It can be tough saying goodbye to what you love. There’s a moment of realization that comes some time after the end where it sets in that, “it’s not coming back.” The “it” can be as mundane as the last beer in the fridge or as monumental as the series finale of Breaking Bad. Or it can be as underwhelming as the end of the Texas Rangers’ season.
Monday night’s performance to quietly bow out of the regular season one game after most other teams already had was a stark reminder that the same song was being played for the second year in the row.
Once again, the Rangers squandered a playoff spot with terrible September and are firmly entrenched with the Cowboys for the “almost-maybe” classification of team. These are good teams and nothing more at this point.
It’s hard to be too heartbroken about the Rangers right now. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see this coming. That’s in no way boasting—the Rangers’ September was so abysmal that a seven-game winning streak against the Astros and Angels to close the month still only made the team 12-16 in September.
A lackluster 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay in game 163 made sure that the Rangers didn’t even make it to the Wild Card round, which at least lets you claim you made the playoffs.
Instead, David Price, he of the 10.26 ERA in his last four starts in Arlington, held the Rangers to two runs over a complete game while picking off two runners and finding a favorable strike zone from umpire Jeff Kellogg.
In truth, this was a team that over-performed for a good part of the season while covering for injuries with inexperience all over the field before crashing back down to earth in spectacular fashion. It seems worse because they flew so close to the sun.
Perhaps most disheartening is that the two teams both produced seven hits, but the Rays capitalized when they had the opportunity, to say nothing of the run they were robbed of on a Leonys Martin trap that was wrongly called the last out of the inning.
It’s important to note that the Rangers weren’t a great team this year. This was a team that let go of two major bats in Napoli and Hamilton, only to see Nelson Cruz get suspended for the last third of the season. Four rookies, including Martin Perez, Justin Grimm and Nick Tepesch, started games because veterans like Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis either never played this season or barely did.
In truth, this was a team that over-performed for a good part of the season while covering for injuries with inexperience all over the field before crashing back down to earth in spectacular fashion. It seems worse because they flew so close to the sun, but the Rangers showed once again that they are not designed to compete for the World Series with the current make-up.
That part is a little heartbreaking. It’s hard to say what the missing piece is. Maybe it was all there, just waiting on the periphery as Harrison and Lewis hope to return to form next year. Maybe if Cruz doesn’t get suspended his bat provides enough power to lift the offense. Maybe this is a painful growth spurt as younger players gain experience for a run next year.
Of course, that all sounds a lot like the kind of excuses Cowboys apologists—including me—have offered up the past few seasons. And even if this team was only missing a few pieces, the idea is that it’s a few pieces short of winning a World Series, not winning a play-in game for the play-in game.
General Manager Jon Daniels has already said that Ron Washington would be back next year to manage the team. There’s certainly an argument that the Rangers might be better off pursuing a new leader based off the last game of the season.
The simple problem is that if the Rangers had managed just one more win somewhere during their 5-16 September start, they’d have avoided this situation.
Maybe that does sit on Wash to get the troops ready, but at a certain point the players have to swing the bat and catch the ball and poor performances are not the sole domain of the manager.
And so the season is over, an ignominious finish that can only cause fans to wonder what the offseason will look like after another season with diminished returns for a team that fans expect to compete for a World Series every year.
It was a depressing, lifeless loss, but the Rangers have shown they’re pretty good at ending their seasons with that kind of performance after the last two years.