The Rangers have become one of the powerhouses in the American League. It wasn’t long ago that they were in back-to-back World Series. Since then they have stayed in the playoff picture and as of the writing of this article have the second best record in the MLB. But any baseball fan can tell you that it wasn’t always that way.
There were some bright spots in the 90s, but overall the team had been a cellar mat for the American League. Since they became a team in 1972, they have made it to the postseason only 7 times. 4 of those have been in the past 6 seasons. They have a pedigree of great hitters and terrible pitchers due to the stadium being a power alley for right handed bats.
They have had some of the worst ownership woes of any team until recently, with some of the worst general managers of all time. But through it all they have had some very talented players… and some awful players. Here are the 8 best and 7 worst players in Rangers history.
8. Josh Hamilton
Despite playing for the Rangers for a short 5 seasons, Josh Hamilton was one of the best players the team has ever seen. He was only able to play in more than 150 games once in his time with the team, but he made the most of the time he spent on the field. He made the All-Star team each season, won the Silver Slugger award 3 times and was named MVP in 2010. Over the 5 seasons, Hamilton had a .305 average, hit 142 homers, knocked in 506 runs, and scored 419. His value was only increased considering the fact that he played most of his games as a center fielder. Despite only playing 133 games in 2010 and missing most of the month of September, Josh put on one of the greatest seasons anyone has ever had. He hit .359 with 100 RBIs and 32 home runs and crept by Miguel Cabrera to win the MVP award. He also famously hit four homeruns in a game that year. Hamilton falls a bit on this list because his injuries slowed him down and he was a hard player to rely on when the playoffs came around. Sometimes he would hit .350 and have 4 homers in a series, other times he would go nearly hitless (2010 World Series). He also falls because he broke the hearts of many Rangers fans by choosing to sign with the rival Angels (even if he did suck there). Hamilton’s career will always be thought of as what could have been if he didn’t have significant drug issues in his early years, but we will never know.
7. Fergie Jenkins
There are few players who dawned a Rangers uniform that made it into the MLB Hall-of-Fame. Oddly enough most of them were pitchers, which is strange when looking at the Rangers history as a hitter friendly team. Fergie Jenkins is one of those two pitchers. Jenkins is a three-time All-Star and a Cy Young award winner. However, he didn’t get any of those achievements as a Ranger. During his time in Texas, Fergie did have one of his best seasons ever. In 1974 he had a career high 25 wins with 225 strikeouts and a 2.82 ERA. He barely lost out a second Cy Young award to Catfish Hunter that year (oddly enough Jenkins finished higher in the MVP vote). The following year he won 17 games, but lost 18 games and saw his ERA rise to 3.93. Fergie left Texas after that season, but quickly returned after two years in Boston. From 1978-1981, Jenkins went 51-42 with 513 total strikeouts. He was the best player to join the Rangers in their awful years in the 70s and 80s and gave fans a reason to go to the ballpark. After Jenkins left in 1981, it would be 15 years before the Rangers saw their first playoff appearance, which begs the question as to why Jenkins joined the team in the first place.
6. Juan Gonzalez
We agree, it’s a little strange that a 2-time MVP is this low on the list, but it makes sense for Juan Gonzalez. Gonzalez, a player that has been linked to steroid use often, was one of the most feared hitters in the MLB during the ‘90s. During that time he averaged 37 homeruns and 117 RBIs a year, despite having injury shortened seasons in 1994 and 1995. Coming up with the Rangers, Gonzalez was thought to be a centerfielder before switching to leftfield for a majority of his career. The man was an RBI machine for most years, explaining that he simply was able to concentrate more when there were men on base. His first MVP came in 1996 when he hit a career high 47 homeruns and knocked in 144 RBIs. He outdid that in 1998 when he had already had 100 RBIs before the All-Star break, the only player to have done so since Hank Greenberg did 63 years earlier. Gonzalez saw a steep drop off in production after that season having one All-Star season in Cleveland, but never was able to play in more than 100 games after that season. The steroid suspicions paired with injured years and his steep decline following 1998 will keep Gonzalez out of Cooperstown, and puts him lower on the list than his numbers suggest.
