The Texas Rangers’ season came to an abrupt end on Friday night in Arlington when they faced off against the Baltimore Orioles in a ‘do-or-die’ AL Wildcard game. The Rangers 2012 season did die, but it was a slow death that started long before Friday night’s disaster of a game; it only became terminal when the Rangers couldn’t take care of the AL West in the last week of the season and then couldn’t beat the Oakland A’s in the last series of the season. The fans, media, and probably the players, are still in shock at how this season ended. Rangers fans are used to watching this team step up and win when they need to the most, but the Rangers just could not do it this year.
The Texas Rangers had an excellent start in the 2012 season; they went 50-29 in the first three months. The team was playing great, and it looked like they were primed to waltz into the World Series for a 3rd straight year. Then in July, many of the Rangers’ biggest stars were plagued by ‘slumps'; they went 9-14 as a result.
July was also the month when the Oakland A’s began their miraculous comeback to win the AL West. On July 1, the A’s were 37-42, which put them 13 games back of the AL West. The A’s defeated the Rangers on July 1st to begin their remarkable turnaround. The Texas Rangers had the best record in baseball after the All-Star break (49-25).
The Rangers just couldn’t finish the season. They repeatedly blew many opportunities to wrap up the West. They still had a great chance to win the West even in the last week of the season. The Rangers only needed to win one game in the last series of the season against the Oakland A’s to win the AL West. That didn’t happen; the Rangers lost 6 of their last 7 games, including getting swept by the A’s in the final series.
Even after all of that, the Texas Rangers still got to play a one game wildcard match to advance to the playoffs and make their terrible finish irrelevant. But, the Rangers wasted the opportunity for redemption and lost to the Baltimore Orioles (another Cinderella team in the AL that is very similar to the A’s).
Yu Darvish was on the mound against the Orioles, and he threw as well as I’ve seen him pitch in a Rangers uniform: he went 6.2 innings and surrendered just two runs while fighting through an injury. Darvish was pulled out of the game too early. Manager Ron Washington elected to hand the game over to the Rangers bullpen, despite their less than stellar performance recently. The Rangers bullpen then gave up two home runs, and the Rangers offense couldn’t score against Baltimore’s bullpen (a bullpen that still hasn’t lost a game this season when leading after 7 innings).
Over 46,000 fans showed up on Friday night to watch the Texas Rangers take on the Baltimore Orioles, only to be crushed by the stunning end to the Rangers season. The team will not be the same next season, but there won’t be wholesale changes either. Manager Ron Washington’s job is not in jeopardy, so there will be some continuity.
One thing is certain: Josh Hamilton, who was booed off the field Friday night, will not be a Ranger next season. The star, who went from hero to zero in the eyes of the fanbase, will surely receive a huge free agent contract. A Texas Rangers executive was quoted by Randy Galloway as saying that Josh Hamilton wouldn’t be back:
“not even if he wants to play here for free next season.”
Mike Napoli has the ability to be a free agent in the off-season, but has said he wants to return to the Rangers.
In general, the core of talent should be back in Arlington for another run next season. This Rangers team had every chance to make the playoffs and they didn’t, and that is how I will remember this season: consistent failure in nearly all aspects of their game to capitalize on opportunities. I am still confused by how the Rangers played this year. On August 31st , I was convinced that the AL West was still there for the Texas Rangers to take. One thing we do know, the end to Josh Hamilton’s Hollywood movie will probably not be a happy one.