In a season where a waiver claim clears the needed room to promote Adam Rosales to the majors, two 20-year-olds have seen significant big league time, and Miles Mikolas is starting a game on the mound, “developing young players” is a three-word goal much closer to home than “World Series contender.”
But as Snow Patrol so brilliantly put it; those three words are said too much, they’re not enough.
While that line from “Chasing Cars” is directed at some sort of idealized paramour and not the future of a baseball club, there’s a certain love for the game amongst the Texas players penciled in for significant innings this season, so we’ll call it the same thing.
Player development is a great goal that every team should have, and certainly gives purpose to a season seeming to lack it.
But just announcing that prerogative simply isn’t enough. See: Michael Choice.
Choice is stuck at a developmental crossroads this season. He has shown the ability to produce at the Major League level, as he is second on the team with eight home runs despite having just the sixth-highest number of at-bats. While those at-bats have come more consistently for him as plate appearances are vacated by injuries, Choice has regressed rather than progressed.
To describe his contribution over the past month or so, I’ll give You the Reader some creative liberty here. Come up with whatever adjective you want that is a synonym for really, really bad. Do you have one? I hope so, because I scoured my vocabulary and none of them seemed to do it justice.
Anyway, since June 6, Choice is batting a(n) [insert your adjective here] .086, with just five hits in 17 games (62 plate appearances).
Thanks for participating in that little Mad Lib™ knockoff. I hope it took a little bit of the sting off of the stat at hand.
“It’s been pretty frustrating,” Choice said of his woes at the plate. “Every time I have that flash and feel like I’m about to get it going, it drops off a couple days later.”
Manager Ron Washington said the name of the game at the Major League level is constant adjustment and readjustment. Whether it’s Michael Choice or Adrian Beltre, Wash said every player must continually make adjustments to be successful.
“That’s what’s going to happen, it’s going to take time,” Washington said. “That’s called experience, and [Choice is] getting it. He’s getting it in a tough way but he’s a tough kid and we’ll keep working with him until he figures it out.”
As our esteemed contributor Robert Pike opined at the end of May, Choice plays a big role in the Rangers’ future. Whether or not Choice is a viable option at a corner outfield spot moving forward has an impact on what the club can do with Alex Rios and a few other auxiliary pieces down the road.
So that experience is key. But how long must the trial and error go?
“We’re just trying to get him to understand all situations of the game,” Washington said. “We’re trying to get him to figure out on his own exactly what pitchers are trying to do to him.”
The intention is there. It’s a beautifully scripted plan of action by the Rangers’ skipper.
But just because a kid has an A in fifth grade math doesn’t mean you should send him into a calculus class and tell him to “figure out on his own” how to solve a quadratic equation.
Choice may seem too talented to be in the minor leagues, but he is not making a case that he belongs in the majors, either. And while “experience” is valuable, sending him up to the plate to fail in 91.4 percent of his at-bats may do more harm than good when it comes to development.
At 24, he’s still young. He could still be a good player and a major piece of the puzzle in 2015 and beyond. But he’s admittedly frustrated, and that’s not helping the player or the team develop.
The club did the right thing in sending Luis Sardinas down to Triple A to develop. The answer for Choice’s struggles could be on the way with Engel Beltre’s return from injury in the not-so-distant future.
No matter in what fashion, something needs to be done. Especially in the last month, Choice’s experience has gone far beyond metaphorical growing pains. It’s more like a shattered bone.
And someone needs to piece it back together.