The journey to list the best home grown versus acquired all time roster for all 30 teams continues with the Texas Rangers.
My friend Greg Lee, as good a baseball fan as you will meet, shook his head when he heard I was doing this for the Rangers.
“I know nothing about the Rangers. Does anyone?” He asked.
He’s on to something… the Rangers are such a nondescript team, but shouldn’t they have more character?
I mean look at the list of people who have managed the team…
Ted Williams, Whitey Herzog, Billy Martin, Don Zimmer, Bobby Valentine, Kevin Kennedy, Johnny Oates, Buck Showalter. Wouldn’t that group of managers have yielded some interesting teams?
They’ve had Hall of Fame starting pitchers and MVPs. In fact since the creation of the Division Series, no American League team has had more MVPs than the Rangers.
The single most beloved pitcher of the last quarter century had some of his biggest highlights in a Rangers uniform.
The player who might very well be the greatest in history won an MVP in Arlington.
Yet the only highlight anyone remembers is the ball bouncing off of Canseco’s head over the fence.
They are the only franchise in Major League Baseball to have never won a playoff series (in fact they’ve only won one playoff GAME) and seem despite enormous talent to be teetering on the edge of irrelevance.
Who would have thought a business once run by George W. Bush would be a cash hemorrhaging failure?
The rules for the rosters as always can be found here.
And it should be noted that the Rangers were known as the Washington Senators in the 1960s until the end of the 1971 season… which is why you’ll see some Senators stars sprinkled into this entry.
Let’s start listing!
THE ALL TIME HOME GROWN RANGERS TEAM
OK, the MVP he won in 1999 should have gone to Pedro Martinez… and he became less pudgy when league testing started. But by age 19 it was clear he was the best defensive catcher in the game. His 10 Gold Gloves as a Ranger can’t be attributed to any outside help. A sure fire Hall of Famer to have a T on his hat.
STARTING FIRST BASEMAN
The Human Rain Delay won the Rookie of the Year on the 1974 Rangers team that put a winning product on the field. He was the antithesis of a swing from the heels power first baseman. He got on base by any means and was a nimble fielder. He also drove opposing pitchers nuts with his constant stepping out of the box. No doubt his manager, Billy Martin, loved him for it.
STARTING SECOND BASEMAN
My dear friend Tamara Shear, an Orioles fan, once said to me “My dream man is a Jewish major league baseball player.” Well Tam, how about one who made the All Star team and got some MVP votes? You’re not dreaming my friend. But then again he’s married and so are you! I’m just saying.
The pickings were kind of slim here, but Smalley had a terrific career. Granted most of it was Minnesota where he had two stints and ended his career a World Series champ. But Smalley came up a product of the Texas farm system and helped the Rangers acquire Bert Blyleven before becoming an MVP for the Twins. You can do worse than Roy. A lot of teams have.
STARTING THIRD BASEMAN
A great power hitting and slick fielding third baseman, he was one of the key players that helped win the first ever division for the Rangers. He also made a throwing error in the bottom of the 12th inning that allowed the Yankees to tie the 1996 Division Series at a game a piece. If the Rangers won that game, chances are they win the series and the Joe Torre era would have been over after one year.
But that’s another post.
STARTING LEFT FIELDER
Has there ever been a two time MVP who has left less of an impact on the sport? Even before his name was linked to every single steroid rumor, he just never had the aura of a Hall of Fame bound player. His stats were simply awesome. His first playoff series against the Yankees he terrorized them with 5 homers and 9 RBI in 4 games. And yet never made a dent on the public’s imagination. He turned down a $140 million contract from the Tigers and a few years later was playing for an independent league. Whoops. ALWAYS take the $140 million. I alwas do.
STARTING CENTER FIELDER
The baseball world was a lot more fun those couple of years that Oddibe McDowell looked like he was going to blossom into a star. It never quite happened and the only potential he fulfilled was having the coolest first name in all of baseball which also lead to one of the best Chris Berman-isms (Oddibe Young Again McDowell.)
STARTING RIGHT FIELDER
Jeff was the first ever #1 overall draft pick to win the MVP. Did you know that? Did you remember his big power numbers he put up in Arlington and Atlanta? Probably not. For some reason Cleveland fans focused their anger towards Jeff during the Ten Cent Beer Night debacle. I KNOW you didn’t know that.
