Texas Rangers: Greatest All-Time Team

Texas Rangers (1972-Present)

Washington Senators (1961-1971)

American League (1961-Present)

American League Champions: 2010, 2011

World Series Champions: None

Major League Baseball’s original plan was to add two new teams to each league in 1962. This plan was accelerated in the Junior Circuit due to Clark Griffith’s decision to move the established Washington Senators to Minniapolis/St. Paul following the 1960 season. Fearing repercussions from Congress, including the threat to re-examine Baseball’s legal exemption from the Sherman Antitrust Act, the American League immediately awarded one of their two new franchises to the Nation’s Capital. The ploy worked, because Congress did not remove the exemption. 

The problem was the new franchise had the same problems that forced the previous one to flee. Playing in the aging Griffith Stadium (built in 1911), and fielding a non-competitive team, the franchise continued to struggle to attract fans.

Former Los Angeles Laker owner Bob Short bought the team in 1968, outbidding, among others, Bob Hope. Short’s first act was to hire Hall of Famer Ted Williams to manage the team, despite the fact that Williams had never managed a baseball team in either the Minor or the Major Leagues. Surprisingly, Williams led the franchise to their first winning season in 1969, posting a 86-76 record and drawing a record 918,000 fans for the season. The success would be short-lived.

The players began to revolt against Williams’ autocratic rule, and by 1971 their record had fallen to 63-96, and attendance had collapsed to 655,000. Short, remembering the old saying about baseball on the Potomac,“Washington: first in war, first in peace, but still last in the American League,”  was now looking for a way out of Washington. Texas came calling. 

 Short requested to move the club to Arlington, Texas. The move was approved by the other American League owners in September, 1971, by a vote of 10-2. Fans of the Senators then revolted. In the team’s last game in the Nation’s Capital, fans stormed the entrances after the security guards left the park. The paid attendance was only 14,460, but by the 9th inning the people in the stands had grown to over 25,000. With two outs in the top of the 9th, and the Senators leading 7-5 against the New York Yankees, the fans stormed the field, collecting memorabilia. When one of them stole first base the umpires searched for security to restore order. There was none, so crew chief Jim Honochick called the game a forfeit, and awarded the win to the Yankees. That would be the last game in Washington until the Montreal Expos moved there in 2005.

The move to Arlington was marginally better. Attendance improved, the Rangers drew over 1,000,000 fans in 14 of their first 17 years, and the team performed better, posting a winning record in six of those seasons. George W. Bush led a group of investors that bought controlling interest in the team in 1989. This was a major factor in the club’s success during the 1990s. Bush sold his interest in the club in 1998 after he became Governor of Texas.

 Beginning in the late 1980s their farm system began to produce major talent. Outfielder Ruben Sierra came up in 1986. Future MVP Juan Gonzalez joined the club in 1989, along with pitcher Kenny Rogers and then future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez in 1991. They were ready to contend. They hired Johnny Oates to manage in 1995 and then won the American West Title in 3 of the next 4 years. The team fell apart in 2000, and went the next nine years with only one winning season. 

Nolan Ryan was selected as President and CEO in 2008 and along with the hiring of Ron Washington to manage the team, gradually moved them back into contention. They won the Franchise’s only two American League Titles in 2010 and 2011, but fell to the Giants and the Cardinals in the World Series.

Apr 7, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington (38) talks with ceo Nolan Ryan before the game against the Los Angeles Angels at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers beat the Angels 7-3. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The ownership let Ryan go in 2013 (where he would end up in Houston, helping the Astros become a baseball powerhouse, beginning in 2017) and it has been a bit of a struggle since. They did win the American League West in 2015 and 2016, but have fallen out of contention during the last three years. They did draw over 3,000,000 fans in 2012 and 2013, but attendance fell to 2,100,000 in 2018. They await a new ballpark in 2020 and a climb back into contention. 

Catcher

Jim Sundberg (1974-1983, 1988-1989) was a top notch catcher for 10 years for the Rangers. He quit hitting at age 31 and they shipped him off. Bill James rated him as the second best catcher in baseball in the early 1980s. His defense was outstanding, winning six straight Gold Gloves. For most of the expansion franchises he would be a reasonable choice. Not so with the Rangers. Ivan Rodriguez (1991-2002, 2009) was a 13 time Gold Glove, 14 time All Star, and American League MVP in 1999. He was justifiably elected to the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 2017. One of the top 10 catchers of all time.

First Base

Rafael Palmeiro (1989-1993, 1999-2003) is one of only five players to have more than 3,000 hits and 500 Home Runs. The four others are; Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray and Alex Rodriguez. Why does he seem out of place on that list?

Second Base

By the metrics we use Michael Young (2000-2012) is the third best player in franchise history (behind Raphael Palmeiro and Frank Howard). The problem is; where do you play him? He played 792 games at shortstop, 446 games at second base, 358 games at third base, and 77 at first. Since Raphael Palmeiro is a no-brainer at first, that leaves one of the other infield positions for Young. Ian Kinsler (2005-2013) would be the choice if we don’t take Young. 

Third Base

Many quality candidates at third. Toby Harrah (1972-1978, 1985-1986) was not much with the glove, but very underrated at the plate. By the metrics we use he has a slight edge over Adrian Beltre (2011-2018) and Buddy Bell (1979-1985, 1989). Somehow we feel the formula misses on this one. Bell was great with the glove, and a middle of the line-up performer at the plate. Beltre is headed for the Hall of Fame, and was great with the leather also. Michael Young (2000-2012) again is the wild card. 

