season. That, combined with the best collection of young hitters in the league, helped the Rangers emerge as an unlikely contender until well into September.
_____ Breakdown _____
Lineup • SS Michael Young • 3B Hank Blalock • 2B Alfonso Soriano • 1B Mark Teixeira • RF Richard Hidalgo • LF Kevin Mench • DH David Dellucci • CF Laynce Nix • C Rod Barajas Rotation • LHP Kenny Rogers • RHP Ryan Drese • RHP Chan Ho Park • RHP Chris Young • RHP Pedro Astacio Closer • RHP Francisco Cordero
• Best move: Signing OF Richard Hidalgo to make an excellent lineup even better. • Biggest loss: Losing all-purpose utility man Eric Young to the San Diego Padres via free agency. • Top rival: Houston Astros.
But apparently, the Rangers must think veteran Kenny Rogers, their Opening Day starter, is going to win 18 games again. Or that veterans Chan Ho Park and Pedro Astacio will suddenly become good again. Or that Ryan Drese's 14-win season in 2004 was no fluke.
But nobody else thinks that. That's why the Rangers appear set up for a disappointing fall this season, despite their impressive offensive firepower.
There is not a GM in baseball who would not trade infields with the Rangers. (Well, Brian Cashman might want to hang onto at least the left side of his.) They've got mashers around the horn, from Hank Blalock to Michael Young to Alfonso Soriano to Mark Teixeira.