STARTING DESIGNATED HITTER
There was a time that Ruben Sierra looked like he was going to the Hall of Fame. A switch hitter who hit 25 homers a year back when that meant something. He hit for high average and drove in 100 runs a year back when that meant something. And seemed to have squandered the talent away with his mind in the clouds or recording a new album. He had the amazing quote about Joe Torre and the Yankees saying “All they care about is winning there.” It was meant to be an insult. He did right the ship and later came back with the Rangers and later the Yankees as a model and humble citizen. When he got his 2,000th hit he lamented that he should have had 3,000. That number ALWAYS means something.
THE STARTING ROTATION
As I said in the Marlins post, it is easy to forget how good Kevin Brown was before his Dodgers and Yankees stints. His best year in Texas was 1992 when he won 21 games with a 3.32 ERA over 265 2/3 innings. That’s 264 1/3 more innings than he lasted in game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.
Another pitcher hated in New York (both in the Bronx and in Queens.) Rogers had some of his best years during his three stints in Texas. They include a perfect game in 1994, 3 seasons of 16 wins or more and an All Star appearance for the Rangers as recently as 2005. His three tours with the Rangers also included that ugly and possibly dangerous and no doubt completely unnecessary confrontation with a TV cameraman that I will NOT let him off the hook for. He clearly didn’t know when to hold them.
Witt had a nice career but he must have been in a way the cause of endless frustration as well. The Rangers used the #3 overall pick to get Witt. Still available to be drafted were future MVP Barry Larkin, future Rookie of the Year Walt Weiss, eventual Rangers star Rafael Palmeiro, future LCS MVP David Justice…
And oh yeah two guys named Randy Johnson and Barry Bonds.
Witt had a few good years including a 17 win season his first tour with the Rangers and a 16 win year for the 1996 Division Champs… but he wasn’t exactly the Big Unit or Barry Bonds, was he?
Helling’s first go around with the Rangers was uneventful but when he returned to the team and won 20 games for the 1998 AL West Champs. He actually pitched well in his two post season starts for the 1998 and 1999 Rangers… but the Rangers scored a grand total of 2 runs for him combined in those games. No way to beat the Yankees. Later picked up a ring with 2003 Marlins.
Clyde is on this list not because he had eye popping stats but to honor a guy whose career was ruined by his own team. He was a big high school star in Texas and the Rangers could only draw flies to their games. So Rangers owner Bob Short used the first over all pick in the draft on Clyde, gave him a record bonus and sent him to the Majors as a freak show. He was only 18 years old and should have had 4 some odd years of minor league seasoning. Instead he was a forced gate attraction. And as an 18 year old kid was in a locker room with hard drinking adults… and naturally became an alcoholic. He blew his arm out and was washed up and out of baseball by age 25. Smart use of a #1 pick. Oh, what could have been with David Clyde.
I admit I am stretching a bit here. Henke was indeed a product of the Rangers farm system. But the second most awkward looking bullpen closer in baseball history (behind Kent Tekulve) was unprotected in the Free Agent Compensation Draft. (That’s the thing the 1981 strike was about and quickly forgotten about.) He finished up his rookie eligibility with Toronto and put together an All Star career. He came back to the Rangers and piled up 40 saves in 1993. With a team with all of that hitting, plus Nolan Ryan, Bobby Witt, Kevin Brown and Kenny Rogers in the rotation and Henke closing games… how did they not win the division???
Primarily a reliever, Oliver starred in the rotation in the 1996 Division Series against the Yankees. He took a 2-1 lead into the 9th inning that would have put the Yankees on the verge of elimination. Of course the Rangers had no decent relievers to turn to and manager Johnny Oates let him pitch the 9th. 2 runs in later the Yankees took the lead… but it’s hard to blame Oliver who continues to be a productive middle reliever.
Danny Darwin pitched for 21 years in the major leagues and had a few nice seasons along the way. He went 13-4 in 1980 for the Rangers starting only 2 games while saving 8. He piled up a lot of innings as a reliever and wound up later being a reliable swing man for the Astros and had one good year with the Red Sox. The most incredible thing is he played for 21 seasons with the Rangers, Brewers, Astros, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Pirates, White Sox and Giants… and yet never threw a post season pitch. That’s bad luck, folks.
If only the Rangers had a pitcher like Zimmerman on their 1996 team. He came up to the Rangers in time for the 1999 AL West championship. They faced the Yankees this time with a deep bullpen… but it didn’t matter as they never had a lead to protect! Went 9-3 as Wetteland’s setup man. In 2001 as the closer nailed down 28 games. He signed a $10 million contract after that season and hasn’t thrown a pitch in the bigs since as he’s had two, count em TWO, Tommy John surgeries. More bad luck.
