There's been a lot of grousing about how the 2012 season ended for the Texas Rangers. The team that many thought was the best in baseball fell apart down the stretch, losing five of their last six regular season games while the A's won their final six in a row, and then falling to the Baltimore Orioles in the Wild Card Game.
But, as miserable as the final week of the year has been, it shouldn't take away from what a great run this team has had.
The Rangers won 93 games in 2012, the fourth-highest total in team history.
The Rangers won 96 games in 2011, the highest total in team history.
The Rangers won 90 games in 2010, tied for the fifth-highest total in team history.
The Rangers won 87 games in 2009, tied for the ninth-highest total in team history.
The Rangers have made the playoffs in three straight years for the first time in team history.
The Rangers, in 2010, won a playoff series for the first time in team history.
The 2010 and 2011 Rangers were both A.L. Championship teams, and both went to the World Series.
This is the first time in team history the Rangers have won 90 games or more in three straight seasons.
The only other teams with 90+ wins the last three years are Tampa and the Yankees.
This is the first time in team history the Rangers have won 87 games or more in four straight seasons.
There are some in the media who want to characterize the collapse down the stretch as "choking," as some sort of indictment of the team's character. There are some who suggest that some of the players on this team quit.
I am not in the clubhouse. I don't know these guys. I can't speak to this based on personal knowledge.
But what this looked like to me, over the last week-plus, was the grind of three straight long, grueling seasons catching up to this group of players. One of the things that has been talked about here, by me, by Jamey, by Joey, a lot this summer is the number of games this team has played the last few years, the workload the regulars were subjected to this year, the concern that this would be a team that could run out of gas before the season was up.
And that's what it looks like happened, to me. As David Murphy said after the Wild Card Game, this team simply ran out of gas.
There are parallels to the 2007 Dallas Mavericks, who were up 2-0 to the Miami Heat the season before in the Finals before losing, going balls to the wall through the following regular season, then seemingly having nothing left in reserve at season's end, resulting in a first round exit. As with that Mavericks team, the 2012 Rangers were more talented than the teams that knocked them out, but seemingly didn't have the energy left to finish the job.
The Rangers have had the same core for most of the past three years, and that's part of what makes this year's failure so disappointing, knowing that this group, the best group that the Rangers have ever assembled, aren't going to reach the top of the mountain together. Given the farm system, the major league talent, the front office, and the current ownership, the Rangers are in a position where they should be expected to make playoff appearances going forward, and could win it all in the next few years.
But if they do, it won't be with "this" team...there will be many of the same pieces, but we are likely looking at much more significant changes this offseason than there have been the previous couple of offseasons.
Regardless, though, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that this is the greatest run in Rangers' franchise history, and acknowledge that the 2010-12 Rangers are the greatest team in Rangers' franchise history.
We have had the privilege of watching Josh Hamilton, one of the transcendent talents of his generation, play during the peak of his career.
We have seen Elvis Andrus blossom into one of the top shortstops in the game.
We have gotten to watch Ian Kinsler, one of the best second basemen of his generation, during his peak years over this period.
We have had two years of Adrian Beltre, a potential Hall of Famer, one of the best defensive third basemen of all time, and one of the most entertaining players in baseball.
We had a half-season of Cliff Lee, one of the great pitchers of his generation.
We got to see Colby Lewis come back to where his career started and become the rock of the rotation.
We got to see C.J. Wilson, who was sometimes awesome, was sometimes maddening, but was always worth watching, and who put up, in 2011, one of the best seasons any Ranger starting pitcher has ever had.
We got to see Matt Harrison go from being a guy who looked like he'd never figure it out to a guy who has turned into one of the Rangers' most dependable starters.
We have gotten to see Yu Darvish for one season, and we will get to see him for at least another four seasons.
We have gotten to see Nelson Cruz go from a busted tools prospect, a who looked like a lottery ticket that the Rangers missed on, to a solid major league rightfielder and a guy who has had some of the most dominant postseason performances in MLB history.
We got to see Mike Napoli get discarded from our primary rival, and come to Texas to become an offensive force to be reckoned with.
We got to see the Alexi Ogando story take place before our eyes.
We got to see David Murphy go out there time and again and do David Murphy things.
We got to see Neftali Feliz freeze Alex Rodriguez with a wicked breaking ball to end the ALCS.
We got to see Bengie Molina hit for the cycle and homer off of A.J. Burnett, see Matt Treanor triple, see Derek Holland and Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis and Mike Adams and Koji Uehara and Endy Chavez and a whole host of others contribute to wins and create memories.
This has been a great time to be a Ranger fan. And nothing that has happened over the past week should take away from that.