One of the best things about Texas weather is the winter. Even when we get snow, or more likely ice, it only stays for a couple of days and then it is back to sunny and 60 degrees, unless the Super Bowl is in town then the ice stays on the roads for a week – but that’s a different column. This one is about baseball.
This time of year has always been called the “hot stove league,” a phrase coined somewhere up north. Picture baseball fans fighting the cold and standing around the hot stove discussing how to improve the home nine. We don’t need a hot stove, but we could use some improvements. No matter what the Rangers do during the winter meetings and beyond, the team will look a lot different in April.
Nothing looked right at the end of last season. Wash was not on the bench, Darvish was not on the mound and the high profile acquisitions of last off season were on the mend. That is where the improvement this year begins. Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder. If they are healthy and productive the offense is well on it’s way to being fixed.
Darvish is set to begin a throwing program next week, and it’s great news he’s planning to spend most of the off season here in Texas. In fact, new skipper Jeff Banister had a chance to meet with Yu last week and came away impressed with the man. He was already impressed with the pitcher.
“He’s excited,” Banister said. “I had a nice conversation with him. He looks like he is having fun with his teammates. He interacted with his teammates and they were getting after him pretty good.”
Meantime, Choo is recovering from ankle and elbow surgeries this off-season, and he too is working out at Globe Life Park. Banister has had conversations with him as well.
“He was not satisfied with what last year was for him.” Banister remembers watching Choo when he was with the Reds, “We had a conversation about his style of play. One of my wishes is for him to go back to being that type of player, that aggressive player on the base paths. ”
Finally, there is Fielder. The Rangers got less out of him than they did the other two, so they missed him the most. Banister plans to go to Prince’s home in Florida to meet with a guy who can change everything. “He changes the dynamic of how other teams play against you, ” Banister said. “Every time you look up, you put a guy in your lineup that can hit the ball out of the ballpark, drive in runs, you pay attention to them.”
Mix in a healthy Mitch Moreland and Derek Holland and you have added five quality major league players to your roster and the best news of all is that they were all under contract. That is a good thing because the budget will not increase much this year.
So throw another log on the fire if you wish, but the weather is not so cold and the team does not need as much as 67 wins last season might imply.