Hope Springs Eternal for Rangers Fans

A look at the new and possibly improved Texas Rangers

Okay, this title is a bit hackneyed, and true inasmuch as every team in baseball comes into spring training with at least a few high hopes.

But the Rangers may very well be approaching a new dawn marked by ubiquitous homegrown talent -- exciting young players, many of whom are on display, really, for the first time in Surprise, Ariz., this year.

That said, one should take care to not put too much emphasis on Spring Training. After all, these games mean little, ultimately, to a team’s season.

But, alas, it is Feb. 25, and unless I am to devote a column to Octo-Mom or the social dynamics of "Real World: Brooklyn," Spring Training is pretty much all I have.

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The Rangers young lineup looked impressive in its debut, a 12-7 win over the Kansas City Royals -- namely the fact that the three, four and five-hole hitters (Hamilton, Cruz, Blalock) provided a home run each. That is, the heart of the lineup is looking quite hearty at the moment.

Power has never been much of a concern for Texas, at least not since I’ve been around and certainly not since those juice-tastic early 2000s.

But this lineup seems to have a new and promising balance. Ian Kinsler, the favorite to be in the lead-off role on Opening Day, is usually good for 20-30 stolen bases a year, and Elvis Andrus (provided he makes the roster out of Spring Training) will provide a tangible speed-threat at the bottom of the order.

Kris Benson got the start for the Rangers, going two innings while surrendering a run on a Billy Butler homer. Benson, one of nine Rangers pitchers used in the contest, also induced two double-plays.

As usual, pitching remains the question mark going into 2009. The bullpen, on paper at least, seems to have improved since 2008, and the rotation is somewhere between solid and suspect. While there seems to be a great deal of talent in the minors, it is unlikely that any of that talent will be seen in Arlington before the all-star break.

Wednesday's game was about as exciting as a Spring Training game can be, which is not very; however, the Rangers seemed to display some of the promise that we've heard was coming, if only through the grapevine. And as any bitter Rangers fan will tell you, promise is a rare and appreciated commodity around these parts.

To know Rangers’ history is to know futility to some degree. However, the farm system is more talented than it has ever been (ranked No. 1 by Baseball America), and Jon Daniels seems to have recovered from a few ugly hiccups early in his career (sending Chris Davis and Adrian Gonzalez to sunny San Diego, for example) to establish an effective plan for long-term success.

Basically, we're looking at the foundation of a solid baseball team here.

When, and even if, Daniels' plan will produce a World Series win or even a league championship is unsure, and it’s far too early to make any rash, lofty predictions about a team who hasn’t finished above .500 since 2004.

There are questions that need answering and talent that needs to be developed.

But, on the other hand, fortune favors the bold.

So, the Rangers will be World Series champions.

You heard it here first.

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