Rangers' Slow Start Might Affect More Than Standings

A bad start in a bad economy could mean more than a low finish for the Rangers.

Chances are, if you are a Texas Rangers fan, you’re pretty frightened at this moment.

Texas has gone on a five-game skid since their opening series sweep of the Cleveland Indians, and the problems that have emerged therein have been numerous and difficult to address in any timely manner.

If history is any indicator, this good start turned bad is a recipe, not for disaster, but for mediocrity.

In 2008, Texas ended the month of April with a 10-18 record. They spent a week stuck at seven wins, while being swept in back to back road series in Boston and Detroit. They were 3-2 to close out the month, but the damage had been done. (Is this starting to sound familiar?)

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A strong May had the Rangers a game over .500 and four games back of the lead in the West. But this was a journey in itself; Texas stalled at the .500 mark for most of the season, as Los Angeles ran away with the division.

The general sentiment around town was something like, "If it weren't for that slow start..."

In any case, it was of little consequence. The Angels dashed away with the division, and Texas began to think of the future, albeit an exciting one.

The future is now, though, and the results have been, more or less, the same. The only significant difference in this season and last is the stark reality of a slumping economy, the results of which are unavoidable in any facet of American life.

Namely, bad baseball equals empty seats, even in Texas, where fans have shown a particular penchant for disregarding mediocre play to get out to the ballpark.

The long-term effects of a slumping attendance remain to be seen. The attendance on Monday was a meager 12,184, the lowest total for any regularly scheduled game in the history of the ballpark. (I attended this game, and it was vaguely frightening.)  If this trend continues, we could soon arrive in fire-sale territory (think Florida Marlins).

Nolan Ryan attributed the low turnout to several factors but said, "I think (the attendance) is going to hinge on how the ball club plays, because that's what will determine the walkup crowd."

Yikes.

After Texas' fifth consecutive loss, to Baltimore at home on Tuesday, Texas had a post-game meeting for the first time in 2009.

Ron Washington’s quote thereafter sums up the season so far, as well as the recent history of the team as a whole: "We've got to get some outs after we put some runs on the board instead of constantly having to come back and constantly fighting."

It’s admittedly a bit early to start panicking; Texas has 14 games left in April alone.

But the early warning signs are ubiquitous. Hopefully, Washington's words will have some effect Wednesday night against Baltimore and moving forward. In an age where the question, "Will baseball survive?" is an increasingly relevant one, a bad season may soon be the least of our worries.

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