By Will Martin
Time and time again one tries to tell the youth of the world that when you avoid your past you are doomed to at some point repeat it.
Do not ask for an explanation. Rather, let this be a lesson in humility in which you never, ever take anything for granted when things are going well. Nor do you ease up on the pedal when the motion tells you to ponder hitting the cruise control button.
Entering this final week of the season the Texas Rangers were on the outside looking in for a wildcard spot. They failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four years and there will be enough finger pointing and blame to go around.
Already the bandwagoners have begun with the ‘how can this happen, we were just in a World Series two years ago? I did the trendy thing and for what? To not spend money in October? Back to the Cowboys for they’re my team anyway.’
Bandwagoners, you gotta love ‘em. They’re right there with you when the final out is recorded and the pennant is hoisted and they’re the first to go when the buffet tray goes empty. Damn phonies.
Think Josh Hamilton won’t be enjoying the last laugh for what he said about Texas not being a baseball town? As the Angels finished 2013 with a chance at a .500 record it certainly would make owner Artie Moreno happy if his team could have had a hand in keeping the Rangers from a playoff spot. If there is a bright side at least the team didn’t wait until the 162nd game to lose first place like last year. The 2013 Oakland Athletics fell behind, caught up and then just pulled away while never looking back. So this begs the question: Texas Rangers…What the hell happened?
Let’s begin with a nice case of road rage. The last couple of years the Rangers usually were good for a 50-win season at home along with whatever they did on the road. This will be the least amount of home wins for the Rangers since 2008.
“It has not been easy, but we put ourselves in this situation,” third baseman Adrian Beltre told mlb.com. “We have to win every game. It’s something we put ourselves in. We were in a better position three or four weeks ago, but it’s baseball. It’s a tough time. We’ve lost a lot of games and we have to find a way to get out of it ourselves.”
Even skipper Ron Washington was perplexed.
“I can’t put my finger on it,” he said. “I don’t know…the past four years, we have played extremely well there. That doesn’t mean in the last seven games we can’t get that back.”
Well Wash allow me to help fill in some blanks. In no particular order what happened to the 2013 Rangers’ came to be because:
1. WE GOT NO HITTING: For the first time in a long time, maybe ever, Texas had a plethora of pitching. The kind Washington wanted when arriving in Arlington seven years ago. The defense also was equal to the task. But if you take away all the wins against the A.L. West, you were merely a .500 team. There was some great pitching but no timely consistent hitting. One day they plate seven runs then score three over two games. That’s not a formula for winning.
2. INJURIES: It definitely decimated the ballclub from Neftali Feliz, Alexei Ogando, Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis, even the lefty Martin Perez. Even with all the boo boos the Rangers played quality baseball through the month of August.
3. WHOA NELLIE: Sorry, but if you want to lay the blame for this collapse on the feet of Nellie Cruz you are sadly mistaken. One bat does not speak for the other eight that have sleep-walked for the last six weeks. It was a nice seven-year run for the right fielder. Expect Nellie to go elsewhere in 2014, perhaps back to Milwaukee.
4. BELTRE: He was the team’s player of the month in July and August but has all but disappeared in September. Going 19 for 75, he’s homerless since Aug. 28, with a .280 slugging percentage compared to .670 and .577 in the preceding months.
5. DRY COUNTY: You have the most important six-game homestand of the year when the Pirates and A’s come to town and…at no time do you have a lead and…at no time do you hit a home run? THAT is a first since Texas left Washington in 1972!
5a. Starting pitching that gets no decisions for close to a month and for teams to now have figured out Yu Darvish…avoid the changeup he gets frustrated. Derek Holland despite no run support may be worthy of being called the team’s ace.
Let’s add a little simple arithmetic to this bad collapse. Michael Young (clubhouse leader) now back to the postseason with the Dodgers. His bat would have helped. Mike Napoli as a first baseman and DH did wonders as a Beantown acquisition. He too is playoff-bound. His numbers would have helped Texas win the West and handle the pitching.
Oh yes, Josh Hamilton…He’s right in that this month’s collapse once again makes Texas think football and not baseball. He isn’t playoff-bound but that’s okay. He found the Lord and all is well in his world.
Three players, two of whom weren’t wanted and one who was perceived as too injury prone only to have success elsewhere in the majors. Old-time Ranger fans will scratch their heads and now wonder how long it will take to get back to the World Series? Probably a while, make that a long while!
Will Ron Washington be back in 2014? My guess is probably not. Maybe an argument can be made that the team tuned out Wash or that the skipper’s hands were tied with what he had to work with. Dave Magadan the batting coach also will be shown the door I am sure.
In the mindset of ‘what have you done for me lately?’ the bandwagoners will now disappear and wait for the next big thing to happen and to jump on and roll on. Cypress Hill indeed was sage with that mindset in ‘Rock Superstar.’
There is one stat that truly is amazing. The Rangers are hitting .265 with a .410 slugging percentage at home. Both are the lowest in the 20-year history of the Ballpark. Former Ranger Mike Bacsik hit the nail on the head that the reason Texas has played better on the road is because there is no one to help take advantage of the Ballpark’s wind tunnel for power bombs.
Expect a busy off season for the front office of Jon Daniels and the Arlington brass. Expect quite a few changes for 2014. More than anything since they didn’t make the playoffs and fans will start to ask ‘what if?’ ponder who was your leader? Your heart? Your soul? Your warrior? Your non producer? Who overachieved? Who failed? Who and what needs to come here to shore up a better lineup?
Your minor league talent was gutted. There’s no October baseball, enjoy an offseason of discontent. One where despite the horrific finish this Rangers team did a lot to keep things interesting.