The goal of transforming the Texas Rangers from offense-first to a team that wins with pitching and defense always came with an isnt-that-cute chuckle, sort of like when a fourth-grader says hes going to be the president when he grows up.
But the transformation of the Rangers took place this season, though it might not have been by design.
Their pitching staff posted the fourth-best ERA in the American League at 3.62, the best by a Rangers team since the 1983 club posted a 3.31 ERA. And the Rangers won, 91 times, and advanced past Game 162 for the fourth consecutive season.
In the end, though, they were left starving for offense and wondering what would have happened had they hit as well as they had hoped way back in spring training.
If David Murphy had matched his 2012 season. If Mitch Moreland had had his breakthrough season. If Lance Berkman had stayed healthy. If Nelson Cruz hadnt been suspended.
Manager Ron Washington didnt name names Tuesday as he looked back at a season that had ended only 12 hours earlier. But all of those ifs missed, and the Rangers didnt have enough firepower to reach their ultimate goal.
We put a team together to pitch and play defense, Washington said. Youre always surprised when you have potential in your lineup and things just dont click. We just werent consistent. There were certainly times when our offense looked as explosive as any offense out there, and there were times when it wasnt.
As a manager you love to see your lineup stay consistent throughout the year. Im not talking about everyone in the lineup hitting at the same time, but usually when one part of the lineup isnt hitting, another picks it up. It was just a weird year on our offensive side.
The Rangers endured three streaks of at least five straight losses and lost 10 of 11 during one stretch last month. Each time the offense was the No. 1 culprit.
Too many critics pointed to the Rangers aggressive running game, which led to 111 outs on the bases, as the No. 1 issue. Washington said that he isnt going to apologize for the Rangers style, and he said the running game was one way to try to overcome a sudden lack of power and an inability to consistently score runs.
Murphy and Moreland, who were being counted on to help replace the lost pop when Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli signed elsewhere, were around for all three skids. Murphy never clicked in what could very well be his final season with the Rangers, batting only .220 with 13 homers, and Moreland batted only .232 despite having his average peak at .298 on May 25.
Berkman was hardly a factor after May as his right knee couldnt remain healthy, and an issue with his left hip popped up and limited him to only four starts after the All-Star break.
Cruz, meanwhile, was the Rangers leader in homers and RBIs when he was suspended 50 games for using performance-enhancing drugs. The Rangers didnt have a player other than Adrian Beltre who could consistently change the game with one swing, and Beltre wasnt the factor in September many expected him to be.
Theres guys that had good years and theres guys that had not so good years and theres guys that had difficult years, Washington said. If everyone wouldve played to what their capabilities were, I dont think were sitting here talking about it.
The Rangers will discuss how they will move forward Wednesday during a staff meeting with general manager Jon Daniels, who is likely to address the media Thursday. The offense will be the main focus in the off-season.
Berkman wont be back, as he is expected to retire, and Murphy isnt expected to be retained as he tests free agency for the first time.
I have no idea what to expect, Murphy said. It would be the easiest thing to come back here. Ive had a great 61/2 years here, I truly enjoyed it, and this is home. But just because its the easiest thing I dont know if its the best opportunity for my family and me.
Cruz also is a free agent and could very well head elsewhere, though he has expressed a desire to return. His value could be measured by how much he was missed in September, when the Rangers didnt have him as a home run threat to cover up the offenses blemishes.
No doubt I want to be back, Cruz said. Ive been here so long. At same time, I understand its a business, so well see what happens. Its their call.
The Rangers are planning to look to upgrade from Moreland at first base. Their top target their could be Cuban free agent Jose Abreu, who is working out this week in the Dominican Republic for scouts. He doesnt have much speed, but he is thought to be a patient hitter with 30-homer potential.
Moreland had career-highs in homers (23) and RBIs (60), but he batted only .189 (50 for 264) in 89 games after coming off the disabled list June 21.
I think Mitch expected a tremendous amount more than what he gave, Washington said. It wasnt for a lack of effort. Average-wise, he just wasnt as consistent as he knows hes capable of being.
Washington wasnt pointing any fingers Tuesday, the day after the Rangers season ended, and didnt need to play the blame game. The offense had plenty of problems, and thats what kept the 91-win Rangers from reaching their goals.
Youve got to score runs, Washington said. Youve got to score runs.
Plan B blues
The Rangers were hoping these players would replace the offensive pop they lost with the departures of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young after the 2012 season (75 homers, 251 RBIs). But they failed to live up to expectations.David Murphy
*Played in only 32 games in 2012
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST
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