"Baseball is a lot like life. The line drives are caught, the squibbles go for base hits. It's an unfair game." - Rod Kanehl
It doesn't always have to be somebody's fault.
This isn't happening because Nolan Ryan has cursed his former franchise, or because Jon Daniels sent Ian Kinsler to Detroit.
Sometimes poor results can be born to sound decisions. Sometimes the dealer hits blackjack.
When the news hit yesterday that Martin Perez will be likely to need Tommy John surgery to repair a partially torn UCL, and that Matt Harrison may find his career in jeopardy due to a displaced vertebra in his back, it felt like the dealer had just hit blackjack for the 15th consecutive hand. Both hit the crowded disabled list yesterday, making room for replacements Nick Tepesch and Miles Mikolas.
Perhaps a trip to the disabled list is a rite of passage for Rangers starters this season. Of the 8 pitchers to start games for the Rangers in 2014, only Tepesch, Ross and Martinez have yet to spend any time on the DL. It is May 15, just 41 games into the 2014 season and the Rangers have already used a total of 21 pitchers, and yet still have a bullpen badly in need of rest.
It's worth noting that not included on the list of 21 pitchers to make an appearance this year is Derek Holland. Holland is pitching a 3-inning simulated game Thursday on his journey back from a knee injury suffered when his dog caused him to lose his balance on a set of stairs inside of his home. Holland is reportedly ahead of schedule and could see a rehab appearance in the near future.
With Holland making progress, at least one reinforcement is on the way, but it may not be enough. Even when Holland returns, the club will still be relying on Darvish, Holland, a surgically-repaired version of Colby Lewis and a combination of pitchers the organization would rather have developing in their minor league system (Nick Martinez and Nick Tepesch), Robbie Ross and Joe Saunders. It's a shaky proposition.
While it's certainly not the situation the front office wanted to be in, it's hardly one that could have been expected or avoided. With Darvish, Harrison, Holland and Perez all under team control through 2017 and over $130 million owed between them (including all of 2014 salary), using up more assets (either in the form of prospects or cash) to acquire more starting pitching may be akin to buying a new car and leaving last year's model in the garage rather than taking it in for repair.
Or perhaps the nature of Harrison's injury prompts the organization to attempt to plug the hole through the trade market. After all, David Price is likely to be on the trading block soon. Should the Rangers find a way to get into contention in late June/early July, the club may decide that this team does still have enough healthy talent to roll the dice on a big-ticket acquisition, but the front office will first wait to see if their club is in a position to spend assets to try to improve the club in the short term. Assets that could very well include prospects that figure in to the future plans for the ball club.
It certainly isn't out of the question; the club could also see itself benefit from the right of side of regression. While Pythagorean standings (standings adjusted to reflect each team's run differential - the number of runs they have scored versus the number of runs they have allowed) suggest the Rangers are lucky to be just a game under .500, the offense has begun to show signs of life, particularly in the middle of the order.
Both Elvis Andrus and Prince Fielder suffered from an abnormally low BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which is a statistic that generally normalizes over the course of time, early in the season and are starting to see the ball well and it seems to be finally bouncing their way. Adrian Beltre has rebounded from a slow start, flashing power both in the form of home runs and doubles over the past couple of weeks.
The club should also get a boost from the impending return of Jurickson Profar, who was having a terrific Spring before an injury to his throwing arm earned him a free ticket to the DL party, as well as starting catcher Geovany Soto. Both players should be close to returning in a little over a month.
Just a quarter of the way through the season, the Rangers find themselves in a position where their performance over the next 7-8 weeks may determine whether the season is lost, or whether the front office should make a move to put the roster over-the-top. While the division is not yet out of reach, it may be a difficult sales pitch to add to a team that may simply be experiencing a season that was over before it really ever got started.