Everyone who had Carlos Peguero in the pre-season pool for Rangers home run leader raise your hand. Or maybe you were on the Kyle Blanks band wagon. If you were, fear not, because he shares the lead with Peguero and Shin-Soo Choo. And if you had that trifecta of guys in your home run pool you need to bet big on the upcoming Preakness. The truth is not only could you not have predicted this kind of success for Blanks and Peguero, when the team broke camp you could not have predicted these guys would even be on the team on May 8th. Their success and this week’s turn around of the team are a credit to Jeff Banister.
Yes the new manager got off to a slow start, but his record after 25 games (9-16) was only one game worse than the guy who took over as manager in 2007. Remember him? The guy affectionately known as, “the old school brother.” That’s right, Wash was 10-15 after 25. It takes a while for a new manager’s message to take hold. This current four game winning streak suggests that the boys are buying in, and besides we must not forget that any coach is only as good as his players. Many of Banny’s players were under-achieving until this week.
Take Elvis Andrus for example, two weeks ago he was hitting a buck-sixty-three and tied for the league lead in errors. Over the last 15 games he has hit .288 to bring his average up to .231. He has mixed in an 8 game hitting streak and played much better defense. Banister has had almost daily talks with Elvis about the kind of work he needs to do to get out of this funk. Elvis has heard this message before, “It’s like Mike told me,’when everything is going perfect the game can be boring. When you are struggling it is a challenge,’ I like a challenge.”
Choo might be an even better example. He has hits in seven straight games. Last week Banny told him to, “take a couple of days to work on things.” So Choo did not play last Tuesday or Wednesday, the team had an off day on Thursday and when everyone reconvened on Friday, Choo was a different guy. A week ago today his batting average was .096. It is only at .154 now, but he is 8 of his last 30 (.266). Plus the team is 4-0 with him batting lead off. Surprisingly, he says batting lead off is not his favorite spot in the order. He would rather bat somewhere in the middle of the order, but one thing he does like is, “getting an extra at bat every game.”
At four games under .500 the Rangers have moved ahead of the Mariners and Athletics in the division, the Angels are only a game ahead and the Astros are free falling back to earth. Meantime, over the next two weeks, the Rangers will be adding Mitch Moreland and Josh Hamilton to this roster. Banny’s next challenge will be to figure out where to play them. I mean you can’t sit Blanks and Peguero can you?