Posted by Cubs223425
As any baseball fan can (hopefully) tell you, the Texas Rangers are going to the World Series for the first time in the 40+ years of their franchise, now led by pitching great Nolan Ryan. They overcame an enormous payroll discrepancy, the dreaded Yankees offense, and what seemed like a mess of rigged umpire calls (simple physics would tell you that ball hit Swisher).
Doing such a thing is no simple feat. Every year, fans of each and every team try to think of reason why they can make the World Series and why others cannot. This year, we have the Rangers taking the place of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, being that team that survived the Seattle Mariners’ offseason spending spree and the constant questions of their rotation while building a team on prospects and cunning. Rather than go out and buy themselves a team, they built one.
This whole process took them from the days for Alex and Ivan Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro to the days of Josh Hamilton and Neftali Feliz and Michael Young. Over the years, we saw Texas move A-Rod for Alfonso Soriano, and Soriano for a pittance whose best piece is on Detroit (Armando Galarraga). Palmeiro became a PR lightning rod after his career because of his being linked to steroids. Pudge went on to win a World Series with the Florida Marlins. One man who gave Texas a big return on its investment was Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira.
Teixeira was taken fifth in the 2001 MLB draft by the Rangers, and he made his major league debut in 2003. After a somewhat mediocre 2003 season (.259 average, 26 HR, 102 OPS+), Teixeira exploded. From 2004-2006, he managed to hit .288 with 114 HR and a combined OPS+ of 134 , all while winning 2 Silver Sluggers and 2 Gold Gloves. But, as is the case with mid-market teams, a long-term future wasn’t meant to be.
Texas offered its star an 8-year, $140 million extension, but Big Tex said no (he later got 8 years and $180 million from the Yankees). As a result, Texas jettisoned him to Atlanta in July of 2007. Their return? Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison, Beau Jones, Neftali Feliz, and Elvis Andrus. What have those four done since moving to Texas? Well, quite a lot, actually.
- At the time, Saltalamacchia was seen as the prize of this deal. He was a catcher with power and a strong arm, but it was simply not meant to be for him, it would appear. After appearing to be a rising star in the Atlanta system, Salty began having issues with his throwing shoulder, to the point where even getting the ball back to the pitcher became a journey. He was recently sent to Boston in return for three prospects, making him look like a relative bust in the blockbuster trade.
- Matt Harrison has struggled in