Breaking Down the Texas Rangers' Offseason Plans in the Wake of Coming So Close
No matter how hard you try to find a scapegoat, the story of the 2011 World Series doesn't have a chapter about its version of Bill Buckner, nor should it. Buckner only dominates the narrative of the 1986 World Series because media and fans ripped out the other chapters.
Photos courtesy Texas Rangers No need to place all of the blame on Nellie. There are plenty of other folks at fault for losing the World Series.
With the Boston Red Sox just one out away from a World Series title in '86, reliever Calvin Schiraldi allowed three-straight singles. In three chances to get one out to end the series, he failed. And with the Red Sox leading 3-0 after five innings in Game 7, Schiraldi and his bullpen mates surrendered eight runs in the next three frames, including three in just one-third inning by Schiraldi. Even though he was the losing pitcher in both Games 6 and 7, his name is virtually unknown.
Bob Stanley took the mound in relief of Schiraldi in Game 6 with the Red Sox still one out away from victory. Stanley proceeded to throw a wild pitch, which scored the tying run and advanced Ray Knight to second base. After Knight took a big lead, shortstop Spike Owen sneaked in behind him. A good throw would have nailed Knight for the final out, but Stanley never looked at him. And, had Knight not been on second, it's unlikely he scores on Buckner's error. Yet no one knows Stanley's name either.
Nelson Cruz has shouldered most of the blame for misplaying a potential series-ending fly ball off the bat of David Freese that instead turned into a game-tying triple, but there's no shortage of explanations for the historic and heart-wrenching World Series loss by Your Texas Rangers.
Ron Washington's confusing managerial miscues. Michael Young's awful defense and lack of offensive production from the cleanup spot. Alexi Ogando doing his best Koji Uehara impersonation. Neftali Feliz allowing a double to Albert Pujols and walking Lance Berkman in Game 6. C.J. Wilson not pitching like an ace. Josh Hamilton straining his groin. The entire pitching staff allowing a record 41 walks.
Yup, there's plenty of blame to go around. Even Mike Napoli (errant throw to home plate in Game 3) and Derek Holland (homer allowed to Allen Craig in Game 6) weren't without their own gaffes.
In fact, the only argument I've heard so far that doesn't make sense is blaming the way home-field advantage is determined. Even if it hadn't been changed to the winner of the All-Star Game in 2003, the series would have still started and ended in St. Louis because the previous rule gave the advantage to the NL in odd-numbered years.
It's only been a couple days, but the focus of my frustration has been Wash. I'm not advocating firing the guy or declaring him the scapegoat by any means, but I have a feeling that I'll never forget Wash's decision to not start Holland in Game 7, his overconfidence in his starting pitchers and the skipper's refusal to change the lineup.
I also have a good feeling that the pain I've suffered as a Rangers fan won't subside until they win it all, but I'm much more confident of a return to the series this year than I was last year.
This team is poised to get better. How much better depends on what general manager Jon Daniels can accomplish this offseason with presumably a bit more dough to spend. This year's payroll jumped from around $65 million in 2010 to approximately $95 million. Only Wilson and a handful of others are free agents for Texas, while the rest of the free-agent class includes big names like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes. Co-owners Bob Simpson and Ray Davis haven't discussed specifically what the payroll will be next year, but Simpson has committed to another increase for the right player or players.
The Rangers made it as close as anyone has ever been to winning a championship without sealing the deal -- twice just one out away -- and that was with no true staff ace, poor defense at first base and a weak bench.
There's really no sense in reliving any more of this season, so let's take a detailed look at roster to see just how JD and his crew might go about making it to a third-consecutive Fall Classic.
Signing Nappy to a long-term deal should be the first item on the Rangers' to-do list.
Mike Napoli, C/1B
Age on Opening Day 2012: 30
2011 regular season stats: .320 BA-30 HR-75 RBI-1.046 OPS (369 AB)
2011 World Series stats: .350 BA-2 HR-10 RBI-1.164 OPS (20 AB)
Contract status: final year of arbitration (FA after '12 season)
2012 salary: TBD ($5.8 million in '11)
He's the best catcher in baseball right now, a crowd favorite and the team's MVP of the World Series. As I've said a couple times before, inking Nappy to a long-term deal should be the organization's top offseason priority as opposed to battling him in arbitration, which could pay him somewhere around $10 million.
Yorvit Torrealba, C
Age on Opening Day 2012: 33
2011 regular season stats: .273 BA-7 HR-37 RBI (419 AB)
2011 World Series stats: two singles in five at-bats
Contract status: final year of two-year deal (FA after '12 season)
2012 salary: $3.25 million
He's no longer needed in Arlington after the emergence of Napoli as the full-time backstop. With a reasonable one-year contract, Torrealba should be easy to trade.
Matt Treanor, C
Age on Opening Day 2012: 36
2011 regular season stats: .214 BA-3 HR-22 RBI (196 AB)
2011 World Series stats: did not play
Contract status: FA
2012 salary: TBD
There was no reason to put him on the World Series roster, and there's also no reason to re-sign him.
Taylor Teagarden, C
Age on Opening Day 2012: 28
2011 regular season stats: .285 BA-12 HR-22 RBI (151 AB) at Triple-A Round Rock
He's proven his worth as a backup, so Texas shouldn't be looking for one elsewhere if Torrealba is dealt.