Just because a season ends, whenever it ends, doesn’t mean the baseball beat writer is done traveling for the year.
There are always two big off-season events that require coverage — the general managers meetings and the winter meetings.
Both will be held this year in Orlando, Fla., with the GMs meeting Nov. 13-16 and the baseball world converging Dec. 10-14.
Those two dates are especially relevant for the Texas Rangers in light of their weekend series at Oakland Coliseum. The Rangers will be free to travel after their game Oct. 1, next Sunday, and begin setting their plan of attack for Orlando.
They won't be playing past the regular season this year.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from an 8-1 loss and a three-game sweep to the Oakland A’s that all but ends the Rangers’ chances at the second wild card.
Adrian Beltre didn't mince words Sunday after the Texas Rangers were swept out of Oakland and saw their playoff hopes all but disappear (video by Jeff Wilson).Jeff Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org
1. This was pointed out by T.R. Sullivan, a former Star-Telegram beat writer, so there’s no crime in stealing it from him. Plus, the current beat writer has a flight to catch.
The Rangers have a better chance at finishing in last place in the American League West than they do at making the playoffs. They trail the Minnesota Twins by 5 1/2 games and lead the A’s by only four.
Here’s how: The Rangers have seven games left — three against Houston, the division winners playing for home-field advantage, and four against the hottest team in the division, the A’s.
Should the Rangers keep losing and the A’s, who have won 14 of their past 17 games, keep winning, the Rangers are in trouble.
Of course, the Rangers have Seattle between them and Oakland, so maybe the Mariners could cushion the Rangers’ fall to the bottom.
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Imagine that: Within the span of 10 games the Rangers could go from feeling really positive — only 2 1/2 games out — about their playoff chances to finishing in the basement of the AL West.
Will it happen? It won’t be easy. Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner and Perez are scheduled to start five of the final seven games, and will give professional outings in them. In other words, they won’t be on cruise control entering the off-season.
Hamels is on a roll and wants to make the most out of a season that was interrupted in May by an oblique injury that cost him eight starts. Cashner is streaking toward a big free-agent payday and doesn’t want to do anything to mess that up.
Perez still feels good about his past two month, despite his dismal fifth inning Sunday. He wants to take as much momentum into the off-season as possible.
But they can’t keep the Rangers out of last place all by themselves. They need the young players who are likely to be sprinkled into the lineup to produce at the plate and in the field.
If not, there could be trouble looming.
There’s a chance, at least, a better chance that claiming the last wild card.
2. Perez had his worst start since Aug. 4. He allowed seven runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Twins, who at the time had just given up on the postseason. Funny but true.
The Twins can clinch the second wild card as soon as Tuesday. They don’t play Monday, so the Rangers could actually gain a half-game on them and keep their elimination number at two.
Perez was wild early, walking four, but he kept his composure and made enough pitches to get out of trouble. Even in the fifth, when he allowed five runs, it was two pitches that proved costly.
He hung a changeup to Jed Lowrie, who slapped a two-run single, and then hung a curveball to Khris Davis, who did what he always does against the Rangers. His two-run shot made it 5-0.
“It was two pitches,” catcher Robinson Chirinos said. “[Until then], that was the same Martin I’d been seeing the last few weeks.”
Perez is 7-2 in his past 10 starts. He hadn’t allowed more than three earned runs since Aug. 19, a game he won despite allowing six earned. Five of those came in the first inning.
But he has done enough since Aug. 9, the start of his rebound, to give the Rangers confidence in him next season. They are certain to exercise the $6 million club option they hold, unless they want to find four starters this off-season instead of three.
They’ve had their arms around Perez since he was 16. That was 10 years ago. He’s still only 26 and still learning. He appears to have struck on something these past two months, and he’s intent on carrying that into 2018.
Once again, a lot will be expected of him.
3. A final rundown of the Rangers’ numbers this season at Oakland Coliseum. First, though, you might want grab a barf bag.
The Rangers went 1-8. Holy Toledo.
They scored two runs in three weekend games, only the fourth time in franchise history that they have finished a three-game series with two or fewer runs. The last was here in 2009.
The Rangers scored 19 runs in nine games here this year. Seven of those came in their lone win, in the first game way back on April 17.
Conversely, the A’s scored 19 runs in the three-game sweep Aug. 25-27. Oakland was shut out April 17 but still scored 45 runs in the nine-game season series.
“We expected to come here and at least win the series,” Adrian Beltre said. “I don’t know if it’s the water or what. I can’t explain it. Those guys played well. They have a good young team, but we expect to be better than what we showed here.”
And now the Rangers can start looking really hard at those off-season travel plans.
“It’s been tough these last three games here,” Chirinos said. “We came here with a really good chance to take that last spot in the wild card. We still have a chance. We’re going to go home and keep fighting. The fight isn’t over until it’s over.”
The referee has almost counted to 10.