Boys of bummer: ‘What ifs’ plagued Rangers in disappointing season

The goal of transforming the Texas Rangers from offense-first to a team that wins with pitching and defense always came with an isn’t-that-cute chuckle, sort of like when a fourth-grader says he’s 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 hadn’t been suspended.

Manager Ron Washington didn’t 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 didn’t have enough firepower to reach their ultimate goal.

“We put a team together to pitch and play defense,” Washington said. “You’re always surprised when you have potential in your lineup and things just don’t click. We just weren’t consistent. There were certainly times when our offense looked as explosive as any offense out there, and there were times when it wasn’t.

“As a manager you love to see your lineup stay consistent throughout the year. I’m not talking about everyone in the lineup hitting at the same time, but usually when one part of the lineup isn’t 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 isn’t 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 couldn’t 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 didn’t have a player other than Adrian Beltre who could consistently change the game with one swing, and Beltre wasn’t the factor in September many expected him to be.

“There’s guys that had good years and there’s guys that had not so good years and there’s guys that had difficult years,” Washington said. “If everyone would’ve played to what their capabilities were, I don’t think we’re 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 won’t be back, as he is expected to retire, and Murphy isn’t 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. I’ve had a great 61/2 years here, I truly enjoyed it, and this is home. But just because it’s the easiest thing I don’t know if it’s 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 didn’t have him as a home run threat to cover up the offense’s blemishes.

“No doubt I want to be back,” Cruz said. “I’ve been here so long. At same time, I understand it’s a business, so we’ll see what happens. It’s 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 doesn’t 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 wasn’t for a lack of effort. Average-wise, he just wasn’t as consistent as he knows he’s capable of being.”

Washington wasn’t pointing any fingers Tuesday, the day after the Rangers’ season ended, and didn’t need to play the blame game. The offense had plenty of problems, and that’s what kept the 91-win Rangers from reaching their goals.

“You’ve got to score runs,” Washington said. “You’ve 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

Year Avg. RBI HR
2012 .304 61 15
2013 .220 45 13

Mitch Moreland

Year Avg. RBI HR
2012 .275 50 15
2013 .232 60 23

Lance Berkman

Year Avg. RBI HR
2011* .301 94 31
2013 .242 34 6

*Played in only 32 games in 2012

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