The Yankees couldn’t be any hotter heading to Arlington where it’s going to be 99 degrees on Monday, 101 on Tuesday, 102 on Wednesday and 103 on Thursday. After winning two of three in Minnesota, the Yankees have now won six straight series and are 14-5 in June and beginning to run away with the AL East.
With the Yankees and Rangers meeting for in Texas for a four-game series, Adam J. Morris of Lone Star Ball joined me to talk about the return of Josh Hamilton, the horrible Shin-Soo Choo contract, the end of the Ron Washington era and the beginning of the Jeff Banister era.
Keefe: Some players should never leave a team or city and Josh Hamilton never should have left the Rangers. But Hamilton chased the big money from the Angels, instantly declined as a player and is now back with the Rangers with the Angels paying nearly all of his salary to play for a division rival.
At the time, it seemed like Hamilton would be a Ranger for life given his success there both on the field and off the field with his personal problems. It seemed like a perfect match for the veteran outfielder to play the remainder of his career and when he signed with the Angels, it seemed like a mistake for both the player and the team.
Now that Hamilton is back with the Rangers (and it sort of feels like he never left), what are your feelings on him? If anything, it worked out well for the Rangers because they eventually got him back for much less than it would have cost them in free agency anyway.
Morris: I never had any bad feelings about Josh Hamilton. He got offered a ton of money by the Angels, and I don’t begrudge him taking it. He was an integral part of the best teams in Rangers history, and so I will always appreciate him.
That being said, I don’t know that he’s got much left in the tank. He’s had issues staying healthy and isn’t hitting much so far. It’s nice that he came back, but from a baseball standpoint, I don’t know that it ends up making much difference.
Keefe: After signing Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million deal after 2013, the Yankees offered Shin-Soo Choo seven years and $140 million that same offseason. The deal wasn’t worked, the Yankees signed Carlos Beltran (three years, $45 million) instead and Choo signed with the Rangers for seven years and $130 million.
Choo hasn’t even been close to the production he had with the Indians and Reds from 2008-2013 and I’m sure Brian Cashman is thankful every day that Scott Boras ruined what was nearly a terrible financial mistake for the Yankees. I know I am.
From an outside perspective, Choo has been a disaster for the first 20 percent of his contract with the Rangers. What has happened to Choo in Texas?
Morris: I wasn’t thrilled with the Choo contract, but I thought we’d at least get a few years of really good production out of him before it went bad. Instead, its been a disaster from day one.
The biggest issue appears to be his health, as he’s struggled to play through injuries, and has a back problem which apparently is limiting him. It sounds likely the Rangers will look to move him this offseason, even if it means paying a big chunk of what he’s still owed.
Keefe: After eight seasons, including two World Series appearances, Ron Washington resigned as Rangers manager last September. Washington’s time in Texas was full of ups and down between the team’s success and failure along with his own personal issues.
I was always under the impression that from 2010-2013, Washington was just the manager of very talented team and he wasn’t necessarily doing anything different or better than anyone else would have done as manager of the Rangers. But that idea is probably far different than how Rangers fans, who watch and follow the team for 162 games viewed his abilities as a manager.
Looking back, how did you feel when Ron Washington left?
Morris: I love Ron Washington. Like Hamilton, he was a key part of the best teams in history, and listening to Wash, you can’t help but like the guy. I disagreed with him a lot strategically, but I never wanted him fired. His resignation was a sad day for Rangers fans.
Keefe: Jeff Banister was named the new manager of Rangers over interim manager Tim Bogar and pitching coach Mike Maddux. Now in his first year, Banister has the team playing better than most would have expected after a disastrous season last year.
At the time, it seemed like either Bogar or Maddux would get the job and it came a surprise when it was Banister.
Who was your pick to be Rangers manager?
Morris: I didn’t have a real strong preference as to who the Rangers should have hired as manager, simply because there’s so little information available to us relating to how these guys do their jobs — particularly when you are talking about guys who are going to be first-time managers. he finalists were Tim Bogar, Kevin Cash and Banister, and I would have been happy with any of the three.
Bogar had a strong reputation and did a good job as interim manager, Cash was someone who was credited with helping Martin Perez develop when Cash was a veteran in Triple-A and Perez was there learning the ropes, and Banister was well regarded in Pittsburgh. My feeling was that, if they went outside the organization instead of keeping Bogar, Cash would have been my pick, but I think all three were strong choices.
Keefe: The Rangers lost in the World Series in 2010 and 2011. They lost in the wild-card game in 2012. They lost a one-game playoff to go to the wild-card game in 2013. Last year, they lost 95 games. After what seems like a year-by-year decline that started with the back-to-back World Series losses, the 95-loss season in 2014 came as a shock as everyone thought the Rangers would be back in the postseason picture once again.
The Rangers have played much better in 2015 than in their down year of 2014, but entering this series, they are 47-50 and 7 1/2 games out of the AL West and 4 1/2 games out of the second wild card.
What were you expectations for the Rangers this season and how have they changed after nearly four months of baseball?
Morris: Prior to the Yu Darvish injury, I saw this as a team that was a mid-80 wins caliber team that could sneak into the playoffs with some good luck. fter Darvish went down in spring training, I predicted an 82-80 finish. The season has been a roller coaster, but at this point, I think the 82-80 prediction looks pretty close.