Rangers could begin their makeover at midseason

ON BASEBALL

June 25, 2000|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

Peter Angelos isn't the only owner with a big payroll who could be faced with a big decision in the next few weeks. Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks looked at his team's recent 10-game losing streak and made it known that he'll have no trouble ordering a midseason sell-off if the club doesn't get back in position to compete for a playoff berth.

"We always want to win, but I think we'll know in the next 30 days if that's a realistic goal," Hicks told the Dallas Morning News. "If it's not, I think it's one set of circumstances. And if it is, it's another. Let's see what happens over the next 30 days."

The Rangers picked a bad time to go into their worst slump since 1995, losing 10 straight at the same time that the division-leading Oakland A's were solidifying their place at the top of the division with a lengthy winning streak.

If this keeps up, the club may decide to start unloading veteran talent - starting with closer John Wetteland and first baseman David Segui. The nucleus of the club's offensive lineup - Rafael Palmeiro, Ivan Rodriguez, Rusty Greer and newcomer Gabe Kapler - is safe, but the next month could determine whether the Rangers try to get dramatically younger in time for the 2001 season.

"Those last two weeks of July are critical for how you position your team for the future," Hicks said. "We want to position the team to win this year, and we want to position the team to win in the future - next year and the year after. ... And what we won't tolerate are high-priced veterans that perform at a mediocre level.

"We've clearly got veteran players that are making a lot of money that aren't performing, and that's not satisfactory. I'd rather not get into names. Obviously, it's clear some guys just aren't there yet. But I've got a lot of confidence in these guys, and I think we'll know a lot more three or four weeks from now."

If the Rangers want to keep the club intact, this would be a good time to turn things around. They are in the midst of a stretch in which they play 15 of 18 games at home leading into the All-Star break.

"We've played well at home all year, so by no means do we think all is lost," Kapler said. "But we've dug ourselves a little hole, so we have to dig ourselves out of it. We just need to think about getting back to .500, then we can think about catching the teams ahead of us."

Manager Johnny Oates, who insists that the club will right itself in the next few weeks, wants his players to narrow their focus even more.

"Right now, we've got to focus on just one game," he said. "We can't worry about 15 of 18 or 13 of 16. We need to worry about the next game and then, after two weeks, we'll look back and see how we did."

Maintaining the status quo

While some large-market clubs are considering downsizing at midseason, the not-so-large-market Florida Marlins are going to stand pat. They apparently like the long-term outlook for the club - which has been surprisingly competitive this year - and deny whispers that they will continue to shed talent for economic reasons.

"Fans of the Florida Marlins, please feel comfortable because this team is going to be kept intact," manager John Boles said.

"Any decision that our general manager, Dave Dombrowski, makes will be in the best interest of this organization from a player-only standpoint, not financial. We are not going to lose players because they're arbitration-eligible - period. We are in the business of getting better, and the people who are saying these things are wrong."

Gonzo deal

If it's true that the New York Yankees have tentatively agreed on a deal that would put two-time MVP Juan Gonzalez in left field, then the Yankees' front office is even better than advertised.

The acquisition of Gonzalez would solve a long-standing problem in left field and add tremendous punch to a lineup that - inexplicably - has dropped to 13th in the American League in runs scored.

Of course, it also would put an end to those Sammy Sosa rumors, at least the ones that had the Chicago Cubs slugger going to the Bronx. The deal might actually improve the chances of Sosa ending up with the New York Mets, who may make a play for him just to keep up with their cross-town rivals.

Dream matchup in danger

It is the obvious All-Star pitching matchup - Randy Johnson vs. Pedro Martinez - but don't get too excited. The way the Arizona Diamondbacks' starting rotation is set up, Johnson will pitch two days before the All-Star Game in Atlanta on July 11.

That doesn't make a Johnson-Martinez matchup impossible, but it might make it brief.

Johnson said the other day that he could pitch an inning on the second day after he is scheduled to face Oakland on July 9, but don't expect him or Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter to make any major pitching adjustments to accommodate the All-Star showcase. The National League West race is too tight to sacrifice even one Randy Johnson regular-season start.

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