Let’s call the American League West for what it is, over. Pull out the white flag, hook it up, and raise it to the top of the flag pole and let it fly proudly.

That’s the note that I would write to the front office of both the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It’s time for these two teams to call it a season, pack it in, and start planning their off season capabilities.

So, let it be known, on this 10th day of August 2010, that the AL West was declared for the Texas Rangers (insert the sound of crickets here). Where is everybody? Where is the champagne, where is the celebration?

Oh wait, the fans here in Dallas are waiting for one of the most monumental collapses in sports. They’re waiting for the Rangers to fall on their face like they’ve done so many times before.

Let me soothe you Ranger fans. Let me put your fear at ease. The AL West is a wrap. At no time has a Texas Ranger team held an eight game lead two weeks into the month of August, the second to last month of the regular season.

This is not the team that has fallen in seasons past. These are not the same players that have quit on each other because they didn’t know how to handle a division lead, or a divisional race for that matter.

While the Ranger fans work their way out of hiding, I’ll talk to the other baseball fans whose teams wish they had an eight game lead in their division. They would love to be breathing a little easier at this point, just ask the fans of the White Sox and Twins who are in a dead heat in the AL Central. Ask the fans of those two teams if they wouldn’t love to have that kind of lead and be able to call their division, over.

The Rangers are doing all this despite Vladimir Guerrero hitting .232 after the All-Star break with just a single home run after hitting 11 prior to the break. During the first half of the season, Guerrero struck out just 30 times in 323 at bats.

So far, through just 82 at bats, he has almost half that number (13).

The first three months of his time with the Rangers, it looked as if they had gotten a diamond when all the Angels saw was a guy past his prime. He hit .333, .330, and .356 from April to June respectively. However, those numbers took a huge fall as Vlad hit just .210 in the month of July and had his second highest number of strikeouts (12) that same month.

Not only has Vlad struggled, but they’ve been without second baseman Ian Kinsler who was put on the disabled list on July 28th with a left groin strain.

One guy that they have been getting production from is outfielder Nelson Cruz. Prior to the All-Star break, Cruz was hitting .299 with 11 home runs and 41 runs batted in through 174 at bats. Since the break, Cruz is hitting .344 with four home runs and 20 runs batted in.

However, that’s not the most telling stat. Cruz had struck out 44 times in those 172 at bats but has just 15 in 90 at bats. If he keeps that up, he would have cut down on his strikeouts considerably.

The hottest Ranger of them all since the All-Star break, a guy who’s making one heck of a case for the American League’s Most Valuable Player award, is outfielder Josh Hamilton. While his numbers in the first half of the season were more than respectable, hitting .346 with 22 home runs and 64 runs batted in, his numbers post All-Star break have been nothing short of astounding. Hamilton is hitting .395 with a .457 on base percentage not to mention hitting .454 in June and .418 in July.

Two players can not carry this team, especially if they hope to make a serious run through the playoffs. Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz can’t carry this offense on their own.

Michael Young (.247), Elvis Andrus (.258), and Benjie Molina (.232) are all guys that they need to step up as the team reaches October, each of three haven’t exactly been impressive since the All-Star break.

However, it’s not the hitting that will make or break this team in the next two months, it’s their pitching. Rich Harden, just this past weekend, showed just how much the team can’t trust him as a starter down the stretch. His five walks and one hit batter through two and a third innings was not what manager Ron Washington was hoping to see.

The best move the Rangers made prior to the trade deadline all but guaranteed them a playoff spot. That move was landing left-hander Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners, a guy that most thought was about to be traded to the New York Yankees.

Since his arrival to the Rangers, Lee is 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA. While he’s going to be instrumental for this team over the last few months, his previous playoff experience will prove to be exactly what will help this team come October. There’s no substitute for having a guy anchoring your rotation that knows what it’s like to get to the World Series. Not only that, but he knows what it’s like to pitch in those games.

Outside of Lee, the Rangers have been getting big performances in their rotation from Tommy Hunter (9-1, 3.01) and C.J. Wilson (10-5, 3.30) not to mention Colby Lewis (9-8, 3.37). Aside from those four, when the starters can turn the ball over to their bullpen and not worry about a lead getting squandered, it helps their confidence that much more. Darren Oliver (2.33), Darren O’Day (1.18), and Alexi Ogando (1.19) have been nothing short of solid when they get the ball in the late innings. Though Oliver has struggled of late, giving up six earned runs in his last five appearances (4 1/3 IP).

What every team needs is a guy that can come in to the game in the ninth and shut the door. The Rangers have that guy in young right-handed flame thrower Neftali Feliz who has racked up 29 saves this season and has blown just two save opportunities all year.

So, for all you Ranger fans who are afraid to come out of the woodwork and believe that this team has it wrapped up, you can come out of hiding and wear your Ranger colors proudly. Sure the Cowboys are almost a month away from kicking off, but there’s another team in Arlington that might have their best shot at a championship this year.

Doubt all you want, question if you must, but admit that this is not the same team or the same players that have let the fans down in the past. This is a team that is gearing up for October.

So, as Brian Dalgin says so well…Let’s go!

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