Welcome to The Stew’s annual team elimination posts. Like our video-game posts of last year, these are best done in theme. This time? We’re going with “Game of Thrones.” Each eliminated team will join the “army of the dead.” But we won’t just talk about their demise. We’ll also highlight some positives, pick out a memorable moment, tell you their biggest need and let you know when the club might be good again.
Sorry, Texas Rangers, but you won’t sit on the Iron Throne this season.
The Rangers entered 2017 looking like contenders, and finished the season looking just good enough to not be rebuilders. That’s not exactly an enviable position to be in. Texas will miss the postseason for the first time since an injury-plagued 2014 season, and will finish with a losing season for the first time since 2008.
Still, it might be premature to panic. Sure, the Astros own the division right now. Sure, the Angels and Mariners looked competitive despite also missing the postseason. Sure, they’re down an ace after trading Yu Darvish. But the Rangers have bounced back from disappointing seasons before, and it’s not like everything was all bad. Just mostly not great.
Let’s take a deeper look at the year that was in Arlington:
UNBOWED, UNBENT, UNBROKEN (aka WHAT WENT RIGHT)
If only the Rangers played in the National League. They finished 14-6 in interleague play, which was the fourth best record in MLB. Beyond that though, these Rangers don’t have much to hang their hats on. Sure, they were able to hang around in the wild-card race, but the expectations were much higher than that. One clear positive was the presence of Adrian Beltre. The future Hall of Famer wasn’t healthy nearly enough this season, but he was as good as ever when on the field. Joey Gallo was fun to watch too. He’s an all-or-nothing slugger whose home runs were among the best wow moments in MLB this season. (Mark Townsend)
THE RED WEDDING (aka WHAT WENT WRONG)
On April 7, Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor hit a grand slam against Texas that brought at least one Rangers fan to tears. That pretty much set the tone for a season that always seemed destined to disappoint. The Rangers weren’t terrible, but they weren’t good either. They were average, which is disappointing for such a talented roster. They were dragged down to that level thanks to lousy seasons from several key players. Most notably, Rougned Odor struggled just to keep his average above .200. Whereas Mike Napoli will finish below .200. The bullpen was a problem too, even after letting Sam Dyson and his 10.80 ERA with four straight blown saves go in May. Though there were plenty of injuries mixed in too, those can’t be used as an excuse this season. (Townsend)
THE NORTH REMEMBERS (aka MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT)
In a disappointing season for the Rangers, at least we get to enjoy Adrian Beltre, one of the most entertaining players in the game. We often like his funny moments. He’s delightfully surly. And he sometimes hits homers off one knee.
But this year, there was one Beltre moment that was just regular ol’ great. He collected his 3,000 hit, putting him inside one of baseball’s elite clubs. If there’s justice, it’ll be mentioned on his Hall of Fame plaque one day. (Mike Oz)
WORDS ARE WIND (aka MOST IMPORTANT THING TO FIX)
It wasn’t one thing that did in the Rangers this year. But if you look at all the complaints, it’s clear that there’s one thing they can do to help next year be a little bit better: reinforce that bullpen. Sam Dyson was a disaster and was eventually designated for assignment. (When you have an ERA over 10, that tends to happen.) Tony Barnette was mediocre at best, and Jeremy Jeffress didn’t even make it to mediocre. They can make games a lot less messy — at the end, at least — by investing in at least one solid bullpen piece. Perhaps even two! And with Jake Diekman around for a full season after recovering from ulcerative colitis surgery, that should improve the Rangers bullpen considerably. (Liz Roscher)
A DREAM OF SPRING (aka HOPE FOR THE FUTURE)
For the most part, the youngsters are here. There’s some help in the minors, but the only top-100 prospect, outfielder Leody Taveras, is still years away from making an impact. The team should see more of Willie Calhoun, Ronald Guzman and Yohander Mendez next season. Calhoun can hit, he just doesn’t have a solid position. He could be fun to watch at the plate, though. That’s about it. The rest of the farm system is young. If the Rangers are hoping to contend in 2018, they’ll need continued improvement from guys like Joey Gallo and Nomar Mazara. (Chris Cwik)
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES
San Francisco Giants | Philadelphia Phillies | Cincinnati Reds | Chicago White Sox | New York Mets | San Diego Padres | Atlanta Braves | Detroit Tigers | Pittsburgh Pirates | Oakland Athletics | Miami Marlins | Toronto Blue Jays | Baltimore Orioles | Seattle Mariners
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