Did I just say that? Have I ever said it before? Has anyone ever said it before? Shouldn't I know better than to make such a bold declaration? The petty, torturous baseball gods that consistently rain down a hail of bad news on Rangers fans will not be pleased about it. I don't care; I'm feeling too optimistic.
If a positive ruling or agreement comes down today - and indications are vaguely positive - look at the way the skies are clearing:
1. The team is in first place on June 22. In fact, it has a 3.5 game division lead, the largest in baseball, and has the best chance of making the playoffs of anyone in baseball at 81% (over 5% better than anyone else). The Angels appear to be playing over their heads just to hang that close and don't appear likely to spend big money to supplement their team this summer. The Mariners are out of the race, and the A's - victims of crippling pitching injuries - are fading fast.
2. With that positive ruling, the Rangers would suddenly have their personnel options open up. Their tiny budget and a little saved cash by new owners would combine to make the Rangers one of the most flexible and potentially financially aggressive teams in baseball in July and August.
3. I wouldn't say that it's been a dream season in terms of building up the trade chip inventory, but Jon Daniels has managed to maneuver the team to where it currently is without surrendering a single significant long term asset. One of the beauties of quality depth is that value can come from unexpected sources. Another, of course, is that you can trade some of your depth for short term gain and still have long term success. Dealing Martin Perez or Neftali Feliz would be a big blow to any team, but several other guys from non-elite tiers could be moved without the organization feeling much pain:
Elite Prospects - Tanner Scheppers, Martin Perez
Key Young MLBers - Justin Smoak, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Julio Borbon, Alexi Ogando, Max Ramirez, Matt Harrison (I'm going to avoid listing Feliz or Elvis Andrus since they're not going anywhere in any trade)
Second Chance Talents - Chris Davis, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Brandon Boggs, Taylor Teagarden, Brandon McCarthy
Upper Level Pitching Prospects - Daniel Gutierrez, Blake Beavan, Eric Hurley, Omar Beltre, Michael Kirkman, Pedro Strop, Guillermo Moscoso
A-ball Pitching Prospects - Michael Main, Wilmer Font, Robbie Ross, Robbie Erlin, Neil Ramirez, Joe Wieland, Matt Thompson
Position Prospects - Mitch Moreland, Engel Beltre, Miguel Velazquez
I know that perspective on how an organization you follow compares with others is difficult to achieve, but let me assure you that this is a whole lot of mid-to-high level young, cheap talent that provides this organization with more options than most have, particularly if there is money to pair with it.
4. Most key players are on the upswing. The biggest factor that the Rangers have going in their favor is that they have put together a talented team that is cheap and that will be under control for additional seasons. The one caveat was that several of those pieces entered this season as some degree of uncertainties. Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, Justin Smoak, Colby Lewis, CJ Wilson, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and Julio Borbon have all been either solid all season or improving quickly over the past month. There are holes, but those look to be only 2-3 key spots at this point, and, if filled emphatically, make for a scary roster. Hamilton, Cruz and Vlad Guerrero appear to be capable of being a legitimate playoff batting order core, the bullpen has a fearsome foursome of Feliz, Darren Oliver, Frank Francisco and Darren O'Day, and Lewis and Wilson look legit as front half starters.
Just as importantly, with a lot of the right people stepping up, this team would enter the offseason needing few things and possessing ample ammo to stage another serious run in 2011. If the budget reaches the level predicted by Chuck Greenberg, Daniels will finally see the payoff for compiling so many cheap, young players under such a limited budget.
5. As cheap as the organization has had to be in most areas, they were able to spend aggressively last summer internationally, handing out three seven-figure bonuses to young positional talents - Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas and Jorge Alfaro (signed in the winter). Those talents have all made their debuts in the last week. And if things in bankruptcy court go well, the stage could be set for another aggressive summer internationally. Signing season begins on July 2, and, despite their limitations, the Rangers have been rumored to be very active again this year.
Everything hinges on legal play, and that leaves butterflies in all Rangers fans' stomachs for at least a few more hours. But we could be close to gazing out on the most optimistic outlook this organization has ever had. Ever.