Sunday, March 28, 2004

Scary comments from Orel Hershiser 

Despite the fact that this season is purportedly a rebuilding year, a season for looking at what the young pitchers can do, Orel Hershiser has come out in favor of keeping older pitchers, and sending those pitchers with options down to AAA.

That would seem to put R.A. Dickey, Ricardo Rodriguez and Colby Lewis (all of whom have options) in danger of not making the team, in order to make room for retreads like Glendon Rusch, Mickey Callaway, and Jay Powell.

RicRod, I can sort of understand sending down...he's struggled with his command and missed a lot of last season with an injury, so it might make sense to send him down and shake off the rust in a low-pressure environment.

But the signals now coming out of camp, that maybe the young pitchers that we are supposed to build around might get shipped out, is very disturbing, and gives some credence to those who say that the Rangers have no plan in place. Particularly when one also takes into account the mystifying catching situation, where Gerald Laird has apparently outplayed Einar Diaz, and has gotten the nod as the catcher of the future, but might go back to AAA because...well, because no one will trade for Diaz right now, and Buck seems to want to play Diaz, and the team is strangely reluctant to just cut their losses with him and release him.

I also have to wonder if there isn't some internal conflict within the Rangers' management right now...Benoit and Laird are supposedly favorites of the player development people (i.e., Fuson and his guys), while the coaching staff likes Diaz (who, of course, Hart had in Cleveland and brought with him to Texas) and wants to cut ties with Benoit. Prominent on the coaching staff are Buck Showalter, a Hart hire whose job could be in jeopardy if and when Grady Fuson takes over, and Orel Hershiser, another Hart crony who came over to Texas to be Hart's majordomo in the front office, and took over the pitching coach job when Oscar Acosta was run off.

There are certainly enough problems right now without a power struggle erupting between the lame duck G.M. and those loyal to him, and the farm director and G.M.-in-waiting, who, incidentally, is held in much higher regard by the DFW media than John Hart is.

The other troubling aspect of this article is Tom Hicks specifically signing on with the plan to keep older pitchers, saying that he sees no difference between a 26 year old and a 29 year old pitcher. This suggests, to me, that Hicks is starting to panic...in the aftermath of an offseason that was an unmitigated P.R. disaster, Hicks is worried about the prospect of a 8-18 April leading to empty seats for the rest of the summer, and is ordering the baseball people to hold off on the rebuilding so that they can run vets out the first couple of months, who might keep the Rangers near .500.

I really hope this isn't the case, since it would be an instance of Hicks sabotaging the long-term interests of the team in order to protect the very short-term bottom line...but given what has transpired this offseason, I wouldn't be surprised if orders sending Lewis and RicRod down to make room for the veteran journeymen came down from on high...

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