How Soon Is Too Soon?

With Texas hobbling out of the gate, will a flood of young, unproven talent soon hit Arlington?

On Sunday, the Texas Rangers took a four-run lead into the fifth and watched it disappear before their eyes on a pair of shoddy performances by Brandon McCarthy and the usually solid Jason Jennings.

This might be remarkable considering that the lead came on five unanswered Texas runs, effectively emanating good vibrations throughout the Texas dugout. Everything was going well and then, well, that happened. 

But, the fact is, this is completely unremarkable. This is the way Texas has lost games all season; the bullpen, as it stands now, makes anything less than a 10-15 run lead something to fret over, and this doesn’t bode well for the team.
As Texas was crumbling, on Sunday, Baltimore’s bullpen was shining, delivering five innings of shutout baseball. This is what we like to call a metaphor, and it’s an ugly one for any Rangers’ fan.
It would be shortsighted not to mention that it is still very early in the year, and that, cliché or not, just about anything can happen over a 162 game season. But given the thorough evidence of Texas’ bullpen acting as somewhat of an Achilles heel, the question must be asked: Where is all of this young talent in the minors?
Derek Holland, called up last week, has been effective in two appearances thus far, silencing critics of his promotion effectively. But more important for our purposes, he is the first of what seems to be a long line of talented young pitchers waiting for their own call-up.
Neftali Feliz and Pedro Strop are the first names that come to mind; both of these players have major league arms as we speak, but, presumably, are not ready to make the leap as of yet. Feliz was thought, prior to the season, to be a leading candidate for a Major League debut some time around the all-star break. But how are his chances affected by what can be described as an inconsistent, if not just bad bullpen?
The economic question, so pervasive in the American mind these days may play a role. Just what that role is, I’m not sure. In the end, it will be dependent on (a) how good these kids are when and if they are called up and (b) how fans react to what may be perceived as cashing out on 2009.
Of course, a deluge of young and unproven talent could equal (at least) some ugly performances, and this scenario will, most likely, affect Texas’ decision making to some degree. With attendance slumping, that is, is taking a big risk even an option for Texas?
The front office will be wary, in any case, to toy with the 40-man roster in order to make room for the young guys, as this has bit them in the past; Armando Galarraga (he’s the one who diced up the Rangers in that 15-2 loss to the Tigers), was stolen away from the team as a direct result of this, in what may have been the biggest front office misstep in the past year.
Now (and I want to be clear), I’m not advocating any scenario in which Texas would thoughtlessly suit up prospects who are not ready; that’s just bad baseball. But the success of Holland (despite the small sample size) and continued mediocrity could certainly have Texas, its bullpen in particular, looking a sight different than they did coming out of camp during the second-half.
The Florida Marlins are on top of the NL East despite a six game skid and the fact that there is only one (1) pitcher on their active roster who is not a Reagan baby. But is this a model Hicks and company should, or perhaps more accurately, would strive for?
Florida finished third, fourth and third in the years preceding this one, all while disregarding (completely) the idea of putting attendance before development. This is more or less the model Florida has adhered to since their inception in 1993, and they’ve done nothing but frustrated fans, played in empty stadiums and won two World Series.
With a loaded young team, they look just about poised for a third run.
So: You are Tom Hicks, you run the show, and you eat the finest cheeses and drink the finest wines in all the land.
Do you (a) continue trying to win with your roster as it stands, or (b) gamble on win totals and ticket sales in an effort to mature some young talent and, ultimately, look to be a serious young contender in 2010 or 2011?
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