ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 23: Neftali Feliz #30 of the Texas Rangers celebrates after defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 in Game Four of the MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 23, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
"I saw a guy that was trying to get it done. ... but the results weren't there."
— Jon Daniels, to 105.3 The Fan
That's what it's come down to for former AL Rookie of the Year and all-star closer Neftali Feliz. The 25-year-old — yes, he's still just 25 — is basically being lauded for effort and nothing else. The good ol' "E for effort." That doesn't cut it in professional sports. You have to have talent, and right now, Feliz just doesn't have that.
That's why the decision was made on Tuesday to option Feliz to Triple-A Round Rock, meaning he will start the season in the minors. It's not because of injury, it's because of performance. How fast he's fallen.
Just three years ago, Feliz was the Rangers closer, following up an AL Rookie of the Year season and was a strike away from closing out a clinching game in the World Series. Then, David Freese happened. Then, Nelson Cruz happened. Then, you know what happened. Whoever you want to blame the Rangers' Game 6 collapse on — and there's plenty to go around — the Rangers didn't close the deal.
Depending on who's story you believe, Feliz was so mentally shaken after he allowed the tying run in the bottom of the ninth inning that he wasn't able to corral his emotions enough to be trusted in the 10th inning.
The past was the past, though, and Feliz was ready to forget about 2011 when 2012 rolled around. That year brought with it a new role after the Rangers acquired Joe Nathan to close games for them, moving Feliz, who was perhaps the most electric Rangers' arm in recent memory, to the starting rotation.
Feliz was fairly successful in his seven starts in 2012, averaging right at six innings per start (more than you can say for his compadre Alexi Ogando) with a 3-1 record and a 3.16 ERA. He had 37 strikeouts and 23 walks in his 42 2/3 innings. Then, his arm failed him and he was forced to go under the knife for Tommy John surgery.
Now, nearly a year and a half later, Feliz is still searching for that golden arm, and the Rangers desperately hope he finds it in Round Rock. Chances are, he will. Guys like that, with that prodigious talent and that kind of electric fastball don't usually just lose it. But what if he has? What if that one pitch to David Freese and the events that followed it eternally ruined such a bright career?