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Apr022014

From Losers to Walk-Off Winners

The worst part about the beginning of the baseball regular season -- which is not to say that I didn't want the season to begin -- is without a doubt the way in which the first week or two is filled with knee-jerk reactions.

With the ceremony and hype surrounding Opening Day, many are quick to react to one game. For the Rangers, many fans (and media) were full of knee-jerk reactions after an Opening Day loss in which Tanner Scheppers and the bullpen were lit up for 14 runs. Lost in that? That the Rangers offense managed to score 10 runs themselves, earning 8 runs off of Cliff Lee.

Do you think that makes Cliff Lee a bum? I don't. Chances are, he'll once again be talked about as a trade deadline target and a premier pitcher around midseason. Whether anything materializes or not is another story, but you can almost guarantee that his name will be in the conversation because he has a track record of consistently performing even when his lineup doesn't. One bad game doesn't change that, especially when 71 of the 101 pitches Lee threw were for strikes.

So on that same note, while it's certainly disappointing to drop the first game of the season after so many months of waiting, I wasn't too concerned. I still don't think the Mariners or Astros will end up at the top of the division after 162 games.

When it really comes down to it, I'm ready for a few weeks to be in the books. I'm ready to be able to identify trends and see if the Shin-Soo Choo we saw last night -- 2-for-3 with a walk and a HBP -- will be the guy we see going forward. For the record, I'm of the opinion that we will. His calling card has been OBP, and I truly believe his presence helps guys like Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre. So when people were upset at Choo's approach on Monday against Cliff Lee, I wasn't too worried. Lee was throwing strikes. Being too patient against a strike-thrower can actually work against you, and Choo seemed to understand that. It didn't reap the results you'd like, but you move on and try again the next day.

I don't believe one ball getting under Beltre's glove for an error on a routine play will be the norm. There's just too much history for that to be my line of thinking. Yet I won't be surprised if we see more high-leverage magic from Beltre as the season progresses, especially with a healthy Prince Fielder in front of him in the lineup. The reason I believe we'll see more of the same? Beltre led baseball in the "close and late" category by hitting .416 in 2013.

So while the Rangers are now 1-1, and we're all fresh off the emotion of the type of game you like to be on the winning side of, don't forget the big picture. Before jumping to conclusions about the pitching potentially "killing" this ball club in 2014, wait a few weeks. Focus instead on the reinforcements on the horizon. It's entirely possible that Yu Darvish, Colby Lewis, and Matt Harrison will all three be in the rotation by month's end.

Instead of focusing on the fact that Colby Lewis appeared to get hit hard yesterday, think instead of the fact that Colby has always been prone to those types of games, but when healthy, he'll keep you in more games than he loses, which differs from the type of confidence you might have in Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Ross, or Nick Martinez moving forward.

More importantly, it's important to keep some perspective at the beginning of the season. The 2010 Rangers started slow before catching fire during the summer months and taking baseball by storm. The 2012 Rangers started hot and faded in September.

Even if the Rangers manage to absolutely dominate all of baseball and win 100 games this season, they'll still lose 62, and chances are, after each one of those 62 losses, you'll see overreaction from fans and even the media. That's before even considering that, odds are, the Rangers will win less than 100 games, meaning they'll lose more than 62.

In a few weeks, we can start analyzing streaks and trends. Until then? Just sit back and enjoy the games. Baseball is back, and that alone is a great thing.

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