The Orioles go from the AL Central into the AL West this week, or at least for the next four games at home against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are a team holding steady at .500 with a 38-38 record, although they have lost eight of their last ten games to get to that point.
If you are like me, you maybe don't pay too much attention to non-Orioles teams or players except as they intersect with your fantasy team. I certainly haven't thought much about Texas this season up until now.
That's OK, though, because elsewhere on SB Nation is a parallel universe of fans at Lone Star Ball who are all about the Rangers as much as you and I are about the Orioles. I talked to my counterpart Adam J. Morris to get some thoughts on the 2015 incarnation of the Texas team.
1. We're just about into the month of July and the Rangers sit with a 38-38 record, third place in the AL West. How has the team's performance over the first half of the season compared to what you expected of them in the preseason?
Adam: Well, I predicted the Rangers to go 82-80 this year (and that prediction was made after Yu Darvish went down), so you could say they're about where I expected them. However, the Rangers' first half schedule is much tougher than their second half schedule, and they look to be better in the second half because of the return of Martin Perez and Derek Holland, so they may be a little better than I expected. But I thought this was somewhere around a .500 team, which is what they've played like.
2. For someone like me who doesn't follow the Rangers closely, the Prince Fielder trade last year seemed like a head-scratcher at the time. It's working out much better in year 2. What's gone differently for him this year? How do you think the trade will look by the end of his contract?
Adam: Apparently, Prince is fully healthy for the first time in a couple of years. His bulging disc in his neck was something that apparently was impacting him in 2013, as well, and fixing that seems to have done wonders for him. He's also changed his approach at the plate, particularly with two strikes on him, and seems more willing to slap the ball the other way to beat the shift.
While there's been talk since Fielder got here that he only would play 1B, he told Jeff Banister before the season that he would play wherever Banister wanted him, and so he's mostly been a DH since the first month of the year -- something that has improved the team's defense. And by all accounts, he's in a much better place mentally and with his personal life than he has been the previous few years. Texas is going to owe him $90M for the 2016-20 seasons, and at this point, that looks like a very reasonable deal.
3. The whole saga with Josh Hamilton is another strange one from the outside. Were you happy to see him back in a Rangers uniform? What are your hopes for him going forward?
Adam: Josh Hamilton...believe me, as strange as it seems from the outside, its even stranger from our inside perspective as fans. I thought everyone had moved on, and that was fine with me, because Josh was someone who I thought wouldn't age well, and who would end up falling off a cliff in his mid-30s. I'm not unhappy that he's back, but I'm not as fired up about it as some are, mainly because I have my doubts he'll stay healthy and productive.
Given what Texas is paying Hamilton -- around $7M through 2017, or less than $2.5M per year -- this won't be a bad deal. I'm just hoping he can stay on the field and be halfway decent when he plays.
4. The Rangers came into Sunday with the 3rd-best starting rotation ERA in the AL, with the five-man rotation looking particularly nice since the arrival of Chi Chi Gonzalez. Do you think this group will continue to perform well, or are they playing over their heads?
Adam: There's no doubt this group is playing over their heads, and the six game losing streak the team broke on Saturday is due in no small part to reality crashing down on us. However, the team also has Matt Harrison due back in about a week, Martin Perez due back about a week after that, and Derek Holland scheduled to return in early August. If the rotation can just keep things afloat until reinforcements start arriving, the starting pitching should be in a position to continue to be a strength.
5. The Orioles' ex-Ranger contingent that includes Chris Davis, Darren O'Day, and Tommy Hunter is all about to hit free agency at the end of the season. Is there anybody you're about ready to give up on who the O's could possibly take and try to rehabilitate into a decent player?
Adam: Neftali Feliz seems like a good rehabilitation project for the Orioles. He was great for a while, tore his UCL, and has never been the same. He's someone who might respond to a little bit of the Showalter magic.
Thanks to Adam for answering some questions, and may the team that comes from the state with the best flag win in this series. (Maryland has the best flag.)
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