For Texas Rangers, a strong season, bitter finish


For Texas Rangers, a strong season, bitter finish

ARLINGTON, 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.''

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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Washington Wizards

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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