You don't have to look far to see why Texas is making a serious run at playing meaningful September games this season.
Not only are the Rangers pitching better (seventh in the American League with a 4.21 ERA after ranking last in the majors at 5.37 in 2008), their defense also is significantly improved (the Rangers' .984 fielding percentage is tied for sixth in the AL after ranking as the worst in the AL in both 2007 and 2008).
Andrus has started 91 games, most of any rookie in the majors, and has a .970 fielding percentage. He's committed just two errors over his past 30 games and leads all major-league shortstops in chances-per-nine-innings (5.27) and putouts (181).
The youngest position player on an opening-day roster (20 years, 223 days old) and second-youngest overall (Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello was a few days younger), Andrus also is 20-for-22 in steal attempts and has become only the 10th player in history to have a 20-steal season at the age of 20.
"The talent was obvious," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels says. "Our guys throughout the system really did a nice job. His makeup, knowing who Elvis was and whether he would be able to handle it."
Who knows what the future holds, but it's difficult to imagine a rookie's transition going more seamlessly than that of Andrus (once Young accepted the transition, of course, after his initial trade request last winter).
Toward the end of spring training, a Rangers' staff member put his arm around Daniels and said, "Well, we did it."
"Did what?" Daniels asked.
"We got through spring training with never a question about should we send him back down, should we move Michael Young back to shortstop," the staffer said.
Perhaps more importantly, five months into the 2009 season, there still are no questions.
Likes: We've reached that time of the season where the games are beginning to pick up meaning, and Texas' run will become very interesting over the next few weeks. After three with the Indians this week to complete their current trip to Oakland, Anaheim and Cleveland, the Rangers go home to host Boston -- whome they're battling for the AL Wild-Card lead -- and Minnesota, then they face a killer trip to Tampa Bay, the Yankees and Minnesota. If they're still standing after that, the Rangers will face their most interesting September in years. ... Reading coverage of the 40th anniversaries of Woodstock and of the Beatles shooting their famous Abbey Road album cover photo. ... Warm summer nights. ... Watching the Yankees-Red Sox 15-inning game the other night. Riveting. But 3 hours and 17 minutes to play a scoreless nine innings? ... This new Awful Umpiring web site sure looks like a winner.
Dislikes: Far too many back to school ads. I mean, I'm thrilled that doesn't include me, but come on. Here in the digital age, with all of the technological advances, can't we figure out a way to make summer last 12 months?
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
" It's not very far from Sulphur to Sugarcane
"Everywhere I travel the pretty girls call my name
"I give them a squeeze and they shoot me a wink
"I buy their hard-headed husbands a long cool drink"
-- Elvis Costello, Sulpher to Sugarcane