Rangers skipper has one final regret

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Rangers skipper has one final regret

From Comcast SportsNetARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington knows one thing he'd change if he could: He'd make sure his everyday players got more rest during the season.Or they might still be playing, and not already several days into what will be a long offseason."I could have looked at not having all my regulars play as many games as they played," Washington said Tuesday. "I think if I could have changed that, and got them some opportunity to get more rest, they'd be much fresher as we went down the stretch. It could have been a difference. I question myself for that."After going to the last two World Series, Texas failed to win even one game this October. They lost 10 of their last 14 overall, including a sweep at Oakland to end the regular season before losing Friday to Baltimore in the first win-or-go-home AL wild-card card.Not counting the postseason game, Texas had seven players who appeared in at least 147 games. Adrian Beltre, the 33-year-old third baseman who just finished his 15th major league season, was among five Rangers who played in at least 156 games."Maybe I played them into the ground," Washington said.The Rangers, who won 93 games, face some significant changes in their roster since eight players will be eligible for free agency.The most notable is slugger Josh Hamilton, and general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday that the team is "not going to make a kind of pre-emptive proposal at this point." The two sides put negotiations on hold earlier this year with the expectation that Hamilton would test the free-agent market."I think that effectively what we decided internally and agreed on with Josh and his representatives during the spring was that was the process," Daniels said. "We're going to let it play out. If you put yourself in his shoes, if you've got this far, you're going to test the market, find out what's out there. I think that's understandable."The Rangers were division leaders for a majors-best 178 games this season, taking the AL West lead four games into the season and staying there alone until be caught by Oakland in the 161st game. They then lost the division crown on the final day of the regular season, 12-5 to the A's after having a 5-1 lead.That made the Rangers a wild card, and they lost 5-1 at home to Baltimore on Friday night."Bottom line it was a very good year, it was a very disappointing finish," Daniels said. "I think we're all on the same page that we want to build on that and get back to where we want to be, which is contending year in, year out for a world championship."That was the consensus feeling among team president Nolan Ryan, Daniels and Washington during a season-ending news conference, which came on the same day the Rangers would have been playing Game 3 of the AL division series had Texas won the AL West title.Instead of batting practice at Rangers Ballpark, stadium workers were stripping away the grass in foul territory between the third-base line and the visitor dugout.The Rangers payroll this year topped 120 million. Ryan, who is also part of the team's ownership group, said there have been numerous discussions about team's budget for 2013 that will not be affected by the lack of revenue-generating home playoff games."Overall, we're probably all pretty much in agreement of where we're headed and how we're doing as organization," Ryan said, without getting into specifics. "I think that we all have thoughts and opinions on how we can improve our ballclub, and those will be expressed obviously during meetings going forward. But overall I think everybody's on the same page."Aside from Hamilton and catcher Mike Napoli, the other potential free agents are pitchers.Ryan Dempster came from the Chicago Cubs in a July 31 trade, and the Rangers will not pick up a 9 million option on Scott Feldman, who will get a 600,000 buyout instead. The others are relievers Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe and Roy Oswalt, the three-time All-Star added midseason who wound up in the bullpen after Dempster was acquired.Hamilton hit a career-high 43 homers and drove in 128 runs but was lustily booed by Rangers fans while going 0-for-4 against the Orioles, the same team he hit four homers against on May 8.There was also the dropped routine popup in the regular-season finale, a two-out tiebreaking miscue that allowed the A's to score two runs and go ahead to stay. He missed five games on a September trip because of a cornea problem he said was caused by too much caffeine and energy drinks."Obviously I think Josh probably would have liked to finish stronger and we would have liked to see him finish stronger," Ryan said. "Will it impact our position as far as going forward? No, I don't think so. We'll consider the entire season because it is an entire season that affects the outcome."

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

CLEVELAND --  Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
 
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.

GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99

 

The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
 
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
 
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
 
Defensively?
 
Absolutely.
 
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
 
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
 
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
 
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
 
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
 
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
 
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
 
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
 
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
 
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
 
That’s not Avery Bradley.
 
That’s not Al Horford.
 
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
 
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
 
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
 
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
 
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
 
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
 
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
 
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
 
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
 
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
 
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
 
Because that look is so not about winning.