Texas looking like long-term power
ST. LOUIS - One more win, and the Texas Rangers will have their first World Series championship, which in turn could stir up discussions of the “D-word.’’
“Dynasty’’ and baseball don’t often mix. Too many factors work against having “sustained success’’ - as Theo Epstein calls it - but the Rangers have a chance.
They have made it to the World Series two straight seasons, and nothing says they can’t get there again and again. They have a strong roster, a deep farm system, and growing resources as a result of a $1.6 billion TV deal with Fox Sports Southwest that begins in 2014 and will yield $80 million per season.
Is this baseball’s model organization?
If it isn’t, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that tops it.
Everything the Rangers have done seems to have turned their way. They probably just wish the revenue stream started a bit sooner so they could have outbid the Phillies for Cliff Lee.
Many experts thought that would be Texas’s death sentence - losing out on one of the best pitchers in baseball. But as it turns out, Lee’s Phillies bowed out this year in the Division Series round and the Rangers are one game away from winning the whole thing.
“I’m just thrilled that our starters have done what they’ve done,’’ said Rangers president Nolan Ryan. “They have had an outstanding year, and they pitched a lot of innings.
“And I think that it has meant a lot to us that [manager] Ron [Washington] didn’t have to overexpose his bullpen the second half from having to go to it so early in the first half. And then I think with the trades, we strengthened our bullpen.
“I really think this ball club is more balanced today than it has ever been since I have been here.’’
While Ryan gets so much credit for setting a tone regarding the attitude of the team, general manager Jon Daniels certainly deserves a lot, too, for the past two seasons.
Long gone is the notion that a team in Arlington, Texas, couldn’t thrive without a domed stadium because of the terrible heat. Historically, Texas teams melted away during the dog days of summer. Not this one.
And while the players have stuck it out, attendance has boomed. People come out even in the intense heat.
“We couldn’t be prouder of our fans and their commitment to come out and support us,’’ said Ryan. “And I think our players really do appreciate that, when you consider and you look at our society today, that people aren’t accustomed to being in the heat and that it is very challenging to them to be in the heat and sit out in the heat for four hours.
“It is not like going out in your yard and doing something for five or 10 minutes. They are out there for four hours. And that says a lot. The support that they gave our team, it just speaks volumes.’’
The Rangers managed to fend off the charging Los Angeles Angels at the end. Daniels helped the team greatly by making two significant deals to help the bullpen, acquiring San Diego’s Mike Adams and Baltimore’s Koji Uehara.
In the offseason, he added third baseman Adrian Beltre, who had a good year and has come up big in the postseason. Daniels basically swindled the Blue Jays when he traded Frank Francisco for Mike Napoli, who was flipped to Texas via Toronto after the Angels traded him for Vernon Wells and Juan Rivera. Napoli could very well be the World Series MVP.
Daniels’s best decision was to hold on to veteran DH Michael Young. This got extremely dicey after Young lost his third base job to Beltre and all that was left for him was the DH role. He balked at first and welcomed a trade.
But when Daniels couldn’t get what he considered a fair deal, he got Young to buy into staying with this very talented team. And Young had a season that will merit some MVP consideration.
Daniels’s July 2007 trade of Mark Teixeira to the Braves for Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, and Elvis Andrus pretty much provided the core of this team. He also acquired Josh Hamilton from the Reds in December 2007 for then-prospect Edinson Volquez. He signed Colby Lewis, who had been pitching in Japan, as a free agent, and Lewis has become the team’s No. 2 starter the past two seasons.
And the development side? How about lefty Derek Holland and righty Alexi Ogando? How about the emergence of C.J. Wilson, who was converted to a starter from a reliever?
Imagine if he hadn’t messed up in January 2006 by trading Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young to San Diego for Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka.
For Daniels, it is about development first.
“We tried to buy a championship, and it wasn’t sustainable,’’ Daniels said. “We were going to try to beat you, 9-8, but is that a sustainable way to build a championship?
“So we wanted to get back to the basics: good athletes up the middle, a deep pitching staff. We just needed to be a more complete team.’’
The Rangers’ future looks impressive. They have talent in the system at shortstop - not that they need it with Andrus around for years. But their top prospect is shortstop Jurickson Profar, with Luis Sardinas behind him.
Third baseman Mike Olt, center fielder Engel Beltre, left fielder Jake Skole, and catcher Jorge Alfaro are on the way.
They have pitching depth, led by lefty Martin Perez, with Roman Mendez, Miguel De Los Santos, Michael Kirkman, and Tanner Scheppers coming on.
And who knows how they add to this?
After watching Albert Pujols destroy them with three homers and five hits in Game 3, would the Rangers go after him as a free agent? Prince Fielder? Will the Rangers open the pocketbook for Wilson, a free agent? They are expected to be a major player for Japanese free agent pitcher Yu Darvish.
More is yet to come with this team.
They hit for power, play superb defense, pitch well. They have it all together right now.
One win away.