Are the Rangers the best team in MLB?
Darvish, Rangers feast on schedule
It may not seem like it, but the Texas Rangers are the best team in the majors.
They aren't a perfect team, but every team in the big leagues has a weakness or two. Texas has solid starting pitching, just enough pieces in the late innings to get the game to closer Joe Nathan and a lineup that is finally starting to find some consistency.
The naysayers will tell you that the Rangers haven't faced a difficult schedule and have benefited from an AL West that has not been as strong as predicted. And that's certainly a valid point. But if you want to win the division, you have to take advantage of your schedule. The Rangers have done that. They've feasted on Houston and Seattle, but have also shown they can play with the best in the league in sweeping the Boston Red Sox a few weeks ago. Boston came into Arlington with the top record in the league at that time. And later this week they'll face Detroit, one of their chief competitors in the AL. It's another chance to show they're the top team in the league.
A contending team usually has to have that top-flight pitcher that nearly everyone knows is going to give his team a chance to win every time he gets the ball. Texas has that in Yu Darvish, one of the early Cy Young favorites, as he collects strikeouts, gives his team innings and continues to improve after his impressive run to end last season. Derek Holland's bounce-back season has helped the club immensely with Matt Harrison out with injuries. And young pitchers Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm have pitched well as the Rangers wait for reinforcements, starting with Colby Lewis possibly next month.
While the Rangers lost production in the form of Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli this season, they still came into the 2013 campaign with a balanced lineup. It just took some time to get going. Now, with more than 20 percent of the season done, they are hitting better in the clutch and more consistently scoring runs. It starts with Ian Kinsler at the top and goes from there, with several players hitting now after early slumps (see Adrian Beltre, Mitch Moreland and even David Murphy).
As for intangibles, I think the Rangers have an edge there, too. Last year's collapse serves as motivation for this club. They've started the season strong and have served notice they don't intend to go anywhere. And with Lewis, Neftali Feliz and possibly Harrison returning before the postseason, they should only improve. As we sit here in May, the Rangers are the top team in the league.
Tigers have best pitcher, best hitter
Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Early in the MLB season, many people in the Metroplex, including Richard Durrett, are going insane.
At this point last season, the Rangers were widely regarded as the best team in baseball and many respected members of the baseball media were even comparing them to the 1998 New York Yankees. We all remember how 2012 ended.
Following one of the biggest collapses in MLB history, including three straight losses to end the season in Oakland and a one-game playoff exit, the team that everyone crowned early in the season finished the year watching the playoffs on TV.
So why are people such as Durrett crowning the Rangers again? Did we not learn our lesson last year?
The best team in baseball isn't the Texas Rangers, it's the Detroit Tigers -- you know, the team that won the American League last season while the Rangers were at home watching.
People in DFW won't have to look far to see the best team in baseball this week. In fact, they'll be playing at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington for a four-game series beginning Thursday night.
Detroit currently leads the majors in hitting with a .284 team batting average and they're third in pitching with a team ERA of 3.38. The Tigers have also scored 24 more runs than the Rangers (201 to 177).
Detroit also has arguably the best pitcher in baseball in Justin Verlander and the best hitter in Miguel Cabrera, who won the AL MVP and was the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
With all the question marks coming into the season, Ron Washington and company have to be pleased where the Rangers are currently sitting. Texas is among the best teams in baseball and belongs in the conversation. Furthermore, the Rangers are likely not a finished product, and it wouldn't shock anyone if Jon Daniels made a move before the trade deadline.
However, as things sit right now, the Detroit Tigers -- and not the Rangers -- are the best team in the majors. The good news for Rangers fans is that last season showed that being baseball's best team just 39 games in doesn't matter at the end of a marathon baseball season.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Rangers manager Ron Washington joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett live from Oakland for his weekly visit.
Nelson Cruz joins Galloway & Company to discuss the Rangers' series in Oakland, his ups and downs at the plate and if the PED talks before the season were a distraction.
Nolan Ryan joins Galloway & Company to discuss his role with the Rangers. Ryan says that he has not been in contact with the Astros about a possible opening and he doesn't think that he would be interested anyway.