Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
On my daughter’s bedroom door hangs a poster honoring the Texas Rangers’ 40th Anniversary team. I look at it all the time. I love All-Time teams, but there is one thing that bothers me, they’re too easy. Just throw all the stars up there and instant All-Time Team. So I started thinking, what if you had to make the hard choices? If someone forced you to field the best nine and you had to choose by the position that they played the most, who would you pick? I decided to try. So here it is, the All-Donny Texas Rangers, covering the mid-80s to the present. C Ivan Rodriguez Duh. I didn’t see Jim Sundberg in his prime and no other Ranger catcher even comes close. 1B Will Clark As I discussed previously https://nolanwritin.com/2014/03/14/reassessing-heroes-fandom-peds , I was a huge Rafael Palmeiro fan. I really do think that he was probably the best first basemen to play for the Rangers. Mark Teixeira put some nice numbers, but he is a distant third in this race. The problem with Palmeiro is that he is tainted now, and I can’t excuse that. Enter Clark. He was a leader for some very good Ranger teams. Even though he was past his prime by the time he got to Arlington, he still gave the Rangers a lot in his time here. He may not have been Palmeiro good, but he did his work honestly. I think. 2B Ian Kinsler You could make a case for Michael Young here, but I feel that Kinsler was an all-around better player than Young. Time will tell how much his presence will be missed, but his legacy will live on. Of course, his recent comments have made the parting a little bit easier to swallow. SS Elvis Andrus Sorry, A-Fraud, this one is a landslide. Elvis reminds me of Ozzie Smith in the field, sans backflips, but is better at the plate. Andrus has been the spark plug for the Texas Rangers since he arrived. The trade that brought Elvis to Arlington is probably Jon Daniels’ crowning achievement so far. 3B Adrian Beltre Texas has a long history of sluggers who hit a lot of homers and put up a bunch of Ks. Dean Palmer and Hank Blalock come to mind. Beltre is a different animal. Beltre isn’t an all or nothing player. He hits for average and brings the leather as well. Older readers might argue for Buddy Bell, but I’ll take Beltre LF Josh Hamilton His ugly departure and well documented issues make we want to pick Rusty Greer, but let’s be real. Hamilton was light years better than Greer. Awesome when motivated and healthy, Hamilton might have become the greatest Ranger ever if he could have kept his head together and his ego in check. Then again, he was also a ticking bomb waiting to go off and when he was bad, he was horrid. Still, if you’re putting together the best line up possible, Hambone has to be there. CF Oddibe McDowell Ugh. This one is a tough call for a different reason. Ranger history is notably devoid of the traditional, go get everything, on base machine centerfielders that almost every team finds from time to time. Center has been a revolving door of missed prospects and serviceable journeymen. Juan Gonzalez even spent a year at center early in his career. McDowell gets my nod 1) for his range and base stealing and 2) because of the Rangers I’ve seen play, he played the most games in center by far. Not exactly a raving endorsement RF Ruben Sierra Between Juan Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz, maybe we should call it ‘Roid Field. As far as I can tell, Sierra’s name has never come up, although since he was traded for Jose Canseco, he was lucky enough not to share a locker room with him. Still, Sierra was a dynamic player in his youth, with a gun for an arm and power from both sides of the plate, Sierra was a weapon Texas never fully utilized. DH Larry Parrish Another position that has been a revolving door for Texas. Parrish is the career Ranger leader in games played at the position. He also slugged 149 homers and 522 RBIs while batting a respectable .264. Given the other firepower my line up can bring, I don’t need a world beater at DH, so Parrish will do. Utility Player: Mark McLemore McLemore came to Arlington as an outfielder but is probably best remembered as the starting second basemen for the Texas Rangers best teams of the 90s. He wasn’t spectacular, but he was a solid offensive player with decent defensive skills who could play multiple positions. The perfect utility man. SP Nolan Ryan Even at the tail end of his career, Big Tex gave the Rangers some of their best pitching. More to the point, he got fans excited about Ranger baseball and forced the average fan to pay attention. Yu Darvish might eventually wind up here, he has all the tools. Still, maybe I’m being a bit sentimental, but a guy capable of throwing a no-hitter at the age of 44 is pretty special guy Closer John Wetteland Tcxas has actually had some pretty good closers over the years. Neftali Feliz was almost untouchable for two years before his ill-fated attempt at starting. Wetteland is the king of them all, though. Wetteland saved 150 games while striking out 249 in 253 innings, most of it during the Rangers’ 98 and 99 AL West championship runs. Set Up Man: Jeff Russell Russell was an effective closer for a while before being traded to Oakland in the Jose Canseco trade but he did a lot of his work in the thankless role of anonymous relief pitcher. It’s tough to qualify the guys who bridge the gap between starter and closer, but Russell was as effective as they come Swing Man/Long Reliever: Darren Oliver Oliver had many lives in his MLB career, including three separate stints with Texas. He came up with the Rangers as a starter and posted a fine 14-6 record for the 96 AL West champs. In 2011, as a 40-year-old swing man, he posted a 2.29 ERA in 61 appearances for the AL Champion Rangers, mainly specializing on facing lefty hitters. It’s that kind of wide spectrum experience that makes him the perfect long man out of the bullpen. The Odd Man Out: Michael Young Mr. Ranger fails to make my list and that is a little odd. Young was a highly effective player who spent time at each infield position. His place is Ranger lore is secure. Still, despite all of his positive qualities, I have to think that Texas had better players than him at each position he played; and since the purpose of this exercise is to make the hard choices, Michael misses the cut. So there you have it, my humble opinion on the best Rangers of my era. I’m pretty sure this line up would win a pretty good share of games. Did I slight someone? Forget someone? Throw in your two cents and give us your list.