Abrupt ending to 2012 season left Rangers wanting
Third straight World Series appearance denied in Wild Card playoff
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have reached a point where their success is measured by trips to the World Series.The Rangers went to the World Series in 2010 and '11, but they failed to make it three in a row in 2012. Instead, they lost to the Orioles in the inaugural one-game Wild Card playoff. They were in that one-game playoff because they had been swept in a three-game series by the Athletics to end the regular season. The Rangers won 93 games, but their end-of-year breakdown cost them the American League West title. So the Rangers look upon 2012 as an unsuccessful season, and that's something they'll have to address when they convene for Spring Training in 2013. "Well, I think you always have to refer to what was previous, because it wasn't successful," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "But it's nothing that we will harp on. It'll be something that we pass over. It'll be something that we will give every single person that will be in that clubhouse an opportunity to address, so once they address it, we've got to move forward into 2013. But it won't be anything that we'll harp on for a long period of time. It'll just be something that we'll talk about that can make us better. That's it."
Athletics general manager Billy Beane called the Rangers "the best team in baseball" for much of the season, and the Rangers did go into the final two weeks worrying more about securing the No. 1 seed in the playoffs than they did winning the division. Instead, everything blew up on them, and nobody really cares that they sent eight players to the All-Star Game.Two of those All-Stars are gone. So is the undisputed team leader in one of the most convulsive offseasons in Rangers history, and there is much uncertainty on where the Rangers are headed next. Five storylines stood out from the Rangers 2012 season: 1. The arrival of Yu Darvish
The Rangers won the rights to negotiate with Darvish by submitting a $51.7 million posting bid that was accepted by the Nippon Ham Fighters. Then they signed Darvish to a six-year, $56 million contract that was announced on Jan. 18. Darvish arrived in Spring Training to much fanfare and the media coverage was intense all season long. But Darvish's first season in the Majors was a success, as he went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 221 strikeouts in 29 starts and 191 innings. He was 5-1 with a 2.35 ERA in his last eight starts, before losing to the Orioles in the Wild Card game. 2. Moneytalk
With so many of their key players approaching free agency, there was an overwhelming amount of contract talk involving the Rangers, especially in Spring Training. All through the clubhouse, there were players with contract issues they were willing to discuss openly. In the end, the Rangers signed two players to long-term deals. Ian Kinsler, who could have been a free agent after the 2013 season, signed a five-year, $75 million extension, while Derek Holland received a five-year, $28.5 million deal. But more notable were who didn't sign extensions, and contract issues still remain. David Murphy and Nelson Cruz are among those who can be free agents after this upcoming season, while shortstop Elvis Andrus and pitcher Matt Harrison can leave after 2014. 3. The Fall of the Rotation
The Rangers went through the 2011 season with their entire rotation intact from start to finish. That was hardly the case in 2012, as injuries wreaked havoc throughout the entire season. Both Neftali Feliz and Colby Lewis suffered season-ending injuries. Feliz strained his elbow in May and did not pitch again. At the end of July, it was determined that Feliz needed Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and will not be back until August of this upcoming season. Lewis had flexor tendon surgery in July and won't be back until June. The Rangers also lost Holland and Alexi Ogando for considerable periods of time because of injuries, forcing them to bring up Justin Grimm and Martin Perez from the Minors, sign Roy Oswalt, bring Scott Feldman out of the bullpen and trade for Ryan Dempster. Only Darvish and Harrison remained strong from beginning to end. Oswalt did not provide the expected mid-season boost to the rotation and finished the season languishing unhappily in the bullpen. 4. The Hangover
The Rangers won 93 games, but there was still a question of how much the Rangers had left, both physically and mentally, after going to the World Series the two previous years. It appeared they ran out of gas in the final weeks of the season. Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli and Kinsler all seemed to be battling nagging injuries throughout the season. Beltre had an MVP-type season, but the other three saw their performance slip from previous seasons. Mitch Moreland missed significant time because of a pulled hamstring muscle. Josh Hamilton was tremendous for the first two months of the season, then seemed to struggle the rest of the way, although he still hit 43 home runs and drove in 128 runs. Michael Young struggled through perhaps his most difficult season offensively. 5. The Exodus
Hamilton left as a free agent and signed a five-year deal with the Angels. Napoli got three years from the Red Sox. Young was traded to the Phillies. The rotation lost Dempster and Oswalt to free agency. The bullpen lost Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe and Feldman. That's nine significant members of the team out the door, to go along with the fact that Feliz and Lewis won't be ready when the season starts. The Rangers have been talking about the possibility of giving some of their young players a chance, guys like Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin and Mike Olt. That possibility seems to grow stronger as the offseason progresses and the front door remains largely a one-way street.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.