Taking a deep breath after their game seven loss in the World Series, the Texas Rangers are moving forward with plans to upgrade their pitching staff over the offseason. Though the Texas major league ballclub had their most successful season yet, winning 96 regular season games and extending the World Series to seven games against the St. Louis Cardinals, the missing link for the Texas team is still pitching.
Hall of Fame pitcher, Nolan Ryan, who owns a large portion of the Texas Rangers, established early in his tenure the priority of pitching. Hiring Mike Maddux in 2008 as the pitching coach, Ryan brought in someone with pitching credentials and a personal demeanor that helped the Rangers’ young pitching staff to have success. Old school pitchers Darren Oliver and Arthur Rhodes quietly made an impact as well, having pitched in the major leagues for the past couple of decades.
As Maddux has received permission to respond to management job interviews with the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, two of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball history, Rangers fans realize that Maddux may not be back in the Texas dugout next season. What he will leave behind, should the opportunity be presented to take a manager’s job with another club, is a stable of excellent young pitchers who now have two years of World Series experience under their belts.
Still, however, Ryan and general manager, Jon Daniels, are not satisfied. The Rangers are thought to be pursuing their interest in Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish, who is said to be a “pitcher with a million pitches.” He is 25 years old, and given the right kind of coaching, that will help him narrow down his repertoire to face big league batters successfully, Darvish is thought to be readying himself for Major League Baseball.
The Rangers also have to make a decision on C.J. Wilson. Without Wilson, Texas would not have made the playoffs, most observers believe. But, his showing in the World Series was dismal, and many people believe he has had enough time to develop into a big game pitcher. The fact that he has repeated failures from last year’s run in the playoffs causes some skepticism. Wilson, however, is now a free agent, and the bidding for him is expected to be high. Though he failed in the World Series, too many teams need someone of his quality, including Texas. The Rangers are preparing their offer, likely hoping to get a discount from Wilson because he enjoys playing with Texas and knows it should have several more years near the top in American League win-loss columns.
The Rangers are also thought to be eying Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox. Buehrle’s record at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is 5-2, so thoughts are that Buehrle may do well in the Texas heat.
While the Dallas-Fort Worth area does not celebrate championship losses, long-time residents of the Metroplex will remember the days when fielding a major league baseball team at all in Texas was like a Field of Dreams scenario. Now that baseball success has made its presence known, expectations are booming. Like manager Ron Washington says, “That’s the way baseball go.”
This team should not forget, however, that the American League East will always be formidable, and that old rivalries such as the one with the L.A. Angels will circle back to haunt it if it does not keep marching forward with good pitching to improve their chances of winning it all. Former Angels and Rangers pitcher, now owner, Nolan Ryan, knows this better than anyone.