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Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Disturbing news from the Star Telegram 

There is no question, the Rangers had an unimpressive offense last season. Playing 81 games at TBIA helped cover up the fact that the team got little production from the DH spot and all three outfield positions. Coming into the offseason, the Rangers needed to target quality bats for right field and the designated hitter spot. The team has money to spend, and names like Carlos Delgado, Magglio Ordonez, Troy Glaus, Ryan Klesko, Phil Nevin, and Paul Konerko are available, either through salary dumps or on the free agent market.

Yet, according to the S-T, the Rangers have targeted Jermaine Dye, Tino Martinez, and Danny Bautista...three mediocre to bad players who a respectable team should be looking at as a Plan C, not a primary option to fill a starting DH or corner outfield spot.

Buck Showalter's love of gritty veteran leadership and hustle over actual ability has driven me mad, and I was fearful that this offseason would offer more of the same, but held out hope...surely, with quality bats out there on the market, guys who the team can afford to bring in who could slip in well in the middle of the lineup, we weren't going to see a repeat of last offseason. Brad Fullmer, Brian Jordan, and David Dellucci-type grab-baggers were understandable when there was no money to spend, but with $20 million in bad contracts falling off the books and a big surge in attendance, surely the front office wasn't going to be scraping the bottom of the barrel again.

Apparently, I underestimated this regime's dedication to mediocrity and the celebration of character over talent.

Bautista is 32 years old, never had 300 ABs in a season before 2004, and has a career EQA under .250, which would be unimpressive for a 2B, and is terrible for a corner outfielder. Tino Martinez is a once-good player who is hailed for his character and leadership, but can't play anymore. Jermaine Dye is a guy who had a couple of good seasons and still has the sheen of sort-of-star about him, but has now slid into mediocrity, and should be spending the next few years careening from team to team, coming off the bench for the Bostons and Cardinals of the baseball world, starting for the Pirates and Devil Rays.

And that may be what is so disappointing about this...teams like Pittsburgh, and Detroit, and Milwaukee, are the teams that add guys like Jermaine Dye to be a starting outfielder. They are the teams with low expectations and lower budgets, who are just looking for a name to fill out the roster and give them 550 ABs, and maybe, if they are lucky, a half-a-season of production good enough to bring a decent prospect or two at the trade deadline.

Quality organizations don't target guys like this. Teams that are serious about contending -- or aren't even serious about contending, but are serious about trying to build a contender -- don't screw around with signing a Danny Bautista to be their starting rightfielder. They go get a J.D. Drew, or they take a chance on a Richard Hidalgo regaining his 2000 or 2003 form. They pick up a Ryan Klesko for a fringe prospect. The get a legitimate major league starter, not some bench player who just happened to hustle and have a good attitude back in the days when he played for Buck Showalter.

And make no mistake, this impending trainwreck of a season is going to be completely the responsibility of Buck Showalter. While I'm sure that Tom Hicks is happy with the notion of saving some money from his budget by not spending big for real players, the architect here is Showalter. He's made it clear since he arrived in Texas that he doesn't want the star players -- he doesn't want an ARod or a Palmeiro, he doesn't want Boras clients with their high-falutin' salary demands.

He wants a faceless cast of no-names, guys he can mold and develop, guys who will play BuckBall and not squawk about wearing a tie on the road or not getting to wear their socks a certain length.

Based on what has happened in Texas since he got here, he seems to be just arrogant enough to believe that he, Buck Showalter, can build a winner without building around talent and production, but instead, by assembling a group that he can propel to achieve through his own force of will.

Showalter got forced out in New York and Arizona because his bosses got tired of his control freak personality and his need for power.

This offseason, I think we are going to get an idea of how right the Yankees and D-Backs were in making those decisions.

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