Texas skipper Ron Washington has enjoyed Eliot Ness-status during his seven years with the Rangers. Two brutal World Series losses, one epic division-title collapse and a laundry list of questionable moves are enough to send most coaches packing.
Not Washington. How many brothers do you know that can come within a strike of a WS championship and blow it, get bagged for doing coke, spark bogies in the dugout, and still keep his job? Most Texas fans have grown tired of Washington’s act, but his talent-laden teams have kept his head above water.
The pressure on Texas and Washington is mounting, as they sit three games behind Oakland in the AL West race. How many chances does a guy get to fail with one of the league’s most talented clubs before he has to boogie?
As luck would have it, Washington was thrown another life preserver in the form of Chicago Cubs hurler Matt Garza. The Rangers, who watched the A’s historically jet past them down the pennant stretch in ’12, are trying to reverse things this season by acquiring the battle-tested Garza, who is 6-1 with a 3.17 ERA (5-0,1.24 ERA in the last six starts). His presence strengthens a pitching staff hampered by injuries, that has been rounding into shape of late and gearing up for another WS run. Garza spent five years in the AL and was a 15-game winner in 2010 before being traded to the Cubs.
“He’s young, has great velocity, has good command of his pitches and that makes him attractive to any team,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum told the AP. “It’s not easy to part with a guy like Garza.”
Texas put itself in the position to be able to rent the 29-year-old Garza for two months and worry about signing him to a long-term deal later, by building up their farm system and signing young, elite international players to use as trade bait.
He’s an extremely talented pitcher,” Cubs GM Jon Daniels told USAToday. “He’s had success in the toughest divisions and the biggest stages. He was in our opinion the best guy on the market.”
While the Rangers are packaging prospects, the rebuilding Cubs have accumulated a wealth of young talent and are preparing for future success. Chicago obtained pitchers Justin Grimm and C.J. Edwards, third base power-prospect Mike Olt and a player to be named later for Garza. Edwards, 8-2 with a 1.83 ERA at Class A Hickory (N.C.), is considered the gem of the package.
In past years, Texas has relied on a big-bopping offense to slug them to the pennant, but in the playoffs, the pitching has failed them. Last season, the Rangers offense scored over 800 runs, but this season they might not score 600. That might not be a bad thing. Daniels is trying to make his squad more balanced, and with an ill trio of Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Garza for the front end of its rotation, Texas will be looking to pitch and defend its way to WS glory. For Washington, this trade may be the difference between him being remembered as baseball’s Bill Cower (the solid leader who finally got it done), versus Marv Levy, the consistent winner who couldn’t get over the hump.