The Kansas City Royals snapped a 29-year streak of regular season futility by making the playoffs this fall. After a Wild Card game for the ages, the Royals went on to sweep the Angels and Orioles to advance to the World Series. The Royals forced a seventh game against the Giants but ultimately lost the series, stranding Alex Gordon, the tying run, on third.
Between 2002 and 2013, ten franchises have made it to the World Series only to come up empty. Each installment of this column will look at one of those franchises to see what has happened in the seasons following their World Series loss. Today’s column features the Texas Rangers.
In early August 2010, a group led by Nolan Ryan bought the Texas Rangers from embattled Tom Hicks for $593 million in bankruptcy auction, beating out loquacious Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban. Two months later – and one season removed from testing positive for cocaine – manager Ron Washington would lead the team to its first division title in more than a decade.
Despite sitting out most of September with bruised ribs delivered by a left field wall that was decidedly less forgiving than his wife, Josh Hamilton led the majors with 8.7 WAR and was rewarded with the AL MVP. Washington had all the right moves that season, moving reliever and sometimes closer CJ Wilson to the rotation and promoting Neftali Feliz to the ninth-inning role. Wilson would log 204 innings while posting a 134 ERA+ while Feliz closed out 40 games and was named AL Rookie of the Year. General Manager Jon Daniels also dealt for ace left-hander Cliff Lee in late May. Lee would display pinpoint control, walking only 12 in 108.2 IP that season, although he would prove somewhat unlucky, posting a 3.98 ERA which was nearly a full run higher than his FIP.
Lee led the Rangers to victory in games one and five of the ALDS, allowing only two runs while striking out 21 over 16 innings. In Game 3 of the ALCS – a series the Rangers would go on to win in six games – Lee allowed only a pair of hits while posting 13 K over eight masterful shut out innings against the Yankees. However, he would falter in the first game of the World Series against the Giants, allowing seven runs over just 4.2 innings. Although he fared better in Game 5, the Giants clinched the series in what was be Lee’s final game as a Ranger.
That offseason, Lee returned as a free agent to the Phillies who had traded him to Seattle nearly a year to the day later. Daniels signed free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre who, after five mostly disappointing offensive seasons in Seattle, improved his stock in Boston while starring in the greatest series of GIFs the sports world has ever seen. Beltre continued to swing the bat well in Texas, posting an OPS+ greater than 130 in each of the next four seasons while playing his usual standout defense. Tales of Beltre’s curious phobia would follow him to Texas where he found himself paired on the left side of the infield with comic genius Elvis Andrus. Daniels also brought in Mike Napoli who absolutely crushed the ball that season, slugging 30 HR in only 113 games.
The retooled Rangers would return to the World Series in 2011, this time to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. Following this second consecutive World Series loss, the Ranges won the rights to negotiate with NPB phenom Yu Darvish. After posting $51.7 million to the Nippon-Ham Fighters, the Rangers signed Darvish to a 6/$60 million contract. To date, the right hander has exceeded expectations, striking out 680 batters through 545.1 IP, though his 2014 season was cut short with an elbow injury.
In the two offseasons following the Rangers second World Series loss, Daniels demonstrated considerable restraint, allowing both CJ Wilson (2012) and Josh Hamilton (2013) to walk away in free agency. Both would sign multi-year deals with the division-rival Angels, though neither signing has worked out particularly well for the Halos. The duo would also star in commercials for scented anti-fungal shampoo that appear with alarming frequency on MLB.tv over the years to follow. That restraint would end nearly as soon as the 2013 campaign began with an unnecessary contract extension for shortstop Andrus that locked the infielder up (figuratively) for eight years at $120 million.
The following offseason was no less eventful. Daniels traded away second baseman Ian Kinsler, who channeled his inner Michael Young and refused to change positions for incoming top prospect Jurickson Profar, who spent 2013 playing all over the diamond. The Tigers returned Prince Fielder along with $30 million to cover some of his hefty…contract. Daniels also signed Shin Soo Choo to a seven-year $130-million deal that will take him through 2020, a season in which he’ll turn 39.
The Rangers spent much of 2014 in turmoil. Amidst a season in which they were beset by a historic number of injuries, Nolan Ryan left after losing a power struggle with Jon Daniels, who usurped one of Ryan’s titles, President of Baseball Operations. Long-time manager Ron Washington also resigned late in the season amid speculation that he too clashed with Daniels, though he later cited infidelity to his wife as the reason for his departure. The Rangers finished with the third worst record in the MLB that season at 67-95. So far this offseason the Rangers have stood mostly pat (sorry Kyle and Kyuji) and will look their current stars to return to health and lead them back to the postseason.
All statistics from baseball-reference.com unless otherwise stated.Next post: The Lefty’s Notebook, Part I: All The Moves and Movers
Previous post: The 8 Jewish Players Who Shined the Brightest in Their Careers