Is window closing for Rangers?

With the Rangers having graduated most of their top prospects to the majors this season -- top prospects who earned the farm system a No. 1 ranking from Baseball America last winter -- Tim Cowlishaw wonders if the money's available to complement all those promising youngsters:

    With the Rangers producing 87 wins this season, they at times appeared to be a year ahead of schedule before those awful hitting failures at home in September left them in the Angels' dust once again.Some other farm system will be ranked No. 1 this winter because five of the Rangers' players that the magazine ranked in the top 10 – Neftali Feliz (1), Derek Holland (2), Elvis Andrus (4), Taylor Teagarden (6) and Julio Borbon (9) – already are in the majors.

    So before 2009's splendid No. 1 ranking becomes as forgettable as, say, Milwaukee's in 2004 (one quick playoff exit in '08 was all the Brewers got for that?), the Rangers must move quickly.

    Are they truly capable?

    Keep in mind that the Rangers are one of only seven franchises that whiffed on the postseason for the decade of 2000-09.

    Of the others, two teams (Baltimore, Toronto) inhabit the AL East in which New York and Boston are nearly impossible to surpass. Another just set a record for consecutive losing seasons (Pittsburgh, 17 and counting).

    Cincinnati and Kansas City remain stuck in the "small market with no chance" range. And the other changed countries this decade (Montreal-Washington).


    But as you watch the ALCS, understand that the Angels aren't going away. They fought through one improbable crisis (the death of pitcher Nick Adenhart) and more significant injuries than the Rangers endured this season.

    And if the Angels fall short either against the Yankees or the NL champs, it's a good bet that owner Arte Moreno will continue to spend millions to pursue his first personal championship (he bought the team after the '02 World Series).

    The Rangers? They don't even have your postseason money to play with. It's in a drawer in the league office somewhere.

    All we know for sure is that whatever money can be found for the Rangers to spend this winter, it won't be on big-name free agents or Rudy Jaramillo.

Population-wise, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington is the fourth-biggest metropolitan area in the United States. It's got more people than Toronto. The only three ahead of Dallas (etc.) are New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. After Dallas, the next three on the list are Philadelphia, Houston, and Miami. There's simply no excuse for going 10 straight seasons without a postseason appearance (and only two winning seasons in that span).

I wouldn't be too worried about the Rangers losing their No. 1 ranking in Baseball America. As Cowlishaw notes, those young players are now where you want them: in the majors, helping the big club. But the 12th-best on-base percentage in the American League isn't good enough, and the Rangers' young starting pitchers simply have to strike out more batters and walk fewer next season. This is not complicated stuff and there really aren't many moves to be made; they just have to play better.

Anyway, Cowlishaw's right: with the owner in hock and the franchise for sale, it's not likely that Matt Holliday or John Lackey is on the way. If it happens in 2010, it's going to happen the old-fashioned way. Which does seem odd, considering that this was supposed to be a newfangled franchise.