Well, that was…interesting. That’s the about the only thing that can describe my feelings on the Texas Rangers’ season. A year that started out with a lot of promise, but one that saw the club miss the postseason for the first time in four years.
After an abysmal end to 2012, the Rangers were looking for a fresh start. Slugger Josh Hamilton, whose sloppy play down the stretch drew the ire of many Texas fans, signed with the division rival Angels over the off-season, freeing up GM Jon Daniels and the front office to sign other big free agents. Opting for a smaller fish, the Rangers signed brash backstop A.J. Pierzynski, shoring up a veteran presence on the field and in the lineup. They also made sure to keep their returning playmakers, signing hurler Matt Harrison and short stop Elvis Andrus to big contract extensions. It was a new look to a familiar team, one that would hopefully make a long run in the postseason.
However, baseball is a tricky game, and a lot can happen over 162 games. Harrison, an 18-game winner a year ago, was sidelined with an injury after just two starts, and Andrus found himself mired in a slump for most of the season. Pierzynski was able to fulfill his role quite well though, and the solid play of Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and Yu Darvish kept the Rangers in it for most of the season.
But when July rolled around, reports surfaced that All-Star Cruz had received performance enhancing drugs from the now dismantled Biogenesis Clinic in Miami. The slugger confessed to taking the PED’s in late 2011-early 2012, and was hit with a 50-game suspension by the league. Suddenly, the Rangers were without their top home run hitter and leading RBI man.
But credit Daniels for picking up outfielder Alex Rios off of waivers from the White Sox. He proved to be a valuable player down the stretch, and I don’t think the Rangers would have even gotten a whiff of the postseason if it weren’t for him. That being said, he’s no Nelson Cruz, and the scoreboard showed it. The Rangers were missing their biggest power threat and dropped 15 of their first 20 games in September.
It was the same song, different verse; a promising start, only to see the team deflate and collapse in the end. But, unlike last season’s squad, this year’s Rangers were determined not to repeat history, rolling on to seven straight wins at the end of the season (four of those courtesy of Josh Hamilton and the Angels) to force a one game tie-breaker with the Rays. They lost that one 5-2, but you can’t help but admire the fight at the end of the season. However, if the Rangers had just taken care of business earlier in the season, they wouldn’t have had to worry about losing it in the 163rd game.
The starting 2013 rotation was a tough-luck story as well. Yu Darvish would have made a case for the Cy Young if it were not for awful run support, a problem that undoubtedly would have been helped with Cruz’s bat. The same goes for Derek Holland. While the lefty had an up-and-down season, his performance warranted a much better record than 10-9.
I think the number of headhunters calling for Ron Washington to be burned at the stake has dwindled, but Rangers fans are still hurting from the let-down of another under-achieving season. Hopefully, they can find the right pieces in the off-season to win a World Series Championship in 2014.
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