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Friday, October 15, 2010

The Gift Of Failure: Musings On Texas' Division Win

Jay Jaffe has a very readable article in Pinstriped Bible detailing the steps that Rangers GM Jon Daniels took to turn around the long-beleaguered franchise. He deserves a lot of praise for it; the Rangers had been the laughingstock of the division for a while now, and this despite having the highest-paid player in the majors at the time, A-Rod — who was still on the Rangers' payroll for a time. (As Dan Szymborski pointed out, it was hardly A-Rod's fault that the team was losing; that was more a factor of poor drafts and bad free agent signings, such as Chan Ho Park.) A deft trade for Cliff Lee from collapsing Seattle, a focus on up-the-middle defense from new shortstop Elvis Andrus (called up from AA) that moved Texas to the upper reaches of team defensive efficiency, some gambles-paid-off in the conversion of C.J. Wilson to the rotation and the pickup of Japan League expat pitcher Colby Lewis (who perfected the art of junkballing while with the Hiroshima Carp) — all had a significant role in improving the team.

But unexplored in Jay's piece is the role the Angels had in gifting the Rangers with uninspired competition for the division. It's worth mentioning that the Angels posted only their third season of less than 90 wins since 2002, and only their second losing season in that span. The second-place, 81-81 A's were scarcely better. In fact, in only one year since 2002 has the AL West been so weak that no other teams had a winning record besides the division champion — 2008. The Angels may not have given away the division — full credit to Texas for winning — but they certainly didn't make it interesting, either, especially in the second half.

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