On July 28th the Rangers lost to Ubaldo Jimenez (of all people) and the Indians, 6-0, earning Cleveland a clean series sweep. It was the Rangers 8th loss in 10 post-All-Star-Break games, and 12th loss in 15 games overall, driving their overall record down to a mere 56-47. At that time, Texas was 6.0 games behind Oakland in the American League West, and fell to a mere 9 games above .500 for the first time since May 10th. Needless to say, it signaled the club’s lowest point in a year seemingly rank with low points.
Then, all of a sudden, everything was different. Over the next month (and change) Texas reeled off their most brilliant stretch of the season — which coincided with the softest portion of their schedule — stringing together 23 wins in 30 games, culminating in a Leonys Martin walk-off single against some guy on the Twins I’d never heard of. After the magic of that August 31st evening, the Rangers were 79-56, and at 23 games above .500 had reached the high-water mark of their year.
But, again, since this is baseball we’re talking about here, everything changed. Again. Since the final day of August the Rangers have lost 10 of 12 — including 5 in a row — and now their 81-66 record looks much less impressive than it would have on, say, July 28th, when the season appeared to be going to shit. Coming full circle, today Texas is 5.5 games behind the Athletics, almost identical to where they stood after being swept by the Indians — a team that is now chasing the Rangers for one of the two coveted Wild Card slots.
On Saturday afternoon Yu Darvish provided yet another outstanding pitching performance, but as we’ve come to expect, even the mastery of an ace can’t compensate for an offense that fails to offer him any run support. In 7.0 innings, Darvish — as we have come to expect — struck out 10 Athletic hitters, surrendered only 1 run on 4 hits, and allowed 1 free pass. It was basically Yu Darvish being Yu Darvish.
However, in 9 innings, the Rangers offense generated nothing to award his effort. And when I say nothing, I don’t mean they didn’t try or didn’t care, or whatever, I’m saying this shit is becoming completely goddamn ridiculous; it’s the 4th time in 2013 that Yu Darvish has lost a start 1-0. The 4th time. Only one Ranger pitcher in history has accumulated that many 1-0 losses in a career, and that was Fergy Jenkins, with 5. If the universe was fair and we decided to subtract a loss and add a win for every 1-0 defeat Darvish has experienced in 2013, his record right now would be 16-5 and he’d be a legitimate Cy Young Award candidate, and that’s without even mentioning all the other great starts he’s given with minimal run support. But let’s not get started on wins and losses, mmkay?
You keep being you, Yu.
* * * * * *
Last season I was entirely unprepared — I suppose “blindsided” is the right term? — for what happened at the end of September. While some fans clamored of the impending falling sky, I stuck to my guns (in denial perhaps), and chalked it up to the vagaries of baseball. What goes up must come down; luck evens out; one cold streak deserves a hot streak; everything will be fine.
Well, as we know in hindsight, everything wasn’t fine. Everything was terribly un-fine, in fact. The collapse happened so all of a sudden that there was no time (for me) to react until the season inevitably ended. It wasn’t until the Rangers lost to Baltimore in Game 163 that the gravity of the prior 3 weeks even sunk in; I was so deep in disbelief that I allowed my arrogance to get the best of me. It’s not the first time that’s happened, and certainly won’t be the last, but for someone who is shocked by so few things in life, I admit what happened last September indeed shocked me.
This year, right now, is not a shock. Not in the slightest.
I imagine it’s the type of feeling one gets when a close relative is dying of some terminal disease, or cancer. (For the record, I have been fortunate up to this point that no close family members have died, which is why I don’t want to sound too presumptive with this thought.)
What I mean is, I have mentally already prepared myself for the worst-case scenario with this Rangers team. As I sit here at 10:41 p.m. California time, I have made my peace with the thought that this club will not reach the postseason. Yes, they are still one of the two Wild Card teams, and no, I don’t think there are many teams in baseball I would pick right now to beat the Rangers in a 5- or 7-game series. I haven’t lost my confidence.
But in acknowledging as much, I also don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world to see them fail to reach the postseason. Actually, it would do the franchise a lot of good. I mean that.
If the Rangers make it into the one-game playoff, there’s roughly a 50% chance they would win; if they won, there would be a 35% (or so) chance they would defeat the Red Sox in the ALDS; if they won that, there would be an even better chance — moving into a 7-game series — that they’d win the ALCS, thus taking the club to their 3rd World Series appearance in 4 years.
And if all that happened, it would guarantee Ron Washington as the manager in 2014, and he would probably get a 2-year extension to boot. For the betterment of the franchise as it transitions into the future, that is a prospect I would be very sorry to accept.
As you know by now, or as you should know by now, Washington is a detriment to the Rangers. 2010 and 2011 were remarkable postseason runs, but it was the work of an astute front office, not the over-glorified tactics of their inept manager. Let’s make no mistake: Jon Daniels is the catalyst of the organization; the talent on the rosters he has delivered is unmistakable.
So, in short, or long, or however you want to classify it, missing the playoffs would do the Rangers a lot of good. As long as Jon Daniels remains at the helm of the organization, Texas is in good hands.