One of the greatest perks of being a credentialed media member is sitting in Chris Woodward’s office for a pre-game interview. Access to the Rangers manager is something I never expected in such an intimate setting.
Imagine a guy sitting at has a desk with about 10 to 12 men or women hovering around asking questions. The mood is always friendly. Woodward is so polite and understands that this is part of the job. One of the questions is always about Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor and the poor season he is having. Woodward’s answers have always been in support of his second baseman while pointing out improvements that need to be addressed.
Things were a bit different today. Woody’s answers indicate that his patience is beginning to wear thin. Rougned Odor is playing for his job. Let’s break it down with the Q&A today.
Question: What is your disposition towards Rougned Odor and how are you going to use him the rest of the year? Do you have a plan or is it going to be day by day?
Woodward: “Day by day. I have liked what I have seen in the last couple of days, but he obviously has to show some improvement. The last couple of days have looked better to me, more consistent, but I need to see it every day, every pitch.”
Nothing really groundbreaking here. From the start of things, it looked like Woody was going to defend him as usual.
Question: What Happens if you don’t see it?
Woodward: “Then we gotta make some decisions. It’s just like everybody else, you gotta be productive in this game. We were willing to withstand some lack of production, but it’s the big leagues. I hate to say it, but you gotta be good to play every day. So as far as playing time goes, I still see him playing. But if it dips down, I wanna see some other guys as well. He’s not gonna play every single day, but he will play.”
This was the first sign that Woodward is getting impatient. He is basically saying that others are playing better and need to be looked at. Although this team is still about winning, Odor is taking at-bats from guys who need to be assessed.
Question: What about beyond this year?
Woodward: “Honestly, he has a month left to show us he can play on an everyday basis. Show he can handle the quality of the at-bat every single game.”
This may be the first indication I have heard that Odor isn’t guaranteed a spot on the 2020 roster. He isn’t saying that here, but he is saying that he won’t be penciled in every day as a starter if he isn’t helping this team. Woodward wants to win and that means playing the best players.
Question: How do you approach the contract?
Woodward: “That’s beyond my control. I can just decide whether I play him or not. Contract wise that’s not up to me.”
This is straight to the point. It doesn’t matter if Odor is on the team. Unless he is one of the best nine hitters, he isn’t in the lineup. That would mean unless he is moved or released, he could be relegated to the bench.
Question: So you have answered these questions on a number of occasions. It’s a recurring theme. You always answer that you like what you have seen recently. It seems like in between those questions there will be a dip in his play. Can you address that?
Woodward: “I wanna see consistency. Not just one good game then off. If you watch the best hitters in baseball, whether they go 0 for 4 or 4 for 4, they pressure every at-bat. That’s the challenge that every hitter has to have to be an everyday hitter. Especially in what we want to be, that’s a championship-caliber lineup. We can’t have dropped off. If you can’t do it every day, then I’ll match you up with guys I think you are best suited to face. That goes for everybody. That’s why Willie, whether he gets no hits or 4 hits, I want him there. Because his at-bat quality is phenomenal. Even when he doesn’t get hits, he’s still pressuring every at-bat. He has an idea of what he is looking for. He usually goes out and executes it better than anyone we have right now. That’s why he’s getting the opportunity day in and day out. He’s getting those at-bats.”
This might have been the most telling answer he gave. He has lost confidence in Odor at the plate. It isn’t about getting hits. It’s about putting pressure on the pitcher when at-bat. His example of Calhoun is proof. He feels like Willie is the best hitter on the team right now. Not because of production but because of his at-bats. He gets good looks and capitalizes on mistakes. That is what a good hitter does.
Expect to see Odor in the lineup in September. Not because he has earned it, but because he is auditioning for the job he has. If he gets hot, he will stay in the lineup. If he doesn’t he will sit. Odor has more pressure than anyone on the team right now. The Rangers are at a point where his contract isn’t the deciding factor. I have a prediction.
If he continues to struggle through September, then he will be traded or cut. Both would require the Rangers eating a lot of money. Make no mistake, that isn’t going to be a deterrent. The Rangers are looking more and more like they will cut bait with Odor if he doesn’t drastically improve. Even if he does improve there isn’t a guarantee. Texas may have lost all confidence. It sure seems Woody has.
It will be interesting to see what happens either way.
Featured Image: Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News