Rangers GM says team not satisfied with 91 wins

The dissatisfaction Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels
feels about the team missing the playoffs is no reflection of how
he regards manager Ron Washington.

While the Rangers aren’t in the playoffs for the first time in
four years, Daniels said Thursday that he feels ”as strong about”
Washington as he ever has.

Washington has only next season remaining on his contract, but
Daniels plans to sit down with him to discuss that situation. Texas
has averaged more than 91 wins a year the past five seasons and
made its only two World Series appearances in that span.

Asked if it was a fair assumption Washington would get a
contract extension, Daniels replied, ”That would be my
preference.” The GM said he hadn’t yet had an opportunity to speak
with ownership about that.

During more than 45 minutes discussing the season, Daniels also
acknowledged that major league strikeout leader Yu Darvish (13-9,
277 strikeouts) dealt with a nerve issue in his lower back for than
a month at the end of the season. The pitcher had an injection
Wednesday and was flying home to Japan for about a month. The
Rangers expect him to be fully healthy by next spring.

For the second year in a row since their AL championship seasons
in 2010 and 2011, the Rangers were done after losing a must-win
game in their 163rd game. They lost in the first AL wild-card game
at home last year and this week missed the playoffs with 91 wins
after losing at home to Tampa Bay in the majors’ first wild-card
tiebreaker game since 2007.

”On one hand, we’ve averaged over 90 wins the last five years,
we’ve had a lot of success organizationally, a lot of individuals
having a lot of success. … We’re in the middle of what we feel is
a tremendous run,” Daniels said. ”At the same time, one-and-done
is not good enough. It’s two years in a row we’ve been in this
spot, and it hurts. I can tell you we want more.”

Daniels had just completed his first year as GM when he fired
Buck Showalter after the 2006 season and replaced him with the
longtime Oakland third-base coach who then had no major league
managerial experience. Washington now is the team’s winningest
manager (611-522) after seven seasons.

”To the degree that that was any speculation (about his job)
late in the year … that was always rumor mill-driven,” Daniels
said. ”I feel the same way, just as strong about Wash as I ever
have.”

After an AL-best record of 20-7 in August and with a two-game
lead in the AL West, the Rangers started September with a 5-15
slide. That included being swept in a six-game homestand by
Pittsburgh and Oakland, though they won all seven games on their
last homestand to force the tiebreaker.

It was the second year in a row a September slump cost the
Rangers the AL West title. There was a 4-9 finish to the 2012
regular season.

The Rangers’ staff ERA of 3.62 was their best since 1983. But
after losing sluggers Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli in free agency
last winter, their 730 runs were the fewest in a full season since
1992.

” Who would have thought five, six years ago we’d be talking
about the pitching being the strength of the club,” Daniels
said.

And the core of the starting rotation is still signed for
multiple years, including Darvish and left-handers Derek Holland
(10-9) and Matt Harrison, the year’s opening day starter who
pitched only twice before two operations on a herniated disk in his
lower back.

Darvish didn’t pitch past the sixth inning in any of his last
three starts, though the Rangers won each of those games. Texas was
0-6 his six previous starts, five of them one-run games (including
consecutive 1-0 losses).

Daniels said the nerve started bothering Darvish in August, and
that the team agreed with the pitcher’s decision not to have the
injection during the season.

”Effectively he had a nerve issue in his lower back that caused
him to use strength after a period of time in his right leg,”
Daniels said. ”He wasn’t as powerful as he wanted to be after
being out there for an extended period. … He chose not to have
injection because it would have required him to miss a start. He
did not want to do that, he wanted to take the ball every five
days. I commend him for that.”