5. Alex Rodriguez
From a man with steroids suspicions, to a man who is the poster child for steroid hate. Alex Rodriguez easily had three of the best seasons of anyone in Texas Rangers history. Each year he played in Texas (2001-2003) he was one of the leading candidates in the MVP race (winning in 2003), he went to the All-Star game each year, he won Silver Slugger, and he was a two-time Gold Glove winner at the short stop position. Over those three years, A-Rod averaged 52 homerun, 132 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 190 hits, and had a .305 average. The numbers were astronomically high and it wasn’t hard to see why the Rangers made A-Rod the highest paid player in the MLB at that time. Things went south quickly between A-Rod and the team following his MVP season. Rodriguez seemed to want to play for a better team despite the fact that the Rangers were bending over backwards to keep him happy. Initially the Rangers and the Red Sox had a deal in place to send A-Rod to Boston, but the MLBPA vetoed the deal. Eventually The Rangers and the Yankees came to a deal to swap A-Rod for Alfonso Soriano (a candidate for worst Ranger of all time).
4. Adrian Beltre
Adrian Beltre is the kind of player that fans will debate to the death saying he belongs in the MLB Hall-of-Fame. However, his numbers and accolades really don’t support it. In 19 seasons, Beltre has only been named to 4 All-Star teams and only finished in the top 5 MVP voting twice. Throughout his career he has been a fantastic third baseman and a solid hitter, but had rarely seen postseason ball and widely was ignored by fans. Since joining the Rangers in 2011, it seems like all of that has changed. Each season, Beltre has been a factor in the MVP race and has become one of the most feared hitters in the sport. He’s made the All-Star team 3 out of his 6 years and is one of the most famous names in baseball. Even at 39-years-old, Beltre is batting .293 with 26 homers and is closing in on 100 RBIs. As the team is getting younger with stars like Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara taking over the team, Beltre has provided a veteran presence in the locker room and a leader on the field. Look no farther than the now famous right hook that Odor delivered to the face of Jose Bautista. It was Beltre that calmed Bautista down and jawed at Odor after the fight. Jeff Banister has gotten so much credit for leading the Rangers, but it may have really been Beltre calling the shots (well not really, but exaggerating is fun). From a Rangers fan’s perspective, Beltre is a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer. For the rest of the world the debate continues.
3. Michael Young
The Rangers Captain is and forever will be Michael Young, no matter if he’s retired or not. The seven-time All-Star did everything that the team ever asked him to do. He came up to play second base next to A-Rod, but then had to shift to shortstop when Alfonso Soriano joined the team. He played there for a long time (even won a Gold Glove), but then had to switch to third base when Elvis Andrus was called up. That went well for a while, until the team signed Adrian Beltre and Young was out of a position. The team created a position for Young, known as the super-utility-designated-hitter-please-don’t-leave position. Over his 12 full seasons as a Ranger Young had 984 RBIs, 2,229 hits, and a .301 average. Young holds the Rangers record for career hits, singles, doubles, triples, total bases, and runs scored. Michael Young will never be thought of as a Hall-of-Fame candidate as his career numbers are too low. He never crossed 3000 hits, which is almost necessary with the competition in today’s MLB, but there were no steroid rumors around him, so it’s possible he sneaks in. What is for sure is that no one else on the Rangers will ever wear number 10 on their back.
2. Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan had his worst seasons as a Ranger, and he is still one of the greatest players to walk into the Rangers’ clubhouse. Does that say more about the team or Ryan? It’s not like Ryan was bad for the Rangers, he was just coming to the end of his career and hit a wall after 3 years with the club. His first season in Texas, in 1989, Ryan set the team record for most strikeouts in a season with 301. That season he was an All-Star and won 16 games for the team. Despite that 1989 was statistically his best season for the Rangers, fans will fondly look at 1990 and 1991 as his greatest. He had a no-hitter each of those seasons, and also had 16 strikeouts in a game each year. Following the ’91 season, Nolan Ryan’s career basically came to an end. His final two seasons, he only had 203 strikeouts and went 10-14 with an ERA above 4. Before his final season in 1993, Ryan announced that it would be his last, and on his farewell tour he gave Rangers fans a gift they would never forget. After a ball got away from Ryan and he hit Robin Ventura of the Chicago White Sox, Ventura charged the mound in order to fight Ryan who was 20 years older than he was. Ryan quickly put the young Ventura in a headlock and shut the fight down before it ever started. Ivan Rodriguez eventually separated the two men. Ventura was ejected, but Ryan remained in the game because he technically broke no rules as he never left the pitching mound. That fight is stilled aired before almost every Rangers home game.
1. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez
Speaking of Ivan Rodriguez, he easily found a spot on this list. It wasn’t even a contest. We’ll put it this way, if Young is the Rangers’ captain, than Pudge is the heart and soul of the Rangers franchise. In his 21 year career, Pudge may have played for 6 different teams, but when he goes into the Hall-of-Fame there will be a “T” on his hat. There is some question on whether he will make it to Cooperstown, but if you look at his stats, there is no question that he deserves it. As argued by Richard Justice, “He batted better than .290 with more than 2,500 hits, 550 doubles, 300 home runs and 1,300 RBI, an accomplishment equaled only by four all-time greats: Hank Aaron, George Brett, Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds.” Stan Musial should also be on that list. With the Rangers, Pudge won a Gold Glove and was an All-Star in all but his rookie season and in 2009 when he came back for 28 games. In Texas, he hit 198 homers, 782 RBIs, and hit .304 (surprisingly he also had 76 steals). He won the MVP award in 1999 hitting .322 and driving in 113 runs. He may have won the World Series in Miami, but he will always be known as a Ranger for life.
7. Brandon McCarthy
All Rangers fans will know this man, and not even realize that he was the guy who had his skull fractured off a line drive that hit him in the face, or that he had a sub-3 ERA for the Yankees in 2014. For the Rangers, McCarthy was one of the most disappointing trades of all time. In 2006, the Rangers traded one of their top prospects, John Danks, to the Chicago White Sox for McCarthy. At the time the trade was explained by the idea that the Rangers were one arm away from being a playoff contender, and Danks was years away from being ready to play at a high level. McCarthy went 5-10 that season with a 4.87 ERA and spent the rest of his Rangers career on and off the DL. John Danks went 6-13 in the same year and then went on to win 12, 13, and 15 games over the next 3 seasons before getting hit with the injury bug. Danks is still with the White Sox while McCarthy currently plays for the Dodgers, but has been on and off the DL all season. The trade was a near wash, which is why McCarthy is so low, but Rangers fans will always remember McCarthy as one of the worst trades in team history.
6. Harold Baines
And here is the worst trade in Rangers history. It’s not that Harold Baines was not worth trading for, in his first eight seasons he made 3 All-Star teams and hit .288 and had 160 homers. The Rangers had a surplus of young outfielders including Juan Gonzalez, so they made a move to get Baines, a veteran that would help them compete immediately. However, they traded Sammy Sosa to do it. Baines was a rented player that played the second half of 1989 and first half of 1990 for the Rangers, and that was it. Sosa on the other hand went on to be one of the most defining names in baseball for the next decade. Baines had 16 total homeruns in Texas, after 1993 Sammy Sosa never had less than 25 (except for that one year in Baltimore that we all forgot about). At the end of the day the Rangers had to make a choice between Sosa and Gonzalez and they chose Gonzalez. We aren’t going to say that they made the wrong choice, but an outfield made up of Sosa Gonzalez and Gabe Kapler would have been devastating for opposing teams. Harold Baines gave nothing to the team and will ever be tied to one awful trade.
5. Adam Eaton
The Harold Baines trade was not good for the Rangers because they gave up Sammy Sosa to do it, but at least it made sense on paper. The Adam Eaton trade makes you question how John Daniels kept his job. To acquire Eaton, the Rangers gave up two prospects: Chris Young and a guy named Adrian Gonzalez. After seeing an average career with the Padres, the Rangers jumped at the opportunity to bring in a “good” pitcher to help get out of the AL West cellar. Eaton was expected to join Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla as the new Rangers rotation, but instead he only played in 13 games and had an above 5 ERA. While trading Adrian Gonzalez was a move that had to happen, because Mark Teixeira was already occupying first base, by also giving up Chris Young the trade became a catastrophe. Young was a 12 game winner in 2005 and, despite some injury concerns, was a bright spot in a very bad Rangers’ rotation. Adam Eaton had never won 12 games in any season, so the Padres were already getting the better pitcher. Not to mention that all of Eaton’s numbers were skewed playing in a pitcher-friendly park in San Diego. Anyone could have guessed that taking a low level starter who had average numbers in San Diego, and putting him in the power alley that was the Ballpark in Arlington, would be a bad move.
