Things in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington just ain’t what they used to be.
You don’t have to tell Texas Rangers fans that, of course, as they’ve seen the transformation of the AL West offensive powerhouse to … well, something else entirely. These 2013 Rangers aren’t giving a whole lot of pause to opposing pitchers these days, not when they’re running out a slumping Elvis Andrus, and not when the bottom third of their order is batting below .250.
And if scoring more than three runs in just five of their 13 games coming out of the All-Star break wasn’t bad enough, thing are about to get a whole lot worse for Ron Washington and co. all thanks to Nelson Cruz.
That seems like a bit of a strange thing to say considering that this team just completed a three-game sweep of the divisional rival Los Angeles Angels, but then again, beating the Angels isn’t exactly much of an accomplishment in 2013, is it?
Besides, any high the team is experiencing from a parade of wins will likely be rained on when MLB lays out their suspensions for the Biogenesis PED scandal, which their talented right fielder has been linked to.
Assuming that Cruz does not try to fight any potential suspension (and there’s not a lot of good reasons why he should just so he can stay on the roster through the process), the team will more than likely be looking at going through the rest of the season without him.
All they’d be missing is one of their biggest offensive weapons, that’s all.
Currently owning a .274/.336/.510 triple-slash with 25 homers and a team-leading 73 RBIs to his name, the power potential that Cruz provides the Rangers lineup on a daily basis simply can’t be replaced. In fact, you could make an argument that he brings significantly more to the plate than David Murphy and Leonys Martin combined.
To have Jeff Baker (as good as he has been with his 1.053 OPS over 96 at-bats) potentially at that spot on a full-time basis, or even in a time share with someone like Craig Gentry … would be a scary prospect.
In short, let’s just say that the pitching will have to be really, really good for the Rangers down the stretch.
Their sweep of the Angels moved them four games from first place in the division and a half back back of the final Wild Card spot, but that’s a perilous spot they’re perched on, and the lack of activity on deadline day doesn’t make it less dodgy over the next couple of months either.
While GM Jon Daniels seems to think, as he said to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, that Texas should like their chances “if [they] can pitch and scratch [their] way to four runs a night”, the post-break stretch suggests that’s easier said than done … even with Nelson Cruz in the lineup.