By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Ultimately, it was barely different with just a hint of special. It was closer to same ol', same ol'. Horrible starts, temporarily buoyed by winning baseball, only to crash into mediocrity. As usual, the Rangers found the condom in their wallet the morning after the one-night stand. The breadth of their quality play—as in '07—was too little, way too late.
Spark-plug outfielder David Murphy got hurt. All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler got hurt. Using a franchise-record 55 different players—including 12 rookies—finally took its toll, and Texas limped to the finish line ahead of only 12 of the sport's 30 teams.
Same as it ever was, baseball's best hitting (a Major League-record 375 doubles) couldn't compensate for the league's worst pitching (an inexplicable 23 bases-loaded walks) and atrocious fielding (a club-record 107 unearned runs).
By the time last Wednesday's curtain closer arrived—with 16 fans in the right-field upper deck, mind you—warm-and-fuzzy memories of Texas' four All-Stars (Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley, Young and Kinsler), Hamilton's Home Run Derby, Marlon Byrd's Grand Slam to beat the Yankees and the Rangers landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated were already dissolving into another chapter of familiar failure and another long, cold winter.
A losing record for the eighth time in nine years.
A combined 40 games behind division champion Anaheim the last two seasons.
A 400,000 decrease in attendance to a 20-year low.
And still, in the 37-year history of the franchise, just 14 winning seasons and exactly one playoff game victory.
Second place and four measly more wins than last season? Only the Texas Rangers could call this progress.
Said an almost giddy Washington after beating Oakland, "I think what the fans saw today is that it's about to happen."
Maybe. Hopefully. Who are we kidding?
Washington will be back next season. Daniels will be back next season. Hicks will be back next season. Journey—not destination—will be back next season.
Alas, like Albert and Rod, I have a feeling that this season also will be back next season.