-- Rudy J., Oklahoma City
What people have totally overlooked is the physical and mental grind that the Rangers have gone through going to two straight playoffs. You're talking about two grueling seasons that lasted seven months, and the effects are being felt this season by a number of players.
You can see what has happened with Mike Napoli, but Adrian Beltre was asked last week if he felt as good as he did last September when he was the American League Player of the Month. Beltre flat-out said no.
Kinsler has been dealing with a sprained ankle for the past two years that has never felt right, and Nelson Cruz still deals with hamstring and quad issues on a daily basis, although they haven't forced him out of the lineup. You can also see what has happened to the pitching staff.
All of this is part of what manager Ron Washington was referring to last week when he called this the Rangers' "toughest season." The Phillies appear to be a team that was physically beaten down the past few years after their extended postseason runs.
Kinsler has been outstanding in the playoffs in the past two years. The test will be if he and his teammates will be ready to raise the level of their game when that time comes. But it is also true that the division is not yet won. Far from it.
Cruz has struck out nearly as many times as he has hit the ball. His fielding is average at best. Isn't it time to make a change?
-- Ray W., Brady, Texas
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You can analyze every player from Michael Young on down, but it's too late to be making major changes at this point. The Rangers pretty much have the team they are going to take into the postseason. Now you roll the dice and see if they are good enough to get back to the World Series and win it.
What are the chances of Ryan Dempster signing with Texas next year?
-- Giles S., Lufkin, Texas
Certainly both sides would be open to it and certainly the Rangers will have a need for it. Right now, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Yu Darvish are the only locks for the rotation, since Neftali Feliz won't be ready until midseason. What the Rangers really need to do is get Alexi Ogando back into the rotation next season and keep him there. That should be their first priority as far as the rotation.
It seems to me that Juan Gonzalez was an RBI machine. I was wondering how comparable Josh Hamilton is to Juan's production in that department.
-- Jason U., Cleburne, Texas
Gonzalez averaged 135 RBIs per 162 games played during his career. Hamilton is averaging 122 RBIs per 162 games. As far as their time in Texas, Gonzalez is the Rangers' all-time leader with one RBI every 4.61 at-bats. Hamilton is third with an RBI every 4.96 at-bats. Alex Rodriguez had one every 4.72 at-bats.
Why would the Rangers not "kick the tires" on the possibility of a trade with Minnesota for Joe Mauer? He is locked up for a period of time (at a ton of cash), but it seems that he would solidify the catching position for a number of years.
-- Don H., Ennis, Texas
Mauer, 29, is signed for six more years for $23 million annually. Right now, the Twins are splitting him evenly between catcher and either first base or DH. It's unlikely that Mauer will solidify anybody's catching situation for much longer. He is an excellent hitter with high average and high on-base percentages, but his slugging percentage has been higher than .470 just twice in the past eight years, even when the Twins were in the hitter-friendly Metrodome. Huge contracts to physically limited players in the second half of their careers is how teams get into deep trouble.
If the Rangers do not re-sign Hamilton, what do you think of Kinsler as a fast center fielder with a great arm, opening a spot at second for Jurickson Profar to try and make the team next year?
-- Doug H., Farmers Branch, Texas
Whether or not the Rangers re-sign Hamilton, it seems inevitable that they will find a way to get Profar into their lineup next season. It could be by moving Kinsler to the outfield or moving somebody else in a trade. By the way, count me out on any rumored Elvis Andrus for Arizona outfielder Justin Upton deal. But the Rangers will put their creative heads together this offseason and try to figure out a way to get Profar in the lineup.
Why does Washington insist on using Scott Feldman? With our bullpen, why not start Ogando and put Feldman back in a relief role?
-- Ken G., Bossier City, La.
Feldman deserved to win a spot in the rotation by winning six straight starts. Since then, he is winless in his past six starts, although he hasn't been getting clobbered. But at this point, the Rangers gain nothing by shoving Ogando back into the rotation this season. Remember, they will likely need just four starters in the playoffs -- Holland, Harrison, Darvish, Dempster -- and they want Ogando and Feldman to be a part of a dominating bullpen.
With all the offensive talent on the Rangers, a surprise for me this year has been the number of times they have left the bases loaded. Can you tell us the total number of times the bases have been loaded with no runs scored this year?
-- Pearl P., Hideaway, Texas
Last year, the Rangers batted .316 with the bases loaded, fourth-highest in the league. This year, they are hitting .290 (36-for-124) in those situations, seventh best in the league. In other words, they are in the middle of the pack.
Are the Rangers going to re-sign Steve Busby for TV next year to go along with Tom Grieve?
-- Walter D., Justin, Texas
Dave Barnett took a leave of absence in June for the rest of the season to deal with a personal situation and Busby moved over from radio to fill in for him. The Rangers, out of respect for Barnett, have made no comment about the future of their broadcast situation and likely won't until the appropriate point in the offseason. It would seem that Busby will be involved in some manner next season, but that is still to be determined.
Average number of baseballs used in a game? 10 dozen? 20 dozen?
-- Bob V., Arlington
The Rangers use nine to 12 dozen baseballs per game, which probably comes out to one baseball per three to five pitches. That's an incredibly short lifespan for a product that takes 15 minutes to be sewn together by hand. Baseballs cannot be made by machine, they have to be sewn together by hand.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less