In the This Is My Nightmare series, we'll take a look at what the absolute worst case scenario for each team would be in 2013. Think of it as the negative complement to our You May Say I'm A Dreamer series that we'll be running during our preview series.
For a team that lost two consecutive World Series, including one where they were one strike away from winning it all twice and coming off a season in which they gagged away a division crown in one month because their best player dropped a routine flyball and then washed out in the Wild Card game, finding a nightmare scenario that can trump all of that is a tall order.
The obvious place to start is with the departed Josh Hamilton, a man that took the lion's share of the blame for the Rangers' late-season collapse. Fans will start the 2013 season being glad to see him gone, but oh my how that will change. Not only will a freshly motivated Hamilton lay waste to the AL West in the uniform of the rival Angels, but the man that functionally replaced him in Texas, Lance Berkman, will play just like Hamilton. Only he won't play like the normal Hamilton, but rather the version of Hamilton that barely hit over .200 in June and July of last season. Oops!
But Berkman is only part of the problem. For the last few years Texas has thrived because of their powerful offense. Not so much in 2013. David Murphy failed to capitalize on his breakout 2012 as becoming a full-time player overexposes him. Meanwhile Nelson Cruz turns in one of the worst seasons of his career as he spend the first month of the season fretting over a looming suspension stemming from the Bosch mess in Florida. That suspension of course comes in May, wiping out 50 games of Cruz's season. The net effect is a the Rangers lineup, while still solid, just can't step up to carry the team like it used to.
That lack of offense proves to be unfortunate as things will only get worse as a sophomore slump by Yu Darvish and health woes for Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando submarine the Texas rotation. In the rare event that the Rangers do get a lead, the patchwork middle relief crew led by a washed up Jason Frasor struggles to hand leads to star closer Joe Nathan.
The real death knell to Texas' season though is none of the underperformance but rather the implosion of their once great clubhouse chemistry. With revered leader Michael Young gone and infamous clubhouse cancer A.J. Pierzynski now in, unrest settles into the Rangers dugout. A.J. repeatedly sells out his pitchers to the press after bad starts. Ian Kinsler acts and plays like a man severely distracted by all the rumors of him being traded or moved to another position to make way for stud prospect Jurickson Profar. By season's end, the famous antlers hand sign becomes more of a derisive gesture rather than one of team unity.
Despite all this, Texas remains on the fringe of Wild Card contention into July before they really hit the skids. However, GM Jon Daniels refuses to believe that the season is lost and for the first time in his career of preaching patience and restraint panics. Desperate to finally land the ace that he has been pursuing since Cliff Lee left town, Daniels does the unthinkable and trades a package headlined my Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt for, well, Cliff Lee. While Lee pitches well for Texas, it is clear that he is no longer a Cy Young caliber pitcher and his presence does nothing to revive the Rangers' flagging playoff hopes but does everything to strain the team's precious long-term payroll flexibility.
In their quest to find a scapegoat for their 80-win, third place finish, manager Ron Washington is fired and the team embarks on an off-season where there is rampant speculation that they might just blow up the roster save for Darvish, Beltre and Andrus in an effort to pry back open the championship window that just slammed shut on them.