Rhett Miller didn't ask for any of this. Growing up in Texas, he naturally gravitated towards the Dallas Cowboys; after all, they were winners. The Texas Rangers? After moving to Arlington in 1972, they spent much of their first two decades as complete non-factors: zero postseason appearances until 1996, and no playoff series wins until 2010. Still, for reasons he can't adequately explain, Miller became a fan.
Of course, the past decade has been different. The Rangers went to back-to-back World Series, losing the 2011 Fall Classic in heartbreaking fashion. They've been one of baseball's best teams ever since, and may have been the favorites to capture a championship at the beginning of last season, before a rash of injuries took them down. Miller, who will release his new album The Traveler on May 12, was hoping for a rebound this season – only to watch as the injury bug bit once again. Is this the unluckiest team in the majors? Here's Rhett's take on the 2015 Texas Rangers.
When I was a kid, the Rangers were terrible and it was tough to be a fan, because I lived in a city that also boasted the Cowboys and the Mavericks, who were always kind of fun. The Rangers kind of limped along – it took me a while to get into them.
I was such a big fan of Ron Washington, and those two World Series losses were heartbreaking, but still, he got us to back-to-back World Series. Wash was such a personable, cool guy, and then his departure last season was so mysterious. He was such a weird, old-school dude, just smoking in the dugout, dropping F-bombs everywhere; though what I've seen so far of Jeff Banister I really like – the fact that he comes from Clint Hurdle's team, and embodies a lot of the same gestalt, I think that bodes well. And maybe he's got a different vibe from Ron Washington, which might be good. This is a team that went from 90 wins to 90 losses; though I do think last season was an anomaly with all the injuries [editor's note: he's wrong].
Last year, I was very optimistic. I went to some early games, and at one of them I got to sit in the owner's seats, George W. Bush's old seats, right by the on-deck circle. And I remember seeing Prince Fielder and thinking "This doesn't look sustainable to me. He looks like a brick shithouse." And then, of course, he got hurt. They tried to take bullpen guys and make them starters, and it was a total disaster. These were not guys who were meant to go out and give you five innings. As the injuries started to pile up, I had the feeling that this wasn't going to be a good season.
Derek Holland was a bright spot when he came back. He was better than ever; I did a charity event with him last season, and he and Colby Lewis were both there and they couldn't have been more different. Derek was there, beer in hand, wants to talk about guitars until he finally said, "Man, I gotta go talk to girls." And then Colby Lewis just wants to talk about dad stuff. So I think Holland's going to have a great season. [Yovani] Gallardo, I feel like his production slacked off a little last year. I was afraid Colby Lewis was going to leave, I'm glad he didn't, because I think he's got some good years left. I feel good about Neftali Feliz as the closer, too.
But it's just hard to know. If Shin-Soo Choo shows up, and Adrian Beltre is still good, it will be interesting to see what Banister does with the lineup. I'd like to see Choo bat later; I think you're leaving some runs on the table if you get some guys on base, because he's such a good hitter and he's got such a good eye. Leonys Martin has speed, he could work as a leadoff guy. Elvis Andrus needs to become a better hitter. If he clicks, having him up in the top two or three of the lineup, with Beltre and Prince Fielder in the middle to drive some guys in, it could be great. I like [Rougned] Odor, I anticipate him being at second, Jurickson Profar is such a good prospect, but the question is, "Can he stay healthy?" [another editor's note: he cannot]. This lineup looks pretty solid to me; you've got a guy like [Robinson] Chirinos at the bottom, and you could do a whole lot worse than him. And based on what Banister says, he's going to focus on conditioning and keeping guys in shape, and I think that wasn't maybe the case last year.
For the Rangers this offseason, I feel like it was about slowing down, realizing, "Holy shit, we've got a good lineup, we just need everybody healthy." I'm glad they didn't go crazy, but I wouldn't have minded if they got another great arm for the rotation. The injuries, who knows? That's baseball. Sometimes you're going to have a piece of shit season.