This season’s Rangers were destined to struggle

Posted Saturday, Sep. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton Just when you think you’re out, they pull you back in.

Michael Corleone could easily have been talking about this season’s Texas Rangers.

In Godfather III, he was talking about family “business.” For manager Ron Washington and the Rangers, the script has been more like How the West Was Lost, Part II.

Sometime this week, maybe as soon as today, the Oakland Athletics will clinch their second consecutive AL West title. How they are doing it remains — to me, at least — a lingering head-scratcher. I refuse to believe it has anything to do with Moneyball or Josh Donaldson’s cockatoo haircut.

Whatever it is, the Rangers have been left to fight for the American League scraps. And the ride has been stomach-churning.

One day Elvis Andrus is bunting. The next day he’s hitting a game-turning home run.

One day Adam Rosales is with the A’s, then with the Rangers, then with the A’s. The next day he’s back here again, playing the role of Wash’s Swiss army knife.

One day Matt Garza can’t beat the White Sox. On Saturday night, he went eight innings and helped beat the Kansas City Royals 3-1.

Just when you think you’re out, the Rangers pull you back in.

Can they hold on? Should they even bother, given the October odds that await them?

Who’ll step up and be the heroes? Who will take the blame?

We should have seen this coming, of course. Instead, fans cackled and booed and bid Josh Hamilton goodbye. Some of us looked at the original contract that the Boston Red Sox gave Mike Napoli — three years, $39 million — and we wished him well.

Add Michael Young’s departure to the exodus, and the Rangers lineup suddenly had 1,704 plate appearances, 75 home runs and 251 runs batted in to replace.

“I like our team,” general manager Jon Daniels said, again and again, as he vainly attempted to plug the holes in the lineup.

Somebody — me, unfortunately — even wrote in this newspaper, “If Lance Berkman is healthy enough to run to first base — and occasionally to second — the Texas Rangers just paid their way back into the pennant race.”

But Berkman, at age 37, couldn’t stay healthy, as it turned out. Fat Elvis has left the building.

“I like our team,” Daniels said again.

I don’t, I’ve finally decided.

Too many streaky hitters. Too many undisciplined at-bats. Too many guys who can’t tell the difference between aggressive and reckless base running.

They were like that even before Nelson Cruz was suspended. We’re just noticing it more often now.

In a lot of ways, therefore, it’s a credit to Washington that the Rangers spent 95 days in first place this season. But to suggest that he did it in spite of GM Daniels is misconstruing the team effort that this year’s second-place finish was.

Over the Internet the other night I playfully asked for nominees for the role of Most Disappointing Ranger. Seven different players received votes, a damning result in itself.

Garza got a few votes. Other responders showed no sympathy for Berkman’s injuries. Ian Kinsler drew his customary legion of detractors.

But in a close vote for most disappointing, first baseman Mitch Moreland nudged out outfielder David Murphy.

Poor Murph. He is one of the finest people ever to put on a Rangers uniform, but he faces an uncertain baseball future after his struggles this season.

In a season of ups and downs — mostly downs — Moreland, 28, is also at a career crossroads. The Rangers simply must get more production from the first base position. Moreland, don’t forget, was the guy the organization chose to play first base over Napoli and Chris Davis.

There is still time, the Rangers will tell you, to salvage the season. This week’s homestand could end with a berth in the wild-card round, and then anything is possible.

Sure it is.

But I think I can see what’s coming.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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