Commentary

Rangers couldn't handle the truth

Sluggish bats, pitching among warning signs underachievers missed in collapse

Updated: October 7, 2012, 8:20 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington excused himself for a moment late Friday night to hug David Murphy.

[+] EnlargeIan Kinsler and Josh Hamilton
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesIan Kinsler and Josh Hamilton, shown embracing after Hamilton's last strikeout against Baltimore, embodied the arrogance that produced an underachieving Rangers season.
A couple of minutes after Washington returned to his office, he gave Matt Harrison a hug and a handshake. Then Washington phoned his wife.

After their conversation, Washington took a long drag on a Winston Classic while staring at his cluttered desk.

"I never saw this coming," Washington said of the Rangers' end-of-the-season collapse.

"I thought we'd play better, but we didn't. We stopped executing. We stopped moving runners over and scratching out runs, which is what you have to do against the good pitching in this division. We became one-dimensional."

We all saw the Rangers' superstar, Josh Hamilton, quit on the team when he left in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 18 to take a five-day hiatus before doctors determined drops would cure his dry eyes, a catalyst to his shameful performance the last two weeks of the regular season and in the wild-card playoff.

But that's not why the Rangers' season is already over after 93 wins. It's not why the Rangers are now synonymous with one of the biggest collapses in professional sports history.

And it's not why the greatest era in franchise history has been labeled a failure by most after the Rangers lost consecutive World Series and choked away a five-game division lead with nine games to play.

The Rangers' season is over because too many folks lied to themselves.

Nolan Ryan. Jon Daniels. Washington. Each of the 24 players -- no need to include Hamilton -- who cared whether the Rangers won or lost the last two weeks.

Washington I thought we'd play better, but we didn't. We stopped executing. We stopped moving runners over and scratching out runs, which is what you have to do against the good pitching in this division. We became one-dimensional.

-- Rangers manager Ron Washington
They kept telling us everything was going to be OK when the stagnant offense stopped producing runs. They told us not to worry when we couldn't trust Robbie Ross, Alexi Ogando or Mike Adams in the bullpen anymore for whatever reason.

And they implored us to relax whenever Derek Holland, Ryan Dempster and whoever not named Yu Darvish or Harrison turned in another sorry start.

Too many times to count, my dad has said, "I don't recommend it, but it's OK to lie to other folks if you absolutely must. But never, ever lie to yourself.

"When you're staring at yourself in the mirror, you always tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Anything else sets you up for failure."

While the Rangers lied to themselves, we all missed the warning signs.

Every one of them.

After all, we'd seen the resilient Rangers battle back from adversity too many times to count during the past two seasons. We'd seen them fend off the Los Angeles Angels multiple times this season, and no one really took the Oakland Athletics seriously.

The reality is the Rangers, who played in more games than any other club the past two seasons, seemed bored by the regular season's monotony. They craved the adrenaline rush that accompanied the postseason.

They became an underachieving, arrogant club.

Remember Ian Kinsler's petulant attitude after the Rangers rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Angels and salvage the final game of a three-game series?

"That's why we're the best team in the AL right now, up to this point. I hope y'all don't forget that," he said. "I've known we're the best team since April."

Pure arrogance.

By the time the Rangers went searching for the magic of the season's first two months, it was long gone. When the Rangers finally realized they were in trouble, it was too late.

The Athletics, playing the underdog's role and experiencing no pressure, swept the Rangers in the season's final series, forcing Texas into the wild-card game. The Orioles, using the same formula, ended the Rangers' season, 5-1.

The best manager in Rangers' history took another lengthy drag of the cigarette and exhaled.

He pulled out his lineup card and stared at it for nearly a minute, hoping it would magically provide answers for why this season ended so badly.

Washington and this embarrassed franchise must find the answer to those questions during the offseason -- and even if they don't like what they find they can't lie to themselves.

The Rangers must deal with the truth. It's the only way to move forward.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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