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Texas Rangers haunted by another first-round exit

By
Anthony Andro, The Sports Xchange
Texas Rangers' Ian Desmond reacts after grounding out in the seventh inning of Game 3 of the ALDS against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada on October 9, 2016. Photo by Darren Calabrese/UPI
Texas Rangers' Ian Desmond reacts after grounding out in the seventh inning of Game 3 of the ALDS against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada on October 9, 2016. Photo by Darren Calabrese/UPI | License Photo

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers have become adept at winning the American League West under manager Jeff Banister.

They've also become adept at getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

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Despite winning back-to-back American League West titles, the Rangers have been knocked out in the first round of the playoffs in each of the last two years. That's not good enough for a team that had the best record in the AL in 2016, spent heavily at the trade deadline to acquire bats and ended up with nothing to show for it other than another AL West flag to hang at Globe Life Ballpark.

No one knows that more than the Rangers.

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"It's my belief, our belief, than anytime you enter spring training, it's one mission and that's to win and play for an opportunity to win a World Series," Texas manager Jeff Banister said after his team was swept by Toronto in the American League Division Series. "And so that's been our mission all along. It's disappointing in a sense we're not going to get to continue to play."

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The biggest question the Rangers face in the offseason is how to upgrade a starting rotation that was dismal in September and had an ERA of 13.94 in the three-game American League Division Series loss to Toronto.

Lefty Cole Hamels, right-hander Yu Darvish and lefty Martin Perez will give Texas a solid three starters, but the cupboard is bare after that, especially if the club doesn't re-sign Colby Lewis and lets lefty Derek Holland go with the club owning an option on him for 2017. Figuring out the rotation should be priority No. 1 for Texas.

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There will be plenty of familiar faces back in the lineup in 2017, which is a good thing. Adrian Beltre shows no signs of slowing down as he hit .300 with 32 homers and 104 RBIs. Elvis Andrus had a career year and second baseman Rougned Odor hit 33 homers at 22 years old. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy will also be back. But the club will likely need a new center fielder to replace Ian Desmond, who will get paid in free agency, and free agent Carlos Beltran.

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The club should be solid in one outfield spot with Nomar Mazara and has to hope that Shin-Soo Choo bounces back after an injury-plagued 2016.

The Rangers will be solid in the bullpen, with closer Sam Dyson back along with an emerging star in set-up man and closer-in-waiting Matt Bush. Righties Keone Kela and Jeremy Jeffress only add to the depth.

Winning the division itself won't be easy as Houston and Seattle will again test the Rangers. But winning the West isn't what the Rangers want to have to settle for once again in 2017. They've had enough of that.

"I'll tell our guys you have to these types of situations as that burning fire that keeps you going all winter," Banister said.

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