March is a great month in Texas.
The average high temperature for the month is 73 degrees. That is perfect. The sun shines most days, and even the rain that we get serves such a purpose. It begins to green our grass, it brings buds and leaves to our trees and, best of all, it inspires wildflowers.
The other highlight of March is Spring Break. This week-long break from school and work takes many forms, but may I suggest this would be a great year to spend spring break in Arizona. Surprise, Arizona to be exact.
Surprise is the winter home of your Texas Rangers, who share a training complex with the Kansas City Royals. In fact, the complex is like a mirror image. Whereas the Rangers’ offices are just beyond the foul pole in right, the Royals’ are just beyond the foul pole in left. Whereas the Rangers’ practice fields are on the southwest side of the complex, the Royals’ are on the northeast. Whereas the Rangers fly the American League Pennant from 2010 and 2011, the Royals fly them from 2014 and 2015.
Of course, to make the mirror image complete, the Rangers will need to get a World Series banner to fly to like the one the Royals got last year and will hoist this spring.
As the Rangers begin the process of winning
the World Series this season, they will look in the mirror and see the Royals staring back at them. That is a good thing, because the Royals’ strength the last two years has become a strength for the Rangers, too. The Royals were able to shorten games the past two years with one of the best bullpens in the American League.
Kansas City came to believe that if it had a lead in the fifth inning, the bullpen would shut the door on the opponent. The Rangers have that kind of bullpen this year. It became a strength after the trade deadline last year when General Manager Jon Daniels acquired Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson to salvage a pen that had “no roles” just two months earlier.
More arms have been added in the off-season, including former closers Tom Wilhelmsen and Tony Barnette. Add them to the likes of Keone Kela and current closer Shawn Tolleson, and you have five-inning games waiting to happen. As they look in that mirror all spring long, the Rangers will see the World Champs staring back at them.
One difference they will notice is that Royals are great on defense. The Rangers must improve in that area, and second year manager Jeff Banister knows it. “The difference between them and us is that they handled the baseball better than we did last year,” Banister says. “We’ve got to focus on handling the baseball – not making errors.”
The Rangers made 31 more errors than the Royals in 2015. As he left for Arizona, bench coach Steve Buechele stopped by the Fox Sports Studios to chat on one of our Hot Stove editions of “Rangers Insider.” He said that, for him, “getting guys in better places to make plays defensively,” was a focus of spring training.
Each March, our community is transformed
by Mother Nature. And each March, our most famous summertime resident is transformed, too.
With a spring break trip to Arizona you can get an up-close-and-personal look at the buds that are forming on the tree that will become the 2016 Texas Rangers. The players will work hard for six weeks in Arizona. They will come back to town budding with excitement and brimming with confidence.
They will be built and bred for our long hot summer. They will approach it with joy and enthusiasm, and if all goes according to plan, this team will flower in October.
A World Series banner flapping in the Texas breeze is one of few things I can think of that would be as beautiful as a full field of bluebonnets.