The Reds are in DFW to take on the Rangers this weekend, and continuing with our previews of AL West foes, we're happy to have Adam J. Morris of SBNation's Rangers site Lone Star Ball to answer some questions about his favorite team.
RR: The Reds are running into the Rangers at a less than ideal time, as they've won 7 of their last 8 games. What's gone right for the Rangers during this stretch?
LSB: The Rangers have started hitting again. Texas went through an awful stretch where they lost 6 in a row at home, and 14 of 20, mainly because they weren't scoring runs. Since the return of Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland, the bats have woken up, and the pitching has been fairly solid all season long.
RR: What's the general consensus about Ron Washington? Tolerably old-school like Dusty? Or just generally disliked?
LSB: Ron Washington is, by all accounts, a great guy, and its hard not to like him when you listen to him. After hearing the leaked audio of his pre-game speech before Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, I wanted Wash to manage the team forever. But in a lot of ways, in his game management, he's a traditionalist...I think he bunts too much, he's reluctant to use young players, and his bullpen usage is heavily reliant on "traditional roles" and using just 3-4 "trusted" relievers in close games.
(ed. note: This is dead on Dusty Baker behavior.)
RR: Where do you see Profar as a fit beyond this season? Will Kinsler be cool with being in LF or 1B?
LSB: If Profar is a Ranger in 2014, he'll be the team's starting second baseman, and Ian Kinsler will be playing another position. I still think there's the possibility of Profar getting moved in a deal for someone like Giancarlo Stanton between now and Opening Day, 2014, but I think its more likely he's here and playing second. Kinsler originally agreed to switch positions this offseason, then balked, and apparently the club had promised him when he signed his extension they wouldn't ask him to change positions before 2014. But my guess is this is Kinsler's last year as an everyday 2B.
RR: Are you as excited as we are about watching Darvish vs. Latos on Sunday?
LSB: Yu Darvish could be pitching against John Halama and I'd be excited. Darvish hasn't been quite as sharp his last few outings as he was earlier in the year, as he's had issues with his fastball command and has been more homer-prone than usual. But Darvish is always a treat to watch, and having him match up against someone like Mat Latos makes it all the more fun.
RR: Speaking of pitchers, what can we expect out of the other two Rangers starters in this series?
LSB: Martin Perez starts tonight. Prospect-philes have been hearing about him forever, but he's still just 22, and after getting his feet wet in the majors last year, he appeared primed to win the team's fifth starter spot this spring before a broken arm on a line drive up the middle put him on the shelf. He's a small lefty, but he throws hard, touching 95-96 on occasion with his fastball, and his changeup can be devastating when it is one. When his stuff is on, he can shut down a major league lineup, but he's working on consistency, so I wouldn't be surprised by either 7 shutout innings tonight or him getting knocked out of the game in the fourth. As for Nick Tepesch, who starts Saturday, he's a rookie righthander who has the standard four pitch mix. He relies on his command, throws strikes, and has struggled his third time through the order of late.
RR: How glad are you to be done with the Josh Hamilton saga?
LSB: I didn't want the Rangers to re-sign Josh Hamilton -- I wrote before the 2012 season that, given his profile and his "swing at everything" approach, he was unlikely to age well, and whatever contract he received as a free agent would likely end up looking very bad in retrospect. The whole Hamilton drama thing that always surrounded him is good to be done with, as well. At the same time, I'm sad that Hamilton isn't here anymore...when he was going well, he was as good as any player in baseball, and he was a huge part of the 2010-12 teams, which were three of the best teams in Ranger history. His home run in extra innings in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series should have gone down as the greatest moment in team history, and one of the great, historic home runs in baseball history, if only we could have gotten the final three outs. So it makes me sad he's no longer a Ranger, and it makes me kind of sad to see him struggle, and to see Ranger fans treat him like a traitor.
RR: So seriously, that Andrus contract? What's the reaction there?
LSB: I loved the Andrus contract, and I still do. He's never going to hit a ton, but he's a great defender at shortstop, a very savvy baserunner, and as Jon Daniels said when the Rangers announced the extension, he epitomizes everything this Ranger organization is about. Elvis is one of the best players at his position in the majors, and he's only 24. When you have the chance to lock up a guy who is in his early 20s and has already established himself as one of the best at his position, I think you do it. To me, $15M per year is very reasonable...he just has to be a 3 win player for you to break even, and I think he should be better than that over the life of the contract. That said, not everyone agrees...there's a healthy minority of the Ranger fandom who thinks Elvis should have been traded for an outfielder (like Justin Upton), and Profar given the shortstop job, because that's a better use of resources. And while I get that rationale, I can't agree...Elvis is my favorite player, and is a joy to watch. He's the one guy on this team I never want to see in any other uniform.
RR: Angelo's or the Railhead?
LSB: Neither. I live in Houston (through I grew up in Fort Worth).
(ed. note: Sorry, Weezy.)
RR: Three positive things about the Dallas/Ft. Worth area?
LSB: The weather in D/FW is generally very good (when there aren't tornados), the people are friendly, and you can fly just about anywhere in the world non-stop from D/FW Airport.
I want to thank Adam for taking the time to share his thoughts and I'm sure this will be a good series. (Go Reds.)