I opened the door for the dog this morning and walked outside with her before the sun came up. It was 59 degrees. That was awesome.
I stood next to the swimming pool, and its completely still waters, calm and calming and peaceful . . . and lifeless. It hit me that the end of pool season may have passed before I was ready. Not awesome.
It managed to prime the pit in my stomach that was already there, courtesy of baseball.
Yesterday’s gut punch, courtesy of baseball, was tough. Real tough.
I walked in from that gaping hole in the backyard ground, deep and dark and lethargic and uncool, and sat down to a stack of online reading that I’d started last night. First up, this article by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, which includes this starkly imaged sentence:
[Nelson] Cruz, who says he last saw his teammates Aug. 30, can be found at the Rangers instructional league camp these days. He’s the occupant of locker No. 120 in the minor league clubhouse, right across from the table tennis table.
And this gut punch, more staggering:
“My first thought was to appeal, and right up to the last day I told (the Rangers) my decision was to appeal,” Cruz says. “That was my plan. It’s hard to explain it, but at the end it wasn’t my decision. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. It came out of my hands.”
And this Nightengale note, maybe less staggering than striking:
The Rangers, trying to solve that power void [left by Cruz’s suspension], tried to pull off a blockbuster deal for Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton before the July 31 trade deadline. The Rangers offered starter Matt Garza, All-Star closer Joe Nathan and outfielder David Murphy, but they were rejected, two high-ranking club officials told USA TODAY Sports. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to publicly talk about personnel decisions.
With the wound of Kansas City 4, Texas 0 still fresh, the timing of the Nightengale article and all that it implied basically ensured that this pit in my stomach isn’t quite ready to go away.
Then again, if you’re prone to imagining where things would be this morning had Upton arrived to replace Murphy (setting aside for the moment what would have happened in the absence of Garza’s innings and with everyone in the bullpen asked to pitch in a higher-leverage role), take a look at what Upton has done since then.
In August — when Texas was just fine, winning 20 of 27 — he hit a robust .298/.362/.631.
In September — a 5-15 month for the Rangers to date — he’s been a .236/.329/.375 hitter. Which is basically what the Texas offense has been as a whole this month (.246/.297/.377).
Upton would have cost Craig Gentry (.333/.366/.410 in September) some amount of playing time, and rhythm.
He would have also essentially cost C.J. Edwards, Mike Olt, Justin Grimm, Neil Ramirez, two months of Murphy, and a pennant race void left by Nathan’s departure, if the story is accurate.
Of course, the Upton trade would have been more about 2014 and 2015 — trading Garza days after acquiring him and moving your closer is essentially a sell move — just as the Alex Rios trade was made in part because Texas knew it would have him next year, when free agents Cruz and Murphy could be elsewhere.
For now, Rios has been a reasonably bright light as the rest of the offense flags, hitting .275/.318/.463 in September, far from a blistering slash but one that stands out in a lineup that’s been so lifeless of late.
Last night, Rios tweeted this: “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.”
I’m not sure how to square that with the image of that stupid, inanimate pool in my backyard this morning, but I get what Rios is saying. He’s never played a big league playoff game in his 10 years, and he’s in a mood to try and gut that trend as long as the math allows.
Tonight’s game matters, tomorrow’s will too, and Texas can do its part to make sure they keep mattering all week. This is an exceptional organization that’s had more adversity to overcome this year than its fair share, and I’m not willing to give up on anything yet.
Seven left at home, the first three against Houston. Taking care of business against the Astros would not only keep hope alive; it would create some much-needed momentum heading into the final four against the Angels, who are playing well.
As far as these last few days are concerned, a continuation of the trend not only of treading water with a loss every other game after a brutal losing streak, but also of dropping them by the narrowest of margins, which naturally trains the lens on things like late-inning bullpen management, my pockets are empty. The best I can do is dredge up a series of tweets I posted after the especially tough 12-inning loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday:
Disagreeing with certain of a manager’s tactics and wishing they were different is not the same as wanting that manager fired.
Unless NYY pulls off a miracle, the only team with legit chance to be playoff team last four years is Texas. Given health issues this year . . .
. . . if it doesn’t quite happen for Texas, it doesn’t mean that a top-level head needs to roll. Baseball is hard.
All that said, getting better & stronger in every single aspect of an org’s attack is always a priority — even for a World Series winner.
And getting better & stronger doesn’t necessarily mean that has to come from different personnel. People (not just ballplayers) can improve.
This month of baseball has been extraordinarily difficult, but at this point in the season in 1972 and 1973 and 1975 and 1976 and 1977 and 1980 and 1982 and 1983 and 1984 and 1985 and 1986 and 1987 and 1988 and 1989 and 1990 and 1991 and 1992 and 1997 and 2000 and 2001 and 2002 and 2003 and 2005 and 2006 and 2007 and 2008, the math said the Texas Rangers baseball season was over.
I’ll be out at the Ballpark three times this week, at least. I plan on each of those games mattering. There’s still life in the math, and I’m not done.
Because it’s baseball, and my team still has a shot.
It looks like temps are going to get back up into the 90s for much of this baseball week.
Maybe there’s another swim left.