Shortstop

Like third base we have lots of evenly matched candidates to challenge Michael Young (2000-2012) at shortstop. Alex Rodriguez (2001-2003) was only in Texas for three years, but what a three years! He was MVP in 2003. It’s interesting to note that 2003 was A-Rod’s worst year in Texas. His 2001 and 2002 seasons, when he finished 6th and 2nd in the voting, were better than his MVP year,. Simply put, he was the best player in baseball during those three years. Elvis Andrus (2009-Present) is in his 11th year as the Rangers’ shortstop. His best years are probably behind him. He did make the All-Star team in 2010 and 2012, and has been solid at short for the Rangers. Another debate between a career ballplayer with a franchise, and a superstar who was only with them for a moment. We could settle it by moving Toby Harrah (1972-1978, 1985-1986) to short, a position he occupied over 700 times with the Rangers. It all becomes academic if we decide to make Michael Young (2000-2012) the shortstop. 

Left Field

Frank Howard (1965-1972) was the big star of the 1960s Washington Senators. He won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1960, and a World Series Ring in 1963, both with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers dealt him to Washington in 1965, where he was a 4 time All-Star, leading the American League in Home Runs twice, RBIs once, Walks once, and Total Bases twice. Three times he finished in the top 10 in the MVP Vote. A forgotten star from the 1960s.

Center Field

What an unpredictable talent Josh Hamilton (2008-2012, 2015) was. Due to drug and alcohol problems his career appeared to be over before it got started. He straightened out his life and became a star when the Rangers gave him another chance at age 27. The best player on the team when they won back to back American League pennants in 2010 and 2011. The American League MVP in 2010 and an All Star five years in a row. He was never the same after signing with the Angels in 2013. The Rangers re-signed him in 2016, but he was just about through. They released him in April, 2017, ending his career at age 34. His competition in center is Juan Gonzalez (1989-1999). It’s one he loses badly, but Gonzalez actually played more games in right, which means Hamilton’s real competition is Ruben Sierra.

Right Field

Juan Gonzalez (1989-1999) played center when he shared the outfield with Ruben Sierra (1986-1992), but he played more than twice as many games in right than center for his entire career. Both were big stars with the club in the early 1990s. Gonzalez won two MVPs (1996 and 1998), while Sierra finished as high as second in 1989. Juan Gonzalez (1989-1999) and Frank Howard (1965-1972) are definitely two of the outfielders, the question comes down to Sierra and center fielder Josh Hamilton (2008-2012, 2015) for the third spot. The formula we use puts Ruben Sierra (1986-1992) in front by a small margin. Not very comfortable with this pick, but we’ll go with the formula.  

Pitchers

Charlie Hough (1980-1990) is a relatively easy choice for #1. Throwing his confusing knuckleball, he was the ace of the staff for 11 years, posting a 139-123 record with the team.

#2 is also easy. Kenny Rogers (1989-1995, 2000-2002, 2004-2005) had three different tenures in Texas. Not a popular player, but he did manage an overall record of 133-96 in a Ranger uniform.

After Rogers our choices get tough. The Rangers did have two Hall of Famers in their rotations, but both were in the twilight of their storied careers. Fergie Jenkins (1974-1981) did just enough to make the #3 spot.

The other member of the Hall was Nolan Ryan (1989-1992). Ryan was such a mythical figure that it’s hard to realize that his overall record in Texas was only 51-39 (by comparison, Jenkins was 93-72). Yu Darvish (2012-2017) had a similar record with the Rangers, 52-39. Ryan just didn’t do enough with the Rangers to crack the top four. The lack of quality candidates makes the choice for the #4 spot difficult, Kevin Brown (1986-1994) had 21 of his 78 wins in one year (1992). It’s really hard to take a starting pitcher with that few wins. That leaves the best relief pitcher in franchise history as the choice. Jeff Russell (1985-1992) had 42 wins and 134 saves during his eight years. Most of his value was out of the bullpen, but he did have 13 of his wins as a starter. Like we said, it’s slim pickings, but Russell takes the #4 spot by default. 

Manager

The only manager to take the franchise to the World Series was Ron Washington (2007-2014). They lost to the Giants in five games in 2010, and then lost one they should have won in 2011 to the Cardinals. In Game 6, up 3-2 in the Series, Texas took a 7-4 lead into the 8th inning. St. Louis scored one in the 8th and two in the 9th to tie the score and send the game into extra innings. Texas, again, appeared to clinch the Series in the 10th when Josh Hamilton hit a 2-run home run, but the Cardinals fought back for two of their own in the bottom half, and then won the game when David Freese led off the bottom of the 11th with a long home run to straight away center. St. Louis won Game 7, 6-2, handing Washington’s club a crushing defeat. Ron Washington’s (2007-2014) an easy choice over Johnny Oats (1995-2001).

MVP

This is a tough call between four players. By the metrics we use Rafael Palmeiro is the choice. With the failed drug test, Palmeiro is not spoken of much by the Ranger faithful. Not sure he’s a reasonable choice even without the drug issue. Frank Howard is next. An awesome offensive weapon in the run starved 1960s. By far the best player when the franchise was in Washington. His problem is his team didn’t win. 1969 was the only year the Senators had a winning record (86-76) during his time with the team. Michael Young was a versatile, well loved member of the Ranger’s best teams. He won a batting title in 2005 and led the American League in hits twice. He was a so-so fielder, but did win a Gold Glove in 2009 as a third baseman, and was a 7-time All Star. It ultimately comes down to Young and Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez. As we mentioned before, we think our rating system under values catchers, so the fact that Rodriguez finishes behind the previous mentioned three doesn’t bother us much. Using the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) used by BASEBALL REFERENCE, Rodriguez is first and Young is well down the list. This verifies our subjective opinion that Ivan Rodriguez (1991-2002, 2009) was the best of the four. 

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