One of the crueler inevitabilities of team sports is change.
Rosters change. The lineup changes. Inevitably, the clubhouse chemistry changes.
And thus, there the Texas Rangers found themselves Monday morning, drinking coffee and waiting for the team bus in their Toronto hotel lobby, saying their goodbyes almost as soon as they had realized what a special group they had become.
Manager Jeff Banister wasn’t trying to be trite Tuesday when he said, “It always ends abruptly for all but one team,” but he was right when he talked about the bond and the chemistry that the 2016 Rangers had forged.
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General manager Jon Daniels said he was reminded of that during Tuesday morning’s lobby scene.
Starting pitching, obviously. We’ve also got decisions in center field and first base that stand out.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, on the off-season grocery list
“This was a special group to be a part of,” Daniels said.
As the principal architect of that group, Daniels also knows as well as anybody that a season’s chemistry is next to impossible to recreate.
“Starting pitching, obviously,” Daniels said, addressing the off-season grocery list. “We’ve also got decisions in center field and first base that stand out.”
The club’s center fielder for most of the season, Ian Desmond, will be a free agent, as will Carlos Gomez and Carlos Beltran, outfielders who were both acquired during the season.
Banister likes Gomez, 30, who was an All-Star in Milwaukee when Banister was a coach with the Pirates.
“I loved the energy he brought,” Banister said. “This is a quality player, and we feel he will continue to be.”
Beltran, meanwhile, proved to be a veteran, solidifying example after being acquired in a trade with the New York Yankees.
“You have to look at the way the team dynamic changed from the day he and [Jonathan] Lucroy got here,” Daniels said. “He helped to stretch the lineup and was one of the guys with a different approach who could complement some of the more aggressive-minded hitters we had.
“I was very pleased with what he brought overall.”
As the Rangers allocate their resources for 2017, therefore, Beltran and Gomez figure to be primary in their front office discussions.
Beltran made it clear Tuesday that he would like to return to the Rangers for what would be his 20th major league season.
“I have really enjoyed my time here,” he said. “It was a good experience coming here and being a part of these guys.
“I would love to come back, but if it doesn’t happen, I understand the business part of baseball.”
Beltran’s last contract was a three-year, $45 million deal. When I asked him if he will have a similar contract in mind this time, he laughed and quietly noted, “I’m going to be 40 next year, so I don’t know.”
Our goal as a player is to try to win a World Series. But a lot of things have got to go right.
Rangers free agent-to-be Carlos Beltran
Beltran said he would like to continue to see some playing time in the outfield, but he understands that a designated hitter role may be in his immediate future.
He likes, though, the direction that he feels the Rangers are headed.
“This organization has a lot of future ahead of it,” he said. “We fell short, but this should continue to motivate everyone to work hard to try to accomplish their dream of winning the World Series.
“We never pictured the end to be the way it was. We just didn’t play like we did in the regular season. In a short series, teams get hot, teams get cold, and we got cold.
“It’s difficult. But this is what drives a player to continue to play this game. Our goal as a player is to try to win a World Series. But a lot of things have got to go right.”
In a clubhouse corner, the team’s other senior citizen, Adrian Beltre, was asked what the Rangers lacked as they begin putting the chemistry together for 2017.
“A ring,” Beltre answered.
It may be as simple as that.