Commentary: Rangers make winning moves
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Jon Daniels has done the impossible.
Somehow, he's managed to get the bankrupt Rangers exactly what they needed -- an ace and a defensive-minded catcher -- to win the AL West for the first time in more than a decade.
Now, it's up to veterans Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero, Ian Kinsler, Darren Oliver and Cliff Lee, among others, to get the job done.
The players shouldn't expect any more help, especially with an ownership situation that becomes murkier every day.
Understand, the Rangers remains flawed -- as is every club that doesn't wear navy blue pinstripes -- a fact driven home when they somehow became the first home team to be swept in a four-game series by the raggedy Baltimore Orioles in 15 years.
But the Rangers still held a 4 1/2 game lead in the AL West, the biggest in baseball coming out of the All-Star break, and their performance against the lowly Orioles should remind the players in the clubhouse they're not nearly good enough to take any opponent for granted.
Frankly, the Rangers should have an even larger lead. After all, they just completed a 46-game stretch primarily against the dregs of Major League Baseball.
When the stretch began on May 19, the Rangers were 23-18 with a 4 1/2-game lead over the Angels. Despite an 11-game winning streak during the soft part of their schedule, they didn't gain any ground.
You'd like for the Rangers to have a bigger cushion considering they still have 14 games against the Angels left on the schedule.
The beauty of Daniels' moves is that Bengie Molina and Lee add two guys with playoff experience to a club that has never won a postseason series and has just one postseason win.
Molina and Lee have been to the World Series as has Guerrero, the AL MVP in 2004. Oliver also has been a playoff regular the past few seasons.
Still, the most difficult aspect of this journey for the Rangers will be handling the expectations that accompany the arrival of Lee. For the first time in forever, the Rangers are truly the hunted.
By adding Lee, especially three weeks before the trade deadline, Daniels served notice that the Rangers expect and intend to win. They're not cowering in the corner, hoping to reach the playoffs.
They're a contender. For real.
Anything less than a playoff berth represents failure. Daniels accepts this. So do the players.
Daniels has put together a team capable of changing the Rangers' shoddy playoff history.
He's put together a team that wins with power, and manager Ron Washington believes in creating runs with bunts, hit-and-runs and double steals, which gives this team an ability to manufacture runs, something it didn't do well in the past.
Daniels is no longer the GM who didn't move quickly enough on the Josh Beckett deal years ago. Or the guy who didn't get enough for Alfonso Soriano. Or the guy who dealt Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez to the Padres and John Danks to the White Sox.
These days he's the GM responsible for acquiring five of the franchise-record six players who represented the Rangers in the All-Star Game.
He's the guy who moved quickly and decisively, even though he had to trade a terrific prospect in Justin Smoak to get the most coveted player on the trade market.
Daniels and his legion of scouts have used quality drafting and shrewd trades to build one of baseball's best minorleague systems, which allowed them to have the organizational depth to make the trade for Lee.
It's a gutsy move whether it works or not. You can't be scared and succeed as a GM in pro sports. The best ones learn from their mistakes.
Daniels has, which is why the Rangers are relevant again nationally for the first time in more than a decade.
First Published July 18, 2010 12:00 am