After holding first place for 176 consecutive days, nobody expected the Rangers’ post-season destiny to come down to one game.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Rangers fans gathered around their TV’s, praying for a miracle. (Or were forced to refresh their ESPN ScoreCenter app over and over in class like I was.)
But that miracle never came, and after five months of being unquestioned at the top of the AL-West, the Rangers fell to the Oakland Athletics. The devastating 12-5 loss cost Texas the division title for the first time in two years, and forced the team to rely on the wild card game for a chance in the playoffs.
Along with fellow Rangers fans, I have had a hard time watching Texas’ roller coaster season and anticipating their inevitable fallout. But in the midst of my sports-depression, I have come up with five main reasons I feel has caused the team with so many expectations to crumble right before our eyes.
1. Lack of timely hitting
In the past two years, the Rangers have always made big hits happen when they needed them. This year, they have struggled to drive necessary runs in, leaving countless players on base. They have several big-name sluggers, but not enough situational hitters when they need to finish the game or get a clutch hit.
2. Players battling nagging injuries
Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli have all spent time nursing injuries since the All Star break. Beltre is back in form, regardless of his injury, and has been the most consistent player on the team. Beltre has hit .321 with 36 homeruns and 102 RBI’s, but Napoli and Hamilton were slowed down significantly by their injuries.
3) Yu Darvish is the only feared pitcher
The Rangers pitchers have been extremely inconsistent all season, with the exception of Darvish. The rest of the starting rotation are pitchers that may not even make the playoff rosters of the other remaining teams. Colby Lewis suffered season-ending injuries along with Neftali Feliz when he had Tommy John surgery. Without the consistent support from the bullpen, the Rangers didn’t stand a chance definsively. And it certainly doesn’t help that Josh Hamilton drops easy pop-ups.
4) Josh Hamilton
Hamilton blew us all away the the beginning of the year, crushing homeruns out of the park left and right. He’s up to 43 total, following Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers with 44 for the season. There was a time where the conversation consisted of whether the Rangers could even afford to have him once his contract was up following the season. But we have also seen him at his lowest, going several games in a row unable to even get on base and dropping easy outs in centerfield. Now the question is whether the Rangers will think it’s even worth re-signing him or not. Nothing is more frustrating to the fans then watching a talented player like Hamilton completely crumble under pressure. His constant fight against addiction has made him a hero, but it has also had a much bigger impact on him than his biggest advocates would like to admit. While he is an outstanding athlete, his days as a player are numbered. He has been playing like he has something better to do. It is like he doesn’t even want to be there.
5. Ian Kinsler
Ian Kinsler is terrible on the road. Manager Ron Washington has even repeatedly stated he is aware of this in several interviews. But Kinsler’s numbers are shockingly bad for a leadoff hitter, falling to .220 for the year, .238 for his career, and only .184 in the last 10 games of the season. Not exactly leadoff material.
While this column may come across very harsh, I am still one of the biggest Rangers fans around. But I think I can speak for many other fans when I say there is nothing worse than dropped expectations.