The American League West played .531 ball this season, .529 when
you limit it to the Rangers’ competition.
The American League Central played .470 ball this season, .455
when you limit it to the four teams that will spend the post-season at home
after Tuesday’s Game 163 between Detroit and Minnesota.
And yet, despite that, through 162:
Texas, despite a sluggish finish, ends up with the fourth-best
record in a league that sends four teams to the playoffs.
That’s not an excuse. The
alignment is what it is, the weighted schedule is what it is, and the Rangers
didn’t do enough to play more than 162 games.
From the most basic measure, 2009 fell short of being a success. There are lots of reasons to feel good about
this second-place divisional finish and second-place Wild Card finish, but at
the same time there’s a lengthy list of places where this thing can realistically
improve, starting with about four or five key players who are better than what
they gave the Rangers in 2009.
Another area that can get better, and needs to, is dealing with
the schedule’s red zone. With three
weeks to go, Texas was six games out in the division and four back in the Wild
Card chase. Minnesota was 5.5 and 13.5
back. After that point, the Rangers went
7-14. At the same time, the Twins went
16-5 over their final 21 games. The
Tigers, whom Minnesota caught to force a one-game playoff, went 11-10. The three secure AL playoff teams, Los
Angeles and New York and Boston, each went 12-9.
Texas simply has to close better, and the experience that so many vital
young players gained, not only getting acclimated to the big leagues in 2009,
but also contributing in a season that had something on the line every night
until the final week or two, should help the club handle September better going
One hundred thirty-four days until pitchers and catchers
report. There are a couple huge off-season
issues to resolve before that time, but regardless of how those shake out,
there will be a healthy percentage of writers nationally who will predict this spring
that, one year from now, Texas, having played more consistently, will be among
the eight teams still standing.
The great thing about 2009 is that, unlike 2004, this was a team
that made some noise in the standings despite a number of flaws and disappointments,
as opposed to fluking its way to a strong finish. After 2004, the message drilled into the fan
base by a front office that expected a step backward going into the following
season was one of “managed expectations.”
Going into 2010, on the other hand, the Rangers’ players and coaching
staff and front office have simply earned heightened expectations. They, and we, wouldn’t want it any other way.
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(c) Jamey Newberg