As much a tip of the cap to the scouting department as anything. Foucault was available in the 43rd round in 1969. Normally at that point you are filling out the Rookie Ball team and drafting a friend’s son as a favor. They snagged not only someone who made it all the way to the big leagues, but saved 12 games in 1974, throwing 144 1/3 innings all in relief with a 2.24 ERA. That was the Rangers team that rebounded from a 105 loss season in 1973 to go 84-76 the next year. Later he was traded straight up for Willie Horton. Not bad for a 43rd rounder.
Back when hitting .290 with 20 homers and 90 RBIs meant something, O’Brien did it regularly. If he played in Boston, New York or Chicago he would be a beloved player. Instead he played in anonymity in Arlington. Later became one of the Mariners first big money free agent signings, but by then he was done.
The most coveted hitter on the market now is getting a pretty cluttered back of the baseball card. If he doesn’t return to the Angels, he will have played for 4 different teams since the start of the 2007 season. He’s putting up huge numbers as a switch hitter in a post testing baseball world. Yeah he strikes out too much, but he can actually field his position as well. Should be obscenely wealthy even in this economy.
On a squad filled with MVP candidates and mysteriously bulging biceps, Greer consistently hitted .300 with between 15-20 homers and 100 RBI. He got lost in the shuffle in terms of attention among the Rangers of the mid to late 1990s. Disappeared in the post season where he got a total of 4 singles in 3 playoff SERIES for a .111 average.
A first round pick who had 2 decent seasons including a 20 home run season for the 1976 Rangers. He didn’t quite reach his potential… but became a fine GM for the Rangers (stealing Rafael Palmeiro away from the Cubs) and now is a broadcaster. Got to admire his ability to wear different hats.
One of the elite defensive catchers in history and one of the first home grown Rangers stars. Sundberg won 5 straight gold gloves and held his own with the bat as well. He won a ring with the 1985 Royals but came back to Arlington in 1988 and 1989 to wrap his career up where it started.
Blalock’s career (and value) seem to be sagging under a blanket of injuries, but when he burst onto the scene in 2003, he was the prototype slugger. Swinging from the heels, striking out or hitting a homer beer league player. Those players should be celebrated.
There's a lot of star power there for a team that is supposedly one of the boring ones.
Let's move on...
THE ALL TIME ACQUIRED RANGERS TEAM
For a while when the Rangers were stockpiling hitters and a charismatic young pitching staff, they also had a left handed .300 hitting catcher with a kick ass sounding Italian name calling the games. You can’t tell me that Geno Petralli wouldn’t have his own fan club if he played for the Mets or the Yankees! I just found out today that his first name was NOT Geno… It was Eugene. He probably thought Geno sounded more bad ass. He was right.
STARTING FIRST BASEMAN
In my time living in the Bay Area I can tell you that no Giants fan my age doesn’t have a reverence for Will Clark. When the Giants chose Bonds over Clark, believe it or not many Giants fans were angry. Clark was their guy and he went to baseball anonymity in Texas. I hope Rangers fans appreciate how good they had it by watching Clark play up close.
He wasn’t the best, but few played with more intensity or were more fun.
Plus name a better player with the middle name "Nuschler."
STARTING SECOND BASEMAN
Another guy who would be a God if he played elsewhere! The Rangers send Esteban Loaiza to the Blue Jays and picked up a minor leaguer who would win a batting title, a Gold Glove, be the hero of two All Star Games and consistently pick up 200 hits. Not a bad haul for Loaiza!
Ahhh the A-Rod era in Texas. It was nothing short of surreal, but here are my memories.
- He left the Mariners, a team that was 2 wins from the World Series, to go to the 91 loss Rangers and had the stones to say in the press conference that the only thing that mattered to him was winning.
- He signed the biggest contract in the history of sports and didn’t take into account that they wouldn’t be able to sign anyone else BECAUSE of him.
- He made those unwatchable Radio Shack ads while a Ranger.
- He won an MVP in Texas. I bet you forgot that. Ranger fans boo him mercilessly but he gave them an MVP season.
- When the trade to the Red Sox fell through, he had a bizarre press conference with Buck Showalter (who HATED A-Rod.) They were in tuxedos and declared that A-Rod was the captain of the Rangers. It was his team now and he was there to stay. A week later he was dealt to the Yankees. No doubt they returned the tuxes.
- Rangers fans hate him… not as much as Mariner fans hate him… although NOBODY hates him like Yankee fans.
- He is possibly the greatest player of all time. But everyone hates him.
STARTING THIRD BASEMAN
Buddy Bell had a wonderful All Star career, winning Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers. He was named to 5 All Star teams. He is the son of a big leaguer and the father of two more major leaguers. And I am convinced the Topps baseball card company made 4 billion copies of his card in 1980. It seemed like every single time I opened a pack of cards, I had Buddy Bell.
STARTING LEFT FIELDER
In a pitchers era, Howard smacked 44 or more homers with 100 some odd RBI 3 straight years for the Senators and went with the team to Texas. He was the last big Washington baseball hero.
Taking a look at the current Nationals team, he might STILL be the biggest Washington hero.
In fact I originally had him on the bench, but the good folks at Federal Baseball made me see the error of my ways!
STARTING CENTER FIELDER
On December 8, 1977 the Pirates, Mets, Rangers and Braves made a trade so complicated that I’ve read the Baseball-Reference entry now 3 times trying to make heads or tails out of it and I still can’t figure it out. What is clear is the Rangers sent Bert Blyleven to the Pirates and 11 other players were involved and somehow Al Oliver wound up a Ranger. He represented the Rangers in the 1980 and 1981 All Star Game and hit with some power but mainly for average. He batted .319 with 19 homers and 117 RBO for the 1980 Rangers and finished second in the 1978 batting race to Rod Carew. He was then traded to Montreal for Larry Parrish and Dave Hostetler… a simple trade.
STARTING RIGHT FIELDER
Can you imagine the young Rays now if Hamilton hadn’t lost his way in a see of drugs and addiction? His rookie season with the Reds gave everyone a glimpse of what he was possible of doing.
But Holy Cow!
His 2008 campaign would have earned an MVP if the Rangers even sniffed contention. Baseball’s answer to Roy Hobbs might be late to the party, but he’s only 27.
STARTING DESIGNATED HITTER
The biggest fish ever caught in drug testing, his stats are also the most laughably obvious of an abuser. He was a steady hitter who looked like he’d peak in the mid 20s for homers. Suddenly he was a 35-45 homer guy who finished with 569 shots along with 3,020. In a remarkable coincidence his productivity shot (as it were) through the roof when he became teammates with Jose Canseco. He then waved that finger all Clinton-like at Congress… and a Hall of Fame career became derailed. Too bad… he might have hit 3,000 hits without the stuff.
THE STARTING ROTATION
He had much better seasons with the Angels and with the Astros… but it was those no hitters he threw in his mid 40s for the Rangers that made him a bad ass superstar and pitch man for Advil.
I mean the guy struck out 301 batters at age 42!
He struck out 203 at age 44.
He was still pitching at age 46!
And he didn’t take any cr@p from Robin Ventura either.
No doubt the face of the franchise.
The term workhorse is given to pitchers these days who log 200 innings.
Take a look at Fergie’s first season in Texas. In 1974, under Billy Martin, Fergie went 25-12 over 41 starts. He completed 29 of them (with 6 shutouts) and had a 2.82 ERA over 328 1/3 innings. That first number was a 3.
He won 17 with the 1975 Rangers and then 18 in 1978 and 16 in 1979 all the while consistenly logging 250 + innings.
THAT is a Workhorse.
Hough had already pitched for 8+ seasons as a knuckleball reliever for the Dodgers (best known for letting up Reggie Jackson’s final homer in the1977 World Series) when he was straight up purchased by the Rangers. He had only 19 starts before joining Texas but he became their steadiest starter in the 1980s. Consistently winning 15+ games while throwing well over 200 innings a season, he was one of the oldest and most durable pitchers in the game.
Bosman was left unprotected in the Rule 5 draft and the Senators claimed him from the Giants. He rewarded the Senators with a 14-5 season for the surprising 1969 team and won 16 games with the terrible 1970 team. He traveled with the team to Texas but by then was winding down his career.
As a Red Sox fan it makes me grind my teeth including Sele here. He was supposed to be the next big Red Sox starter and looked the part when he started 7-2 with the 1993 Red Sox. But he looked like another bust and was sent off to the Rangers for Jim Leyritz. He rewarded his new team with a 19 win season in 1998 and an 18 win season in 1999… all the while the Red Sox desperately looked for a #2 starter for Pedro. Ugh.
When John Wetteland shutdown the Rangers in the two Yankee come from behind wins during the 1996 Division Series, it was clear Texas needed a shut down closer. And they though Wetteland was as good an option as any. He rewarded the Rangers with 4 solid seasons out of the pen, picking up some MVP votes in 1998 and some Cy Young votes in 1999.
Alas come playoff time, there were no leads to protect and he was reduced to the role of Mop Up Man against the 1998 and 1999 Yankees.
Part of the haul from Detroit for Juan Gonzalez, he gave the Rangers a solid closer in their surprising 2004 season. He saved 49 games that year with a 2.13 ERA and was named to the All Star Team. He followed that season up with a terrific 2005 campaign before being the centerpiece in the trade for Carlos Lee. They probably should have kept him.
Brought over from the Reds in the Buddy Bell trade, Russell was a classic nondescript but effective closer of the 1990s. He somehow kept piling up 30 saves while not exactly putting the fear of God into anyone.
He later was a unmemorable closer for the Red Sox. He saved 33 games for the 1993 Red Sox.
I have no memory of him doing that.
Man those Rangers of the 1980s had a lot of memorable pitchers for a team that had the reputation of being all hit no pitch. Williams was swiped from the Padres in the Rule 5 draft and logged 129 strikeouts in 108 2/3 innings out of the pen in 1987. He became the closer the next year before being shipped to the Cubs where he spent the next bunch of seasons blowing huge games for Chicago and Philadelphia. There were no big games to blow in Texas.
Before closers were in vogue, Kline became a relief specialist for the Senators. He won 10 games while saving 14 all in relief in 1964. He saved 29 games for the 1965 Senators and then 23 the next season. And mind you, these were TERRIBLE teams. And yet he put up solid numbers. He was unremarkable before his stint in Washington and had only one good year afterwards. But something clicked in a Senators uniform.
Here’s another player the Rangers organization got from the Rule 5 draft. They probably have used that strange rule as well as any team in baseball.
Toby Harrah was one of those players I never saw play, or if I did it left no impression on me. And like Buddy Bell, he always seemed to be in my pack of cards. Maybe it is appropriate that they were traded for each other.
When Julio Franco broke into big league ball with the 1982 Phillies, his teammates included Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, Tug McGraw and Sparky Lyle.
He finished his career playing with David Wright, Jose Reyes, Brian MCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. If that’s not an impressive span, I don’t know what it. I’m convinced he’s playing somewhere, like Shoeless Joe Jackson at the end of Eight Men Out.
He was a steady veteran when he hit .341 for the 1991 Rangers. He outlasted most of the kids on that team.
Growing up I never really followed teams like the Rangers, Indians or Padres. They were constant non contenders and their players all seemed to be interchangeable. But I remember when the 1979 Topps Card of Richie Zisk included the fact that he was an All Star, I took notice. And for that reason and only that reason a 7 year old Paul Sullivan thought Richie Zisk was one of the elite players of the game. Ahhh the power that Topps Baseball Cards had over us children!
The ultimate stereotypical slugger. The guy would homer 25-30 times a year and struck out so many times that Roger Clemens once commented it was so easy to whiff him that they should only counted as half a strikeout. He was swiped from the Expos when he wouldn’t sign with them out of Oklahoma State. He was sent directly to the big leagues. Maybe he should have spent some time in the minors to learn plate discipline.
After picking up a ring (and hitting a World Series homer in Yankee Stadium) with Arizona, he signed on with the Rangers looking for a shot to start. He provided some pop (21 homers in 2005) and gave the Rangers some stability behind the plate.
Plus his last name is cool to yell out loud.
He could do everything for the Rangers! He could hit for power… he could magically turn a line drive hitter like Palmeiro into a 500 homer guy… he could pitch (OK, only one inning… he could hit a ball out of the park off of his head… Rangers fans, Canseco gave you a lot.
SO WHO WOULD WIN IN A HEAD TO HEAD SERIES?
Both teams would have lots of fire power and a surprising amount of good pitching. But can you imagine having to face Nolan Ryan and Fergie Jenkins and then the next day have to hit Charlie Hough’s knuckleball?
Besides, you’d have A-Rod and a cleaned up Josh Hamilton to protected a juiced up Canseco and Palmeiro.
VERDICT: THE ACQUIRED TEAM WINS… AND THEN DRUG TESTS FOR EVERYONE!