Second Thought: Wednesday, May 07, 2008
What Rangers?

If you want a respectable baseball team, vote with your pocketbook.

By Dan McGraw

If, against all common sense and logic, you are still a Rangers fan, you’ve gotten used to this sad saga. It is still early in the baseball season, and our beloved Texas Rangers aren’t even making it to their usual mid-summer die-off. Instead, this year they’re claiming the basement right off the bat and will be officially out of the pennant race (like anybody’s biting their fingernails) by June. For sports fans, it’s going to be a long dry summer until the Dallas Cowboys training camp starts.
I told my editor that I wanted to write a column about the sad plight of Major League Baseball in North Texas. She responded by saying, “Isn’t that what you do every year?”
Well, that’s the point. Every year the Rangers front office talks about how they are just in a building mode, looking to be competitive two years from now, but I remember hearing that line five years ago. By this time, we should be in our third cycle of winning baseball.
There has been a lot of finger-pointing. General Manager Jon Daniels doesn’t make bright trades, manager Ron Washington fails to hold his players accountable for bad play, and owner Tom Hicks develops temporary paralysis when it comes time to reach into his wallet to sign decent free agents. That’s the Rangers — never enough money, but always plenty of blame to go around.
(We’ll leave out team president Nolan Ryan for the time being. He’s new on the job, though he’s already figured out how to get the Ballpark’s hamburger contract for his meat company.)
So what is a Rangers fan to do? The past decade has been pretty much losing records and last-place finishes. This year seems even worse. The Rangers rank near the bottom in pitching, fielding, and hitting, and the last time I checked, those are the three things baseball players are supposed to know how to do.
My advice to Rangers fans is very simple. Just stop going. Let the team know you might return when this diseased franchise at least has a steady pulse. But until then, don’t give them any of your money or interest.
What’s the point? Well, the major fear among sports franchises is fan apathy. If you actively love or hate a team, there is an investment of loyalty either way. But if you ignore them, then the brain trust at the top gets the message: The product they put out on the field has a direct relationship to the fans who pay the bills.
About 2 million fans show up to see the Rangers every year whether they win or lose, and Hicks understands this better than anyone. The Rangers are a profit center, providing cash for Hicks’ other business dealings. Do you think investors and banks would have funded Hicks’ purchase of the Liverpool soccer club if the Rangers weren’t in the black?
There are other reasons not to go: Send Daniels the message that trading decent starting pitchers like John Danks, Chris Young, and Edinson Volquez is not very smart, especially since the Rangers always seem to be short on pitching. Inspire the manager to run out to second base when Ian Kinsler boots another ground ball and pull him into the dugout by his ear.
There has been some talk among fans and the sports media that Washington needs to get canned. Such a move would ignore the bigger problem. Think of it this way: Pick any manager in the game today — Joe Torre, Tony Larusa, Jim Leyland, Terry Francona — and decide whether, if that guy were in the dugout, the Rangers would suddenly rise up through the standings. Of course they wouldn’t — even a great manager needs more talent to work with than the Rangers have.
We should have a big-market team making lots of money and having some playoff success. Instead we have a team that doesn’t even execute basic fundamentals that most Little Leaguers already know. It’s baseball that is hard to watch.
So don’t watch, not even on TV. If you need to see some baseball, run down to LaGrave Field and watch the Fort Worth Cats play. That organization concentrates on fielding hardworking players. They keep ticket costs low, and on a spring night, you can sit behind home plate with a beer and a dog and still have enough cash to drop a buck in the bucket every time the Cats hit a homer.
Oh and by the way, the Cats have won three straight league championships and are looking for four in a row this year.

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