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The Hunt for Dead October

The Rangers will probaby finish the season below .500. For that, you have these two men to thank, among many. And, no, that's Jon Daniels at left, not Tom Hicks' bat boy.

Alas, another fall without baseball has arrived in the metroplex. I took a masochistic field trip to the Texas Rangers' home finale Sunday and, indeed, found lots of self-inflicted pain. The Rangers, who were actually tied atop the American League West division at the All-Star break, lost to the Cleveland Indians to finish 39-42 in their own damned ballpark this season. For a team that entered the season with playoff expectations and led the division through mid-July, the likely sub-.500 finish is embarrassing. And, unfortunately, not at all surprising.

In a four-team division, the Rangers will finish third or worse for the fifth straight year. Attendance is down. TV ratings are down. Buzz has vanished.

"We had a goal, and we didn't achieve it," says wonderboy GM Jon Daniels. "It's not acceptable."

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There's plenty of blame to pass around, starting with Daniels. He made 12 trades and acquisitions in his first year on the job, and, most notably, wound up sending away pitcher and Highland Park product Chris Young, who has won 11 games and last week came within two outs of a no-hitter, and Alfonso Soriano, who became baseball's first player to achieve 40 homers, 40 doubles and 40 steals in a single season.

Manager Buck Showalter's stern style has gotten stale. Pitching ace Kevin Millwood won only 16 games. Cornerstones Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira had only so-so seasons. Fittingly, the 36,000 die-hards that showed for Fan Appreciation Day sent the team off with a serenade of boos. After lazily missing Grady Sizemore's fly ball down the left field line, Carlos Lee casually jogged to the ball while Sizemore circled the bases for a rare inside-the-park homer. Next time at bat, Lee was greeted with jeers. Said Showalter, "That's a play we feel we should make."

After the game, fans were allowed to take a couple laps around the bases. Perhaps the Rangers should've treated it like a tryout camp. --Richie Whitt

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