Texas Rangers and the decision to win or go home


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Dan Haren throws a pitch -- next stop Texas Rangers?
Dan Haren’s second-half resurgence would be welcomed in Texas. (Daniel Shirey/USA Today Sports)

The Texas Rangers might be able to get away with installing two swinging doors and call it the fifth spot in the starting rotation.

Travis Blackley was called up to make a start vacated by Alexi Ogando on Tuesday, and while he performed admirably, you won’t be able to convince me that he’s in position to make a second start since being acquired by the Rangers.

They still could go with Ross Wolf, Josh Lindblom or, heck, why not Nick Tepesch when he’s ready to come off the disabled list. Can four guys really fill one spot in the rotation just to get the Rangers by until they get themselves into the playoffs, assuming they hold off the Oakland Athletics for the AL West division title?

The simple answer is a resounding no. Yet some people are making good points about not acquiring Washington’s Dan Haren or Houston’s Erik Bedard, who the Rangers just faced the other night, just to get five or six starts from them for the remainder of the year.

Here’s my argument against that.

First of all, let’s throw away the argument of “one game won’t make that big of a difference.” Really? Let’s go back to the end of the 2012 season, shall we?

After losing the second-to-last season series to the Los Angeles Angels, the Texas Rangers had to travel north to Oakland to decide who would be the AL West champs.

The Rangers needed, you guessed it, one win.

It never happened.

After watching the A’s celebrate a title that seemed so out of reach a month earlier, the Rangers needed to get mentally ready to face the Baltimore Orioles in Arlington, Texas, to decide who would continue their playoff run and who would go home.

If you’re honest, you’ll admit there weren’t many fans who believed the Rangers would win that game. All of the momentum they had built was gone, and the wind was completely out of their sails.

But they still needed just one win.

Again, it never happened.

The Rangers, now two and a half games up in the division, have the opportunity to make a move that would all but solidify a solid rotation, top to bottom, for what’s left of the season. Forget the five-to-six-starts argument, two and a half games is nothing with more than a month of the season still left to play — not to mention having six games with Oakland in September.

If you have the opportunity to put the division away for good, and solidify your spot in the playoffs — without having to play a one-game, winner moves on loser goes home play-in to see who continues into the next round — you have to take it.

I have nothing against Lindblom, Tepesch, Wolf or even Blackley, but going with four guys in one starting spot could come back to bite them in the backside.

The Rangers couldn’t have thought giving Ogando an injection in his shoulder would keep him in the rotation for another month, could they? They didn’t seriously think he was going to be any sort of a factor down the stretch, especially after two straight trips to the disabled list and not much improvement upon his return.

Back in June of this year, I wrote about the decision to put both Neftali Feliz, as well as Ogando, into the starting rotation and why it would cost them not only one good arm, but two.

Feliz has yet to return to the big leagues after undergoing Tommy John surgery during the middle of 2012, and Ogando now has been on the 15-day disabled list for the third time in one season. The organization took a huge gamble on these two young pitchers but quickly realized that gamble wasn’t going to pay off.

The Rangers had a chance to do the right thing by putting Ogando back into the bullpen where he belonged, instead deciding to try their luck with him one more time as a starter and watching as that decision may have cost them dearly. What could have been a strength in their bullpen, has now left them with a glaring weakness.

It’s time for the Rangers to make the right decision for the organization and their chances to put the AL West division on ice for good. Going with four guys for one spot in the rotation will not allow them to gain any further ground on the Athletics no matter how weak the Rangers’ schedule looks in comparison.

Shut Ogando down for the season, send Blackley back to the minors, and bring in a guy who can stay in the fifth spot and make sure you don’t suffer a repeat of 2012.

The Nationals aren’t re-signing Haren no matter how much his performance has drastically improved over the last month and a half, and they won’t be able to get much of anything in return for only a month of service.

While you might be able to burn four guys for five innings every fifth day, it means you also burn your bullpen for four innings every fifth day instead of having someone who will save you the wear and tear. Those are the arms you’ll need when it comes playoff time. Those are the arms you’ll need in the late innings of close games.

If you burn them now, you’ll regret it later.

This might be the best chance the Rangers have to get back to the World Series and finally bring the hardware home to Rangers Ballpark. They may not be the favorites, but let’s face it, the San Francisco Giants weren’t exactly favored to win the 2011 World Series.

It’s not the offense that will carry you to late October, it’s guys who take the ball and keep you in games. And it’s the bullpen that can hang on to any lead regardless of it being one run, five runs or even 10.

So, here’s the menu, Jon Daniels. On this page is the Dan Haren center cut filet or the Erik Bedard soufflé; both are good choices. On this other page, and most people won’t order it because of the bitter aftertaste, is the watch-the-playoffs-from-the-comfort-of-your-couch platter.

I don’t recommend the latter.

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