According to a Science Daily article, first impressions are to a certain degree engrained in the mind of humans, and can only be altered in certain contexts.
I’ll stop there, since this isn’t actually a psychology article.
I didn’t major in psychology, and I dabble much more in sports than I do sociological studies. And I would imagine, based on the website you’ve chosen to visit, that you were looking for a sports article (the exception being if you found this page via Stumbleupon – if so, that’s awesome, and welcome to the site).
But the whole idea that one “doesn’t get a second chance to make a first impression” is relevant in the recent history of the Texas Rangers. In Arlington, the beginning of a tenure tends to have a huge impact on how members of the organization are perceived for the remainder of it.
Let me start from the top.
A prime example is General Manger and President of Baseball Operations, Jon Daniels. JD bust onto the scene in 2005 as the Rangers’ GM, with only four years of baseball experience under his belt. And he quickly made his presence felt by dealing Alfonso Soriano to the Washington Nationals for Brad Wilkerson, Terrmel Sledge and Armando Galarraga.
Many people – including me – questioned the move, and were completely justified in doing so. And Daniels followed that deal by dealing Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez to the Padres for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. Otsuka found some success in the Ranger bullpen, but the deal was once again rather puzzling.
So Daniels became the 28-year-old GM who was trying to do too much.
And it doesn’t seem to matter how many Teixiera-for-four-starters or Francisco Cordero-for-Nelson-Cruz deals Daniels makes, there are still many who think he’s the wrong guy for the job.
No matter the Volquez-for-Hamilton trade, or the signings of Vladimir Guerrero or Colby Lewis. Never mind the Yu Darvish signing.
Obviously negative perception of the young GM isn’t universal, but many still opine that JD is on a “power trip.” He’s put under fire for the Nolan Ryan saga. He’s scrutinized for the Prince Fielder trade because the new Ranger first baseman has an above-average body fat index. His game-changing power and the fact that Fielder has missed just one of the last 810 games are all of a sudden irrelevant, to some.
Those who are uncomfortable with Daniels’s leadership should look across the way to the other stadium in Arlington, where the owner got a good first impression of himself as a general manager 23 years ago and hasn’t let go of that first impression despite a redundant track of mediocrity.
But we’ll stay focused on America’s Pastime.
The Rule of First Impressions applies on the field as well.
A certain 20-year-old utility infielder stepped into a major role with the 2013 Texas Rangers.
For those who don’t watch Rangers baseball but are still reading this, that was Jurickson Profar, a.k.a. the top-rated prospect in all of baseball. Profar batted .333 in May while filling in for the injured Ian Kinsler, and earned his keep when Kinsler returned.
And despite hitting at a meager .223 clip for the remainder of the season, Profar saw action in 77 games, and now has the full weight of the starting second baseman role on his shoulders for 2014.
David Murphy is another player who benefitted from a solid first impression. Murph started his Ranger career batting .340 in limited action in 2007, and earned more and more playing time in the following years.
Thus, no. 7 played 142 games in 2013, despite hitting just .220 and developing a tendency of grounding out to second base like clockwork. The Rangers’ broadcast team – Tom Grieve and Steve Busby – even invented the term “the Murphy Zone,” in reference to an unfair amount of outside pitches that get called strikes off the plate.
Personally, I think that trend had more to do with Murphy’s complete inability to hit the outside pitch than it did with bad luck at the dish.
Now, I will say that there was far more good than bad in Murphy’s tenure in Texas… But there are still some who are inexplicably upset to see him go after flirting with the Mendoza Line and six seasons of dWAR (defensive wins above replacement) below zero.
And pedigree can so easily be forgotten. The likes of Cliff Lee and Matt Garza have been brought into Texas to produce wins and help with a surge to the playoffs. Lee, despite a 4-6 record and an ERA near 4.00 with the Rangers (and three home runs allowed in his first game), was part of a World Series run... But wasn't deemed worth a 7-year contract extension.
And, to this point, Garza hasn't been deemed worthy of being brought back after a less-than-All-Star caliber stint with the Rangers in 2013, even though he has pieced together a career of relative consistency.
Both hurlers cost the Rangers some serious prospects, and the return on that investment was a combined 28 games.
There are some new faces coming to the 2014 Texas Rangers. And the primary names - Fielder and Choo - will be around for a while (both are under contract for seven years). But something that would make the transition smoother for all involved: perform early and often.
Because first impressions last, it seems, in Arlington.