Ranger Ramblings

I haven’t said much about the Rangers or baseball for that matter since December. To be honest, I’m rather surprised I haven’t. This time of year is always exciting for me. Baseball has always been my favorite sport (and one that I personally played from T-Ball through High School) and despite being a fan of the Texas Rangers, I always watch/listen/attend the game no matter what. Even though I know the season will likely end in disaster.

This season, however, is different. For the first time in a long time, I’m actually positive about this season and expecting some great things. Y! Sports has a good article that sums it up and I figured some commentary on it would be a good kickoff to my baseball musings.

First off, you have to start with the pain…the absolute horrible pain that is being a Ranger fan:

To be a fan of the Texas Rangers is to live in your own peculiar sports hell.

It’s not just that the people in charge have made some horrible decisions over the years. It’s not just that they’ve made some bad trades or fired some good people. It’s not that the Rangers have had some really bad owners and general managers. Hey, every franchise has had its bad moments.

The thing that separates the Rangers from pretty much every other MLB franchise is that they keep making bad decisions. Year after year. Generation after generation.

Even the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Rays and Florida Marlins have had their day in the sun. The Rangers never really have had one.

It is sports hell. The above is a reason I would always become furious at fans of the Cubs and previously the Red Sox that would always whine about their “curses”. You see, our franchise doesn’t have the luxury of falling back on a damn goat or Babe Ruth to blame our trouble on. We are just bad. Give me the “curse” of going to the playoffs with some form of regularity any day. Actually, let me put it this way — pop quiz: how many playoff games have the Rangers won?

One. That’s it. We won the first one and we have gotten our asses handed to us anytime we peeked our heads into the playoffs. If a Ranger fan talks about “the glory days”, this is all we get to remember:

In 37 years, the Rangers have won just one playoff game. That was their very first one—on Oct. 1, 1996. That was the beginning of a nice run. Under general manager Doug Melvin and manager Johnny Oates, the Rangers made the playoff three times in four years.

Those were the great years.

So to sum up, our playoff record is 1-9. We have played 10 playoff games total. Those were good times. Name me a franchise that has such a playoff record in the past 37 years, let alone are able to call such a record “the great years”. In the past 37 years, the Royals have won a series, the Cubs have actually won a playoff series, and the Marlins have won not one, but TWO world titles (the second coming after they blew their first team up). Hell, even the Montreal Expos have won a playoff series before they moved to Washington!

I even went through and checked the books on this one. Unless I am blind, I cannot find a franchise that has been worse off than us with postseason wins. As far as the Rangers franchise goes, you have to crawl back to the Washington Senator days to find any postseason success — World Champs in 1924 and a total of 4 playoff wins in the 1925 and 1933 World Series.

By the way, those wins occurred when the only playoffs were the world series…just ouch. [EDIT: and those Senators later became the Twins after the 1960.  The Senators had another franchise start up in 1961 that later became the Rangers after the 1971 season.  So really, you can’t even attribute this success to the Rangers, double ouch.]

Sure the Cubs may have the longest current drought in between World Series wins, but at least they have actually won playoff series and made several playoff appearances (and won a handful of games too) since their last title.

The ineptitude of the Rangers is simply one of a kind.

Next, you have the horrible, HORRIBLE trades and personnel decisions that we have suffered through:

That is, unless you count the time owner Brad Corbett mistakenly traded one of his best players, Oscar Gamble.

Corbett was a charming, aggressive owner. He fancied himself a George Steinbrenner. Problem is, he didn’t have Steinbrenner’s money or his judgment. So, he got confused on the waiver-wire rules and ended up being forced to trade Gamble.

In the 37-year history of the Texas Rangers, that mistake might not even rank in the top 10. Yes, it has been that bad.

There was a general manager named Eddie Robinson, who once traded for an aging outfielder named Lee Mazzilli. To get Lee Mazzilli, he traded away the organization’s best two young pitchers—Walt Terrell and Ron Darling. Robinson wanted Mazzilli to play left field. Mazzilli called left field “an idiot’s position.” Mazzilli played 58 games for Texas before Robinson was forced to unload him. Meanwhile, Darling and Terrell combined to win 247 major league games, none of them for the Rangers.

The Rangers have fired some managers over the years. Whitey Herzog once was fired by the Rangers. He went on to establish himself as one of the most respected baseball people ever. Herzog could have worked for almost any franchise. Except the Rangers.

Billy Martin once managed the Rangers. So did Eddie Stanky—for one game. Yes, he managed one game and then hit the ground running. Smart man, that Eddie Stanky.

Anyway, when Tom Hicks bought the club and decided he could do better than Oates and Melvin, the salad days were over. In the long, distinguished history of bad owners, Hicks might be at the top of the class.

The Rangers have had just one winning season since Hicks bought the club. He hired a general manager named John Hart. Bad move. He hired a manager named Buck Showalter. Worse move. Hicks bid $252 million for Alex Rodriguez when no one else was bidding more than $100 million. (Wouldn’t you like to play poker with Hicks?)

Agent Scott Boras convinced Hicks that Chan Ho Park would be a nice addition to the Rangers. He convinced him that $65 million over five years would be a good price. Hicks got himself a 22-game winner for that $65 million. Unfortunately, those 22 victories were spread over four years.

Someone hold me.

And those are just the “hi-lites” of our trading stupidity. For instance, San Diego Padre fans, you’re welcome. Glad you are enjoying Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez — especially considering every last person we traded for now no longer plays for us or ever made any significant impact like those two.

We also signed Sammy Sosa…again…after he was on his last legs.

And even this year you could point to the minor league contract of Andruw Jones as a bad signing; however, despite that, there is actually room to be optimistic this year:

When Hicks realized he couldn’t buy a pennant, he tore down the franchise and started over.

The Rangers now have a bright young general manager in Jon Daniels and a farm system loaded with prospects. For the first time since the Rangers had Pudge Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez in the pipeline, there is plenty of optimism that the bad times are over.

The Rangers have a great offensive player in Josh Hamilton and a rock-solid clubhouse guy in Michael Young. They have a 20-year-old shortstop named Elvis Andrus. They have got a healthy Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla at the front of the rotation.

There are also a slew of other young, talented players on the roster as well (Chris Davis, Marlon Byrd, C.J. Wilson, Neftali Feliz, etc). Our farm system is now rated as one of the best in baseball. And the best part about all this, is that the Rangers are actually sticking to the plan this time.

In 2007, everyone moaned and groaned when we heard, yet again, the plan was to rebuild from the ground up. The goal: Championship Competitive by 2010. Now we had all heard this before and watched the management screw it up royally by trading away young talent for aging “stars” and signing people way past their prime for obscene money. All of a sudden, competitive by 2010 seems more than possible.

The Rangers won’t win the West and they may not even be able to grab a Wild Card playoff spot, but there is no doubt this team will be fun to watch. Young minor league talent will start to surface this year and some will be on the roster opening day. The Rangers actually do have an overabundance of talent as some positions and could even become prime sellers come trade deadline. Even better, such trades for once won’t completely cripple our farm system depth as it had in the past.

Things, for once, are indeed finally looking up. Maybe just maybe, our “curse” will finally end.