Before, and for most and perhaps all, of the 2012 season, the Texas Rangers were widely considered a pretty good bet to reach the World Series for a third straight year, and perhaps even to finally win it. Instead, their stay in the postseason lasted exactly one game. Which we must consider, when determining which one play best symbolizes an ultimately disappointing season...
The Texas Rangers led the major leagues in scoring this season, with 808 runs. Granted, some of that was the club's home ballpark; when you consider Rangers Ballpark, the club probably was somewhere between the third- and fifth-best hitting club in the American League. However you figure it, these Rangers will be remembered for their hitters, even though their pitchers did some terribly good work.
And of course, nobody exemplifies the Rangers' hitters than Josh Hamilton. In 2010, Hamilton garnered A.L. Most Valuable Player honors. In 2011, Hamilton missed some time with an injury, but still posted impressive numbers when he played. And in 2012?
Hamilton led the Rangers with 43 home runs and 128 RBI. Most impressively, early in the season he looked like the second coming of ... who? Maybe Mickey Mantle in 1961? On the 12th of May, Josh Hamilton hit his 18th home run of the season.
At that point, there was a popular notion that Hamilton wasn't merely headed for another MVP Award, but might actually be shipped off to Cooperstown, encased in carbonite, immediately after the season.
And then ... well, it would be stretching the truth to suggest that things went terribly wrong from there, because of course Josh Hamilton did finish the season with 43 home runs.
But the Rangers grabbed first place after winning their fourth game of the season and held first place all season ... until the last game of the season, when they fell to second place ... and Hamilton played a role in the ultimate loss of the division title.
At the All-Star break, Hamilton still looked like an MVP candidate. After the All-Star break -- I mean, immediately after the All-Star break -- Hamilton looked like something else. In the first four games after the All-Star break, Hamilton struck out nine times. Before the All-Star break, Hamilton struck out 76 times and hit 27 home runs in 79 games. After the All-Star break, Hamilton struck out 86 times and hit 16 home runs in 69 games. He batted .308 in the first half of the season, and .259 in the second.
The Rangers, of course, wound up blowing their (almost) season-long lead, with the Athletics roaring from behind to capture the flag on the season's last game. In the Rangers' season-ending series in Oakland, Hamilton went 2 for 13 with 1 RBI, and struck out six times.
Ejected from their perch atop the American League West, the Rangers were forced into a single Wild Card Game against the Orioles. Which they lost, with Hamilton going 0 for 4 with a couple of strikeouts.
On the whole, Hamilton and the Rangers did some great things in 2012. But back in May, everyone expected even greater things.
In case you missed any previous entries in this EXCITING SERIES, here's the archive.