4. Jose Canseco
Jose Canseco seems to bring poison everywhere he goes, probably because he has some vile of bull shark testosterone on him at all times. That might not be true, but he really was a hindrance in almost every clubhouse that he entered. For the Rangers, Canseco never played more than 112 games in a season and despite being known as a power hitter, only could hit 45 homers in 3 years (in Arlington!). His time in Texas is defined by two of the strangest moments ever seen in baseball. First there was the ball that bounced off Canseco’s head and into the stands for a homerun. Later he asked the manager, Kevin Kennedy, to allow him to pitch in a gruesome loss to the Red Sox. Kennedy acquiesced and Canseco pitched, it was the worst pitching performance ever. He allowed three earned runs on two hits and three walks, ending with an injury that required Tommy John Surgery and cost Canseco the rest of the season. He then outed (some fairly, some not) a number of high profile Rangers players claiming he introduced them to steroids in his tell-all book. Canseco was an All-Star when the Rangers traded for him, but never could replicate that success.
3. Vicente Padilla
The story of Vicente Padilla’s time in Texas can’t be measured by stats. He had some pretty successful seasons for the team and rarely had a season that made fan groan, based on his performance. However, his attitude towards the game and his total lack of sympathy for his teammates was horrifying. Padilla was always known as a hothead who had a bit of a temper, but when he came to Texas he turned that up to 11. He started to throw at players for ridiculous reasons claiming they would do things like watch their homeruns too long, or take to long rounding the bases, or gave him a look. As it strangely common in the sport, Padilla took it upon himself to demand respect and would hit players with his fastball to “get them back.” Rarely did his team ever agree with these bean-balls and it was often Mark Teixeira who paid the price. He would get the retaliating bean balls, and as he eloquently put it, “they hurt.” It came to a head when Padilla and Teixeira went at it in the dugout and eventually Padilla was released from the team. He was a disgrace to the game and anyone who put on a Rangers Jersey.
2. Prince Fielder
Ian Kinsler missed the cut for “Best Rangers ever” by a hair. He was one of the greatest players to play in Arlington and will most likely have his number retired by the team once he’s done in the MLB. So naturally the fact that he was traded away for an over-the-hill DH on a massive contract is one of the more upsetting deals for Rangers fans everywhere. The trade was not good, but at the time it made total sense. The Rangers needed to bring up Jurickson Profar and had a gaping hole at first base, so when Prince Fielder was offered, the team jumped at the chance. It didn’t turn out so well. Fielder had one good season for the Rangers, but it was between two incredibly injury riddled seasons that nearly jeopardized the team’s playoff hopes. If you take out the second year with the team, he hit .223 with only 11 homers and 60 RBIs. Meanwhile Kinsler never hit lower than .275 and hasn’t had less than 72 RBIs in a season. Not a fair trade. We get that Fielder couldn’t stop the injuries, but there was a lot of evidence before the trade that Fielder was on his last legs and would soon be bottoming out. However, it was shocking how quickly the decline happened.
1. Chan Ho Park
What do we have to say about Chan Ho Park? Well it was a terrible idea to give a $65 million 5-year deal to a below average pitcher who thrived in a pitcher friendly ballpark for most of his career. He made one All-Star team for the Dodgers and someone in the Rangers organization decided that was enough for him to be the opening day starter over the next 5 years. Not to say he wasn’t successful in LA, he had multiple 15-win seasons, but as we said it was a pitcher park and he had one of the highest fly ball rates in the MLB. Putting him in Texas was like telling batters that they were playing t-ball. Over his 3 and a half seasons for the Rangers he had a 5.85 ERA and gave up 55 home runs. He was also noted for being upset in the clubhouse at the manager for pulling him out of games “too early.” He was a head case in the club house and he never produced on the field. He was symbolic of the team’s ineptitude in the mid 2000s. With an offense of A-Rod, Pudge, and Rafael Palmiero, he’s not just a failed contract; he’s a failed opportunity.
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