In April 2012, the Rangers seemed to have put all that behind them…as they took out of the gate as Team on a Mission…6 ½ games in first place with a record 17 and 6. At the end of May the entire MLB community wanted to crown Hamilton as a TRIPLE CROWN WINNER! People in the “BASEBALL KNOW’ were categorizing this team as the best in baseball…and some even said a top team in “history.”
The season carried on…the Rangers win/loss ratio came back to earth. But through all that…something had changed. The team’s at bats seemed to be “sub quality” at bats. They didn’t work the pitchers count…there seemed to be no patience at that plate…just get up and try to hit the first pitch out of the yard. Josh seemed to be the ring leader of the group. There was no grinding out runs…stealing aggressively waned. The end of season attempted steals show as much…50 less attempt at stealing as last year. By September the team looked like that they were not having fun…the at bats continued to degenerate….the pitching was hit and miss. There were injuries to the pitching staff that kept the rotation in flux. The Texas Rangers were going through the motions….with no emotion.
Then…midway through September, Josh had health issues…flew home…ran test…and we were told that he had drank to many “Red Bulls” and it dried out his cornea. He returned to the team….and yet there was still no fire with this team. That was it…no fire…the Rangers seemed wound tighter than a tick. For the past two years it was evident…and we were told that this team had that rare and awesome locker room chemistry. IT WAS GONE. And WHY??? Was it because we weren’t winning…was it something to do with Josh…his free agency…and his seemingly apathetic attitude.I have heard all my life in athletics that it is hard to beat a mediocre team two times in a row…and nearly impossible to be a good team two straight. Yet in the last series of the season, the Oakland A’s beat what some baseball insiders deemed as the best team in baseball…THREE…3…..III….straight times. All the Rangers had to do to win the division was win ONE….1…..I….game. Worse….the Ranger hitting problems continued…and after Josh missed a routine fly ball and looked apathetic in chasing it down, the fire begin to build about him, his free agency and the club house. I thought that Josh could not have looked more relieved when the “Play In Wild Card Game” was over.
Post mortem has continued. We learned very little from the end of the year press conference with JD, Wash…and Nolan. Some want to blame Wash for over playing his players…much of this team is over 30…the number where physical decline commences…did we not rest our players enough…has the Team’s two post season runs taken its toll. I don’t think so….I have never heard of the Yankees complain about how going to all those World Series just wore them out.The mind is a strange thing. The fragile Psyche…we herald the MLB players as super human…but they are not…they are human. As the team closed the season out…did they reflect back to the pressure of the post season…the memories of coming within one strike away to only choke away a Championship? Was the scab ripped off of the fresh wound of failing on the biggest stage…and the pressure of the lime light causing the team to pucker up…did they subliminally psychologically sabotage themselves? Who knows…but it is as good as an explanation as anything else. I know one thing…Once you have the sweet taste of the celebratory post season champagne, the beer being sipped on the couch is not near what it once was.