How the West Was Lost (Hint: It Rhymes With "Suck")

Tom Hicks needs to fire Buck Showalter. Never gonna happen. Which is why the Rangers suck. OK, one reason.

Being the Texas Rangers and all, they never really had a chance. But by losing three consecutive games to the gawdawful Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Arlington's baseball team has officially given up even trying to win the now-unwinnable race in the American League West. The Rangers host the division-leading Oakland A's Friday through Sunday at Ameriquest Field. But what was supposed to be the most important series of the season is now just another trio of meaningless scrimmages taking us closer to September.

After winning three of four against the Detroit Tigers, baseball's best team, the Rangers imploded against one the league's worst squads. In three losses to Tampa Bay, the Rangers managed only nine runs on 34 strikeouts and 23 hits. Entering tonight's finale, Texas is a season-worst 7 � games out of first place. A weekend sweep of the A's went from necessity to irrelevancy.

For that, you can blame General Manager Jon Daniels for prematurely dumping pitcher Coco Cordero, who, since his trade to Milwaukee, has been flawless as a closer. You can blame trade-deadline acquisition Carlos Lee, a power hitter who has provided only two homers in 108 at-bats. You can always blame the heat. Or you can get to the real reason and blame manager Buck Showalter. Quick, when's the last time you saw Buck smile? In the dugout he's stoic and somber, arms always in the pockets of a jacket; he has the face of a man in the waiting room before a triple root canal. Taking a cue from their leader, the Rangers don't play with joy.

Hate Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen all you want, but his infectious enthusiasm spills onto the field. Buck is wound too tight, and for that he should be fired. A team led by Michael Young and Kevin Millwood should be better than 65-63. Just as important, they should be more fun to watch. It's no coincidence that, with Showalter suspended because of last week's bean-brawl incident with the Angels, the Rangers played some of their best, most relaxed baseball of the season without their manager last weekend in Detroit.

But the Buck won't stop here--not with delusional owner Tom Hicks having veto power. Hicks still believes Buck is one of baseball's five best managers. Heck, he still thinks former GM-turned-consultant John Hart is one of the five best personnel evaluators in the league. Hicks, sadly, is wrong. And the Rangers, not surprisingly, are done. --Richie Whitt

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky