Baseball is in full swing! While it’s still early in the season, fans are already in full World Series spirit. No team is eliminated and even the fans of the cellar dwellers-to be have a lot to look forward to.
One team that has a lot of promise surrounding it is the Texas Rangers. It’s a squad that is filled with All-Star talent and has been so close to the promised land, but has yet to succeed. Many fans and pundits say that this Rangers team has enough talent to be one of the best Rangers team of all time. With studs like Yu Darvish, Cole Hamels, Elvis Andrus, and Rougned Odor leading the team, it’s not hard to see why.
While the 2011 team was likely the best squad to play in Arlington, 2017 looks to be a good year. However, we wanted to figure out which players would make the greatest Rangers team of all-time. Each player listed had to have played at least two full seasons with the team.
16 1B – Rafael Palmeiro
Most people do not look back at Rafael Palmeiro with fondness. For a majority of baseball fans, when thinking of Palmeiro, the image that comes to mind is him wagging a finger at the US congress and saying “I have never used steroids, period.” Did we write saying? Our mistake, it should read “lying,” as the man tested positive for steroids less than six months later.
When he was first starting, Palmeiro was a fan favorite. Palmeiro’s untruthful speech in 2005 will forever be his most memorable accolade, but it’s not his only one. Raffy was a surefire Hall of Famer before all the steroid talk painted his image. His 569 home runs ranks 13th of all time and he is one of the five members of the fabled 500/3000 club (500 homers, 3,000 hits). He has three Gold Gloves, four All-Star appearances, and is one of only four players in history to hit at least 200 home runs for two different clubs (Rangers and Baltimore Orioles). He had commercial deals and was on the way to Cooperstown until Jose Canseco called him out for steroid use in his book. Looking at Palmeiro’s statistics, he clearly was juicing, but so was everyone else who was good in that era (not named Ken Griffey Jr.). Palmeiro was a truly dangerous hitter and a key piece when the Rangers had the most devastating offense in the MLB.
15 2B – Ian Kinsler
Ian Kinsler is still a great player and a threat to make a case in the MVP race, even if it is for the Detroit Tigers. The team’s long-time second baseman, Kinsler will see his name in the Rangers’ Hall of Fame the day he is eligible. During his eight years in Texas, Kinsler racked up 539 RBIs and 1,145 hits while scoring 748 runs. After a pair of seasons, while Rangers fans had to deal with the prima donna attitude and sub-par play of Alfonso Soriano, it was a breath of fresh air when Kinsler took over the position in 2006. He may not have had the mind-blowing numbers of Soriano, but Kinsler was a fantastic teammate, caring more about putting his team in the best position to win, instead of padding his own stats for upcoming contract negotiations. It was a sad day when the Rangers chose to trade Kinsler in an attempt to bring up top prospect Jurickson Profar and secure the first base position by getting Prince Fielder in return. While Kinsler earned a fourth All-Star spot in Detroit, Profar has dealt with a slew of injuries that has ruined his chances of starting at the second base position, and Fielder had a neck injury that forced him to retire. Fans would miss Kinsler greatly if the young star Rougned Odor wasn’t handling the position. Maybe one-day Odor’s name will find it’s way onto this list, but until then it’s Kinsler’s spot to lose.
14 SS – Alex Rodriguez
The career of Alex Rodriguez makes Palmeiro look like the hero of Major League Baseball. A-Rod was one of the biggest names in baseball when he was playing for the Rangers (arguably the most famous following some dude named Derek Jeter). He was a lovable kid who was clearly better than anyone else playing, and Texas gave him a 10-year $252 million contract. The deal was worth $63 million more than the next richest contract in baseball. The deal is often thought of as a huge mistake, A-Rod was out of Texas after only three years. In those three seasons, Rodriguez played in all but one game, batted .305, hit 156 homers and 395 RBIs, and won an MVP in 2003. He is one of the team’s biggest disappointments as well as one of their best players of all time.
The Biogenesis steroid scandal has dragged Alex Rodriguez through the mud, and he basically held the New York Yankees hostage for years by refusing to retire or allowing a trade away while he was suspended for steroid use. Statistically, he is one of the best players who has ever picked up a bat, but the lies about steroid use and the bad blood between him and every team he has played for will greatly hurt his chances of making it to any Hall of Fame. Even saving a young kid’s life couldn’t save A-Rod’s public image.
13 3B – Adrian Beltre
It’s tough to think about the Rangers without The Captain manning third base. An ageless wonder, many people (this writer included) were baffled when the Rangers gave an $80 million contract to a 32-year-old who had only one All-Star season through his career. It was even more baffling because they had just moved Michael Young to the position (but more on that later). Anyone who decried the Rangers for signing Adrian Beltre was 100% wrong. With the Rangers he has won three Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, was named to three All-Star teams, finished in the top 10 of MVP voting four out of six seasons, and has been the heartbeat of the franchise. He has a .308 batting average, 167 home runs, and 563 RBIs. Despite being 38, Beltre is not showing signs of slowing down. In, 2016 he hit .300 with 104 RBIs and 32 home runs, one of the better seasons of his career. He just signed a contract to play through the 2018 season. Beltre is an interesting player when it comes to Hall of Fame credentials. He has been playing since 1998 (when he was 19) but didn’t really hit the limelight until 2010 with the Red Sox and his greatest asset is his glove at third base. After all he’s done for the Rangers, it will be no shock if they retire the number 29 in his honor.
12 C – Ivan Rodriguez
There has been no MLB Hall of Famers on the list so far. Adrian Beltre is on the borderline of the Hall of Fame while Palmeiro and A-Rod won’t be there for steroids (probably). This guy was a no-brainer to make it into Cooperstown. Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez was voted into Cooperstown on January 18, 2017 receiving 76% of the votes cast on his first year on the ballot. Pudge was the best catcher of his generation. He has 14-All Star appearances, 13 Gold Gloves (including 10 straight), seven Silver Sluggers, and an MVP award. Pudge currently has the highest WAR of any player who has played for the Rangers organization, and through his 13 years in Texas he had 215 homers, a .305 batting average, and 829 RBIs. Those numbers from the catcher position are incredible and very few catchers have ever gotten even close to those numbers.
After leaving the Rangers, Pudge went on to play 9 more seasons for five different teams (including a half-season for the Rangers in 2009). He won a World Series in 2003 as a member of the Florida Marlins before playing four All-Star seasons in Detroit. Pudge is a member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame, and the Rangers will be retiring the number 7 in his honor this season. He will be the first player drafted and developed by the Texas Rangers to make it into the Hall of Fame, but there may be more on their way.
11 LF – Josh Hamilton
Josh Hamilton is a horror story for MLB players. Hamilton almost threw his life and career away with drugs when he got picked first overall in the 1999 MLB draft. After numerous suspensions and failed drug tests, Hamilton made his much-awaited MLB debut for the Cincinnati Reds in 2007. The Rangers traded for Hamilton and he quickly became the player most thought he could be. Hamilton was an All-Star during each of his first five years in Texas. He was a revelation for many, gaining fans across the country and being recognized as the “best player in baseball” for a short time. His 2010 MVP season was one of the greatest years that any player could have had, but after that things began to decline, as he seemed more interested in telling his redemption story than actually finishing it.
After the 2012 season, Hamilton betrayed his fans in Texas by signing with the rival Los Angeles Angels along with CJ Wilson. Hamilton’s career crashed in Los Angeles as the spotlight proved too bright. In his two seasons as an Angel, Hamilton had a .255 batting average with only 31 home runs and 123 RBIs. The stats aren’t horrible, but not worth the monster $125 million contact that he signed. Fans booed him, the team benched him, and eventually he was dealt back to the Rangers for peanuts. Injuries have kept Hamilton off the field despite still being a member of the Rangers’ organization. Hamilton had five unbelievable years, but looks like he will be forgotten sooner than later.
10 CF – Al Oliver
Al “Scoop” Oliver was a journeyman through and through. He played for seven teams throughout his 18 years in the MLB. He was named to seven All-Star teams and a three time Silver Slugger. Oliver may have played for more than a half-dozen teams, but Rangers fans hold a special spot in their hearts for Scoop. While playing for the Rangers between 1978 and 1981 Oliver had a .319 batting average, which makes him the franchise’s all-time leader in that stat. When the Rangers traded him following the 1981 season, Oliver was in the club’s top 10 of almost every offensive category.
Oliver is a name that many current fans may never know because he was a borderline Hall of Famer who never put up mind-blowing stats. He received a lot of praise from the greats who played with him. Oliver’s career ended on a poor note as he was, at least from his point of view, forced to retire in 1985. Oliver argued that owners colluded against him and wouldn’t give him a contract he deserved. The owners would be found guilty of doing this in the late-'80s, but a direct effect on Oliver was not proven. Oliver never saw justice for what happened to him.
9 RF – Juan Gonzalez
There are not many players who have almost as many MVP awards as they have All-Star appearances. Juan Gonzalez was only named to three All-Star games in his career, but he also has two MVPs on his shelf, so he’ll never complain. The Rangers’ superstar was named Most Valuable Player in both 1996 and 1998 while with the team. He and Pudge Rodriguez anchored the most effective offense in the AL during that time and they led the Rangers to their first playoff berths in franchise history. Juan-Gone was always struggling with injuries and only played in more than 140 games in four of his 17 seasons. He was a superstar who could have been one of the best if he could have just stayed healthy. He is in the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame, but he will likely never get a bust in Cooperstown.
While his career accolades are amongst the best in the game, his stats aren’t Hall-worthy. He never hit the 500 home run mark, which is a key mark to make it as a power hitter in the ‘90s, and his career batting average was just shy of .300. Much like his teammate Pudge, there were steroid allegations surrounding Gonzalez, but he claims they are all baseless. We can only hope so, but as with any power hitter of the era, you never know.
8 DH – Michael Young
You can’t make this list without putting Michael Young somewhere on it. There is a major problem with doing this, because there is no place to put him. This was the same problem that the Rangers had to deal with in real life. He was their second baseman, but then Alfonso Soriano took the position. Then he was their shortstop, until it was time for Elvis Andrus to take the role. He played third base for a while, but then the Rangers brought in Beltre. The franchise made up a role for Young called the “super utility man.” This really meant he played a different position every game, and DH’d when he wasn’t in the field. Few teams have ever used this tactic as it makes no sense and only a very great player could handle that kind of role. Young was a very great player and can be considered the best player in Rangers’ history. Young leads the Rangers in most stat categories including games played (1,774), hits (2,178), doubles (406), triples (55), runs scored (1,057), at bats (7,221), extra-base hits (632), and total bases (3,210).
Since he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and faded into retirement, the Rangers have refused to give anyone the jersey number 10, because it will be retired someday. Young was inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame but will likely be left out of Cooperstown for lack of eye-popping statistics. Young was the lifeblood for the Rangers throughout their terrible years in the 2000s and deserves more recognition than he will ever receive.
7 SP – Nolan Ryan
Is this a surprise to anyone? To those who are surprised, you don’t know baseball. Nolan Ryan is probably the best pitcher for any team that he has played for, and is clearly the best for the Rangers. Right now Ryan holds the honor as the only player whose number has been retired by the organization (Jackie Robinson’s number is retired by the entire league). Nolan Ryan changed the way people thought about pitching. He was so dominant during his time in the MLB. He has almost 1,000 more strikeouts than anyone else and no one is even close to catching him. He threw 7 no-hitters in his career, 3 more than anyone else. He also has more losses than anyone else in MLB history, but he mostly played for bad teams.
Ryan was one of the first people elected to the Hall of Fame and his bust in Cooperstown has him in a Rangers hat. There isn’t a whole lot more to say about Nolan Ryan, he is heads and tails above any other pitcher in Rangers history, and he will always be remembered as one of the best to have ever played the game.
6 SP – Kenny Rogers
Not the singer of "The Gambler," but the Gambler himself. Kenny Rogers was the Rangers’ ace in three separate stints with the squad. Rogers came up with the Rangers in 1989 and he stayed with the team until 1995. During that time he went 70-51 with a 3.88 ERA. He threw a perfect game in 1994 and had his first 17-win season in 1995. He the journeyed around the MLB for a while, playing for the Yankees (helping them win the World Series in 1996), A’s, and Mets before coming back to Texas in 2000. He played for the Twins in 2003, but quickly returned to the Rangers in 2004 at the age of 39. Many expected him to retire, but instead he won 18 games, a career high. He made All-Star appearances in both 2004 and 2005 and then went to the Tigers and helped them to a World Series berth. Rogers won 133 games for the Rangers and has 1,201 strikeouts with the squad. Most impressive about Rogers is possibly the five Gold Gloves he has to his name. Pairing Rogers with Pudge was the most devastating defensive batteries that the MLB has ever seen.
5 SP – Charlie Hough
Charlie Hough is the Rangers’ all-time leader with 139 wins. A knuckleballer, Hough played in the MLB for 25 years. He spent 11 of those years with the Rangers, jumping between the bullpen and starting rotation as the team needed. The man was a total workhorse, starting 30 or more games nine times for the Rangers, and winning over half of his starts. Hough made his only career All-Star appearance as a member of the Rangers in 1986 and was inducted to the team’s Hall of Fame. Hough left the Rangers in 1990, but continued to play for a few more years. He retired in 1994 at the age of 46. Hough wasn’t always an elite pitcher. In fact, he was pretty average statistically.
Hough had a career record of 216-216 with an ERA of 3.75. However, he is 82nd on the list for most wins in MLB history. As for his signature pitch, the knuckleball is an interesting pitch, as it nearly impossible to master. When you’re throwing it well, it’s almost unhittable. But even the best knuckleballers don’t always “have it” every game. Some days the pitch just doesn’t work, and hitters will tee-off on it. The knuckleball is one of the most uncontrollable parts of baseball, and Rangers fans will always love their franchise’s best knuckleballer, good ole Charlie Hough.
4 SP – Fergie Jenkins
Here is a player who rarely gets the respect that he deserves. Fergie Jenkins is a member of the MLB Hall of Fame, but is rarely remembered as one of the game’s best. Jenkins had seven seasons where he won 20 or more games. Today’s great pitchers have accomplished that maybe once in their career. In today’s game, a 20-game winner is likely going to win the Cy Young that year. Fergie has one Cy Young award to his name. Tim Lincecum never won 20 games, neither has Felix Hernandez. The game has changed greatly since the '70s when Fergie was playing, but the man deserves more acclaim. During his six years pitching for the Rangers, Jenkins went 93- 72 with a 3.56 ERA. His 25-win season in 1974 is the most wins anyone has won in a single year with the team. The only other pitchers to have 20 wins with the Rangers aren’t even on this list. Jenkins was one of the few Superstar pitchers who played and thrived in Texas.
3 SP – Colby Lewis
Here we have a legend. Colby Lewis’ numbers are never going to impress the average baseball fan that stumbles across his page. In his 11-year career, Colby went 77-72 with a 4.70 ERA and 961 strikeouts. The numbers aren’t horrid, but they certainly aren’t the stuff of legends. However, Colby was a fan favorite amongst Rangers fans after solidifying himself as one of the most consistent starters in the team’s history. His first three years (from 2002-2004) were terrible. He had an ERA of 6.83 and went 12-13. The Rangers chose to part ways with the starter and he floated around the majors for a little bit. After taking a few years away from the MLB by playing in Japan, the Rangers brought Colby back in 2010 for his second stint with the team. He didn’t have mind-blowing numbers, but it was his playoff performances that earned his spot on this list. He was a key member of the rotation for the Ranger’s two World Series runs in 2010 and 2011. Besides a poor showing against the Blue Jays in 2016, Lewis has some of the best playoff numbers of any Rangers pitcher and chose to stay with the team when other suitors came calling. Lewis may not be as well known as other players on this list, but he is equally deserving.
2 CL – John Wetteland
The Rangers have had a problem with their closers preferring to make the jump to starting pitchers. CJ Wilson did it successfully and was the ace for the team before turning traitor and signing with the rival Los Angeles Angels. Neftali Feliz was Rookie of the Year as a closer, but his arm couldn’t take the strain that came with being a starter. During the four years that John Wetteland was the Rangers closer he collected 150 saves, was named to two All-Star teams, and helped lead the team to two division titles. Wetteland holds the Rangers’ franchise record for saves. Signing Wetteland was a huge win for the Rangers organization.
When they brought him in, Wetteland was fresh off winning a World Series MVP with the Yankees. Fans of the team should be extremely familiar with the team’s inability to sign veteran pitchers, and by luring in Wetteland they were able to get one of the most coveted free agents at that time. In 2005 Wetteland was named to the Rangers Hall of Fame and the MLB awarded him the Rolaids Reliever of the Decade after earning the most saves of any pitcher during the 1990s.
1 Manager – Johnny Oates
Many people will argue that Ron Washington deserves the title of greatest Rangers’ manager of all time. Ignoring the drug habit and the fact that he quit on his team as soon as they weren’t World Series favorites, Ron Washington was not a great manager. He really hurt the chances of winning the 2011 World Series by horribly mismanaging the bullpen and really just rode the coattails of a great GM (John Daniels) and using the team that ex-manager Buck Showalter put together. Johnny Oates has his number retired by the Rangers for good reason. Oates led the Rangers to their first playoff appearance in team history and helped to build up stars like Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, and Rusty Greer. Oates retired in 2001 following a terrible start to the season, but many feel that GM John Hart pushed him out because Hart was a terrible GM for the Rangers. Oates left before Hart started handing out massive contracts to bad players and letting guys like Alfonso Soriano dictate the franchise. Many believe that if Oates had not left and fought for control of the team, the Rangers' awful stretch in the 2000s may have never happened.