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Making no apologies and moving forward

I appear to be in a minority among my Rangers fan friends.  And not just because I don't live in Texas. 

I'm in the minority because I don't view the 2011 season as a disappointment.   Sure, the last two games (or really just Game 6) of the World Series were a let down, but I refuse to let two games out of nearly 200 dictate how I view the season.   I love this team, and I wanted that trophy, banner and title as much as any other Rangers fan.  I plan to attend Opening Weekend in 2012.  It would have been really fun to hear Chuck Morgan introduce the team as the 2011 World Series Champions.

But that's not going to happen.

Not this year.

He will introduce them as the 2011 American League Champions.  How can I be sad about that?  How can I be sad about my team winning their division and their league two years in a row?  I have friends in several other fan bases -- Cubs, Twins, Yankees, Angels and Mets. Let me tell you, they would have loved a few extra weeks to watch their team in 2011.  We got that. 

We also got to see some young guns step up and show what they could do in a national spotlight. I'm looking at you, Derek Holland.

We saw a supposed "cast-off" put on an MVP-worthy offensive show.  I'm looking at you, Mike Napoli.

We saw guys with aching muscles and bodies give us everything they had.  I'm looking at you, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz.

I may have wished for a different outcome of the World Series, but I won't apologize for my positive outlook.  This was a great season and a great team.   They should be celebrated, not mourned.

The best part of all of this?  Most of those guys are probably coming back for 2012.  With more experience and a hunger to improve upon this past season.  We saw what the Rangers did with that hunger in 2011 (after winning just one World Series game in 2010).  It's only going to be more intense in the coming season.  I just know it.

The hot stove is starting to get warm, and I will be monitoring Jon Daniels as well as I can.  He's a ninja, you know.  It's hard to tell what he's going to do.  He has said the team's priority will be pitching though.  This is no surprise.

C.J. Wilson, who was the #1 starter in 2011, becomes a free agent.  Sources close to Wilson tell me he would very much like to stay, but it will be up to the Rangers to keep him here.  I don't think he'll get Sabbathia money, but I do think the Rangers are going to have to be competitive if they want to retain his services. There are some rumblings about the Nationals and Cubs throwing money at him.  Although Wilson has expressed an interest in playing in the National League, I think he would only go to those two organizations if there was a good deal of money attached.  Many think the Red Sox and Yankees will go after Wilson.   I don't want the Rangers trying to outbid those two.  I would be comfortable with a 5/$85 million offer. 

As for the rest of the pitching staff, Colby Lewis will be back, as will Derek Holland, Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison.  I think they've all earned a spot back in the rotation.  There's talk of moving Neftali Feliz to the rotation as well and making Mike Adams the closer.  I'm not as high on this idea as others, but I could be swayed.  I think we'll see Scott Feldman start in the bullpen again, with the idea that he could make a few spot starts.  His 2010 season was abysmal, but I thought he was really strong when he came back after knee surgery in 2011.   I would feel pretty good having him ready to come in for a long relief situation or even just a two-inning outing.   I'm not sure how the rest of the bullpen will shake out. 

Another area of concern, at least from my perspective, is first base.  I adore Mitch Moreland, and he showed a few flashes of what he could do offensively and defensively early this season.  But then he faded away.  He was nearly irrelevant in the late season and postseason.  The Rangers have said they intend to move into 2012 with him at first base, but I still hope they're looking at other potential options as well.   I don't mind Michael Young playing at first base every so often to keep his bat in the lineup, but I'm not comfortable with him there everyday.   Some Rangers fans might be wishing for J.D. to lure Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols to Arlington.  I'd be very surprised (but not disappointed) to see either of them in a Rangers uniform in 2012.

It's also important for the Rangers to think about the outfield after 2012, which is quite possibly Josh Hamilton's last season as a Ranger.  I love that man, and I probably always will, but I can understand why the organization would be hesitant to lock him up for a long-term contract. And, yes, right now I think it's about the years, not the dollars for both sides.  Nelson Cruz will be around for awhile, and Craig Gentry deserves some more time in the majors.  I'm not sure what happens with David Murphy.  And let's not forget that Leonys Martin is waiting in the wings.  I don't expect him to be in Arlington until late next season ... at the earliest.

Other key contracts that are up for revisiting in 2012 are those of Ian Kinsler and Mike Napoli.  I won't waste a lot of space on those here, not because I don't think they're important but because I don't think they'll be an issue.  Both have earned themselves an extension.   Kinsler barely missed out on a Gold Glove while showing off speed and offense with a 30/30 season.  Napoli exceeded every one of my expectations for him, doing an expert job of handling the pitching staff and contributing quite a bit with his bat as well.  I'd love to have them as central pieces of this team moving forward.

This offseason should be pretty interesting.  There are just a few holes to address, and some work to be done with those already on the roster. Fortunately, I trust Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan and the others to handle this just fine.

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