That was the tweet from ESPN’s Pedro Gomez over the weekend, putting doubt in our minds about whether the Rangers are planning to bring Nelson Cruz back after he serves his 50-game suspension. It seemed like a foregone conclusion when Cruz made his decision not to appeal but, if Gomez is right, we may have seen the very last at bat Cruz will take in a Rangers’ uniform. Unless Texas decides to bring him back after this season.
The decision of what’s best for the team comes down to how it wants to be viewed not only during the playoffs, but once the season has concluded — especially if the Rangers come out on top as the World Series champions.
Do they want to be viewed as the team that got big contributions from Cruz, the guy who was suspended 50 games for performance enhancing drugs? Or do they want to be known as the team who played it safe, like the San Francisco Giants did with Melky Cabrera, still coming out on top as the champions?
It can’t be the easiest decision for this front office, even if Cruz’s teammates want him back.
Maybe the best thing for the Texas Rangers is to move on without him, no matter how big his bat might be in the playoffs. Does this team want an asterisk next to a World Series championship because they used a guy who was suspended not two months earlier?
It’s not that the Rangers can’t carry themselves without Cruz, they’ve proved that over the last few weeks winning 12 of their last 13 games. And, regardless that the wins came against Houston, they have fought their way back in two of the first three games against the Astros. With the acquisition of Alex Rios, who misses Nelson Cruz anyway?
Okay, maybe a lot of fans do, but this team is doing more than just keeping its head above water. They Rangers are swimming with strong strokes and giving no indication that they’re ready to slow down even a little bit.
After what was a six-game deficit to the Oakland Athletics, the Rangers have made up all six games, plus one, to take a one-game lead in the AL West. It’s not just the pitching either. Strong performances from young left-handers Martin Perez and Derek Holland was also supported by timely hitting from Alex Rios, Adrian Beltre and a big two-out, bases-loaded double from Leonys Martin in the first game of the series.
Not to mention a “where did that come from” suicide squeeze from Craig Gentry. Why was that surprising? Because they did it with Adrian Beltre, who isn’t exactly the swiftest of runners, on third base.
Everything is clicking for this team, and they have the soft part of the schedule coming up to ensure the run continues.
When August stretches into September, and September into October, the decision for the front office becomes a little more difficult.
Will it matter where the Rangers are in the division when the decision is made? Will desperation sneak into the minds of general manager Jon Daniels and team president Nolan Ryan or will one of the smartest front offices in baseball prove once more it isn’t swayed by a fan base clamoring to get a “big bat” back in the lineup?
News and notes:
- On Friday night, Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison was pulled from his rehab assignment after just three pitches into the fourth inning. While it wasn’t clear at the time, it is never a good thing when a player leaves the mound after talking with the trainer. It was later learned that Harrison had numbness in his pitching hand although, when asked, Harrison called it “a little bit of tingling.” The Rangers are hoping they aren’t about to lose both Colby Lewis, lost for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in his hip, and Matt Harrison for the remainder of the year.
- Alexi Ogando will take the mound on Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers, trying to do something he hasn’t done in more than two months – make it through more than five innings. The last time he did was back on June 5 in Boston against the Red Sox.
- If the news on Matt Harrison from the orthopedic isn’t good, you have to wonder if Texas will start looking on the market for another starter, especially if Ogando continues to struggle.