The Texas Rangers played like a championship team througout the entire 2011 season and into the playoffs until the 9th inning in Game 6 of the World Series. Then one strike away from winning its first championship, Texas choked. Much of the blame can be directed at Rangers manager Ron Washington, who made multiple questionable decisions duirng Games 6 and 7 of the Fall Classic. However, the Rangers did not play like a team determined to win a title in those final few innings. Even the most consistent Texas players made critical errors that eventually doomed their team.
It was unlike Texas to miss routine defensive plays so close to winning Game 6. In both the 9th and 10th innings, Texas was one strike away from a world championship but was unable to finish. Fly balls that should have been caught were missed while routine ground balls were bobbled. To put it politely, Texas choked. Washington was just as much a part of that as his players.
Washington can’t be blamed entirely, but his managing of Games 6 and 7 wasn’t superb, either. His mistakes to not pinch hit for starting pitcher Colby Lewis and then pinch hit for reliever Scott Feldman really put Texas at a disadvantage. Then he didn’t allow Elvis Andrus, his No. 2 batter in the lineup, to swing the bat with one on and no outs on two different occasions. Instead, Washington instructed Andrus to sacrifice bunt and Texas failed to score both times.
With his bullpen shaky after Game 6, Washington made a gutsy and admirable move to use his Game 1 and 5 starter, C.J. Wilson in relief during Game 7. Wilson did not reward his manager, though, hitting a Cardinal batter with his first pitch with the bases loaded.
The Rangers’ collapse while being one strike away from a world title twice is perhaps the biggest blunder in Dallas-Fort Worth professional sports history. The Dallas Mavericks losing the 2006 NBA Finals in six games after leading 2-0 was bad, but the Rangers being so close twice in one contest might trump it. Texas has some personnel decisions to make this offseason as Wilson is a free agent and expects to demand somewhere between a 5-6 year contract worth approximately $100 million.
Contact Jeric Griffin on Twitter @JericGriffin