The season is over, and for the Texas Rangers it ended with most of their star players in the dugout well before the final out of the final game.
That happened last year, too, though because the Rangers were resting up for the American League Division Series as the top seed in the playoffs. This year, the veterans are resting up for vacation.
All the blame and what-ifs, all the questions about the off-season and beyond, and even the highlights will be rehashed throughout the week.
For now, the Rangers are packing their bags and hugging each other goodbye. As is the case every year, the same gang won’t be back together again.
The main concern Sunday was for the leader of the gang.
Here’s some Rangers Reaction from a 5-2 loss to the Oakland A’s.
1. Adrian Beltre confirmed that he is playing next season.
“Unless I’m dead,” he said.
He also said that the plan is for him to play for the Rangers in the final year of his contract, though the prevailing thought is that he would asked to be traded if the Rangers begin to trend toward a rebuild mode.
“That’s out of my control,” he said.
They won’t, because Beltre is back as part of a large returning core. (Also, the farm system doesn’t have enough pitchers close enough to be part of a rebuild.) He has a lot of faith in that core. The question is about his faith in the front office.
The Rangers are going to go for it, which is what they do. Maybe if 2018 is a flop, and if Beltre doesn’t return and Elvis Andrus opts out of his contract, then perhaps the Rangers will try a 2019 youth movement.
That seems thin, too.
But Beltre, who started Sunday and collected career hit 3,048 before leaving to a standing ovation, has made it no secret that he wants to win a World Series. It’s not just because his career is about to end. He’s always wanted to a ring.
Would he trade 3,000 hits for a World Series win? Absolutely. He’s the ultimate pro and ultimate teammate, and nothing outside of his family is more important than winning.
Related stories from Star-Telegram
Beltre will try for the 21st time next season, assuming he’s alive, and he expects that he will try with the Rangers.
Texas Rangers lefty Cole Hamels pitches only three innings Sunday, which manager Jeff Banister said was by design. A so-so? Not as planned (video by Jeff Wilson).firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Cole Hamels didn’t get too profane when assessing his season. That’s not his style.
But 2017 was a failure in his mind because he couldn’t meet any of the goal he set out for himself, either personally or from a team perspective. His oblique injury in early May had a lot to do with both.
His final act of the season was shortened by design and wasn’t particularly pleasing from a numbers standpoint. He allowed three runs in three innings and finished the year with a 4.20 ERA.
But Hamels wasn’t looking at the numbers. He wanted to be able to throw all five of his pitches for strikes, which he accomplished. He can pack that in his bags to where he’s headed and have that feeling when he begins throwing again during the off-season.
The Rangers will be counting on him for 2018. Manager Jeff Banister said that he believes Hamels is still a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, even though he declined this season and isn’t getting any younger.
Hamels seemed to deflect the age thing, saying that he’s been injured before and it’s something players experience if they hang around long enough. There’s a difference between long enough and too long.
Wherever he ends up in the 2018 rotation will depend on what the Rangers do over the off-season. There’s a chance he will be their Opening Day starter regardless of who is signed.
Hamels is another key contributor who might be gone after next season. His option for 2019 won’t vest unless he throws 252 innings. The last Rangers pitcher to do that was Kevin Brown in 1992.
So, then the option becomes a club option for $20 million or a $6 million buyout.
Maybe 2018 will be Hamels’ last season with the Rangers. Regardless, he’s intent on hitting his goals.
Texas Rangers slugger Joey Gallo wasn't expecting to hit 40 home runs this season, but he started wanting it once he got to 39. He did it Saturday (video by Jeff Wilson).Jeff Wilson email@example.com
3. The core that will carry the Rangers forward beyond Beltre and Hamels finished the season feeling pretty good about themselves, with the possible exception of Rougned Odor.
Joey Gallo reached his goal of a 40-homer season Saturday, and Nomar Mazara reached his goal of a 100-RBI season Sunday with no time to spare. His two-run single in the eighth, after the inning was kept alive by a Delino DeShields bunt hit, pushed Mazara to 101 RBIs.
“You think I wanted to wait until the end?” Mazara said.
While he was satisfied with the feat, he wasn’t satisfied with his season. He learned a lot about himself and about his approach, but he also knows he can be and needs to be better.
Keep in mind that he won’t turn 23 until late April. He’s 22 and has two full big-league seasons on his baseball card. This one was better than the first.
The thought is that Gallo’s second full season will be better than this one. While Odor will be working on his fourth season, the second with no trips to the minors, he won’t be 24 until spring training, and the thought, again, is that he will be better.
No one will know for a while, probably not until May.
Until then, enjoy the off-season. It should be a busy one.
Right-hander Andrew Cashner won his final start of the season Saturday and said he hopes the Texas Rangers make him an offer to return this off-season (video by Jeff Wilson).Jeff Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org