The season ended...ended too soon. Though 2010 and 2011 didn't end the way we wanted them to, there were two ALDS series wins over the Rays and epic ALCS wins over the Yankees and then Tigers that we can talk about. But when you finish winning 4 of your last 13 to stumble into a one-game Wild Card in which the only run scored is a first inning run-scoring double play...that's not a finale worth remembering.
Good side of ripping the band-aid off, is that it's over. No more 1-10 with RISP...no more 4th inning bullpen calls...no more pickoffs...no more infield pop flies...no more over-caffeinated fly balls...BUT...
...it also means no more Yu...no more Beltre hitting...Beltre fielding...Beltre, simply in general...no more Profar, Olt, Perez, Cohiba appearances in the Youth Infusion...no more Harrison blank stares...no more Nathan resurgence...no more Uehara High-Fives for the year. And that's exactly why I've gone through all three emotions of disappointed, sad, and frustrated.
Disappointed...The month of October will always be remembered as going 0-4 and against the A's and O's. 0-4 in October...that's mid-90s Texas Rangers, not the new version...not the team that has played in back-to-back World Series.
Sad...That I have to wait until March to again see Adrian Beltre field, hit, and continue to become the ON-THE-FIELD leader of this Rangers' franchise for the next four years. He is by far the team MVP and should finish at least third in the voting.
Frustrated...4 of the last 13, when 5 would have won the Division for a third straight year. Seriously...4 wins...4!!! And the only explanation that is given is from a manager who will never throw his players under the bus, saying that it's his fault. Giving you guys time...but I better hear some accountability from certain players as to failing down the stretch. An accountability that an Owner/CEO Nolan Ryan held himself too...An accountability that the GM Jon Daniels held himself too...An accountability that the Manager Ron Washington held himself too. I'm not asking, I'm expecting some accountability on the players' part...and doubt we receive any from one player. Instead we will need WebMD to translate his latest "reason." Funny that "reason" and "excuse" have the same number of letters and vowels in it...huh, just stating a passing fact.
Disappointed...In some veterans of this team taking steps backwards. This was supposed to be a big year for Derek Holland, especially after his Game 5 World Series performance, but instead we saw the inconsistencies yet again. Napoli's first half...Yorvit's entire 2012 season with the Rangers...Cruz's Home Runs becoming Doubles...Kinsler's extended cold streaks...and Summer Josh.
Sad...How Yu's season ended. He pitched very well in the Wild Card game, well enough to earn a win or at least a no decision, but the offense failed him in a complete 180-degree difference from his first Rangers' start back in April.
Frustrated...To be watching the 2012 Postseason and knowing for a fact that this 2012 Texas Rangers team can not only compete with every team out there, but can beat every team out there. It's painful to sit at home and watch these games, knowing that at times this season we could have dominated everyone. Not living up to that potential, it sucks!!!
I realize that going to the World Series three straight years is incredibly difficult, shoot doing it in back-to-back years is very hard. I respect that fact and love that the Rangers can forever say that they did in 2010 and 2011. But those years mean nothing towards the 2012 season, it's a new year, and the team's chances of doing it again were just as likely. But not when you win 4 of the last 14 games of the season...NO, that get's you into different record books, and you don't want to be in those.
The Rangers aren't done...this wasn't the end of an era...the window isn't closing. In fact, the argument can be made that getting knocked out now will actually help the team down the road. As painful as I don't want to embrace it now...since the sting of failure is still fresh. I do agree.
Washington addressed the "Lack of Hunger" issue with a very defensive response and complete denial. Stating that all his players were plenty hungry. The truth is that anyone who has watched the final two weeks knows that isn't true. The A's were hungry...The O's were hungry...The Tigers are very hungry...The Rangers were going through the motions.
I'm not condemning the team for this, it happens to everyone. At some point every team settles for where they are and what they can do. Thursday night, immediately after watching the Tigers shutout the A's, the Oakland players began to wave to a cheering crowd. OK...I get that they had an amazing year, and there is a time and a place to celebrate winning the division. But it's not moments after being shutout at home in the deciding game! Sorry, to me, that shows complacency...and if that is what Oakland wants...FINE!!! See you in 2013! Because it's not what Ryan wants...it's not what Daniels wants...it's not what Wash wants...it's not what the "CORE" of the Ranger players' wants...and as much as the DFW Fan Base can drive me up a wall, it's not what they want either.
Flags, Trophies, and Rings...not complacency!
But how do you get that hunger back? How do you re-kindle that fire? Three ways...
1) Youth Infusion: I love that at the end of the year press conference Wash actually used these same words, different context, but same words. The farm system is deep and a few years ago we talked about what they could do down the road, well we are AT THAT POINT! Let Mike Olt play, Let Leonys "Cohiba" Martin play, Let Martin Perez play, Let Justin Grimm play, and of course LET JURICKSON PROFAR PLAY!!!! Remember how infectious it was to have baby Elvis Andrus, baby Neftali Feliz, and baby Derek Holland become regulars...yeah we went to back-to-back World Series after that. Time to do it again! It's time to get younger, and unfortunately that means some veterans gone...but that is the business of baseball.
2) Bring in Hungry Vets: First it was Cliff Lee, Colby Lewis, Vladimir Guerrero, and Bengie Molina...then it was Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli, and Mike Adams...next it was Yu Darvish and Joe Nathan. Now who??? I won't go too much into this list, because we have a LONG offseason to discuss it, but you will see names on here like David Price, James Shields, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, and Dan Haren.
3) Keep the CORE intact: Beltre is around another four years, Holland and Kinsler got their extensions last year, Andrus and Harrison's extensions need to become priorities. I truly believe that success runs through veterans like these and bringing back other CORE players like Napoli, Adams, Uehara, and Lewis (already resigned).
The end of 2012 did not go as planned, but it is just a bump in the road for a MLB-Model Franchise. Daniels talked about getting back to doing things the way they used to be done, and I believe that strongly hints at my first point above...Youthful, Controllable Players.
The offseason has begun and this is always an exciting time to see what Daniels and his team of Super Friends pull off...in the past two years it has brought us Beltre, Napoli, Darvish, Adams, and Nathan...I shutter to think what would have happen if those guys are never Rangers.
Josh Hamilton: I teased that I promised to address this issue. I'm not going to comment on the season, I do agree with Nolan that it must be viewed as a whole, but I also think the finish must be strongly considered. Titles aren't won in April, and if your best players are never available come October, then in my opinion it's a complete waste of money.
The season, the back-to-back Player of the Month, the summer disappearing act, Tobacco-Gate, the resurgence, the caffeine, and then the final two week strikeouts...all that is for another day, a day when Hamilton and his 2013 team sign on a dotted line.
Until then...I don't think Hamilton will be signing a contract that has Daniels and Ryan at the table, but there's always a chance he could still be a Ranger. Josh is going to test free agency, he says he is going to give the Rangers the opportunity to match any offer (unlike CJ Wilson, I do believe that he will), but this all comes down to how aggressively the others go after him. If no team is willing to give Josh more than three years guaranteed, then his chances of resigning in Texas are about 75%, BUT if at least one team goes over the five-year guaranteed mark with at least $18MM a year, then I don't see any chance of Hamilton resigning in Texas...ok, maybe 2%.
Watch the market, don't listen to all the "talking heads," because it will be as simple as someone offering a ridiculous contract and after what Pujols got last year, the chances of it happening are high.
Does that mean it'll hurt Texas, NOPE!!! As a whole the Rangers got better after Cliff Lee signed elsewhere, I'll venture to guess it'll happen again. Daniels knows what he is doing, so don't react to one move...wait until the roster is set, he knows what he is doing.