By Mark Miller
Last year it was one strike. This year it was one win. Either way the Texas Rangers came up short of their overall goal to win a World Series.
While it was tough enough watching the team just miss winning the 2011 Fall Classic, seeing what happened to them the last 10 games of 2012 was harder to take. That’s how short of a time it required to tear down what they had spent the first 152 games building up.
When the Rangers beat the surprising Oakland Athletics at home Sept. 24, they seemed in great shape with a five game lead with nine games left to play. They also were the top team in the American League.
Because the Rangers had played so well for so long made losing eight of their final 10 contests puzzling. They had always prided themselves on their resiliency, their ability to bounce back when down. For some reason that trait failed them in the end.
Was it because of the fatigue manager Ron Washington and general manager Jon Daniel discussed in their closing news conference last week? Maybe. You can bet Washington will give his regulars more rest next year.
How about the absence of starting pitchers Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz, which put pressure on the No. 5 spot in the rotation to produce. Perhaps since Scott Feldman and Martin Perez struggled in that role.
But I think the following statistic may be the most telling. The team that always has put pressure on opponents with its running game managed just two stolen bases in those final 10 games and only seven in September and October, far below any other team in baseball. That meant too much relying on base hits and home runs.
Despite the final result, there were numerous bright spots:
ñ The team won 93 games, three less than last year’s record 96, and led the division for 178 days.
ñ Yu Darvish had a strong rookie season with a 16-9 regular season record and 3.90 earned run average and saved his best for September and October.
ñ Matt Harrison won 18 games, equaling a team record for left-handers, and a 3.29 ERA.
ñ Adrian Beltre had a most-valuable player-type year with a .321 batting average, 36 home runs and 102 runs batted in.
ñ Josh Hamilton mostly shined with a .285 average, 43 HRs and 128 RBI.
ñ Records were set for total attendance (3,460,280), sellouts (38) and crowds over 40,000 (59), proving baseball can succeed in Texas.
Make no mistake there will be major changes for 2013. Hamilton most likely has played his last game as a Ranger as someone will offer him far more than Texas rightfully should pay him. The same could be true for Mike Napoli and Mike Adams, also free agents.
Also likely gone is starting pitcher Ryan Dempster, whom the Rangers figured was a rental for the last two months and the playoffs. Feldman also will depart as the Rangers will not pay a $9.25 million option.
Closer Joe Nathan will be back but who sets up for him will depend on who Daniels signs in the off-season.
Besides dealing with the outgoing free agents, Daniels must find a better bench. This year’s reserves provided nothing, possibly one reason why Washington felt obligated to play his starters so much.
The good news is Oakland will not catch people by surprise like this year. The bad news is don’t count on the Los Angeles of Anaheim missing the playoffs again.
So the Rangers have many questions to answer this winter, which will make the coming months even more interesting than in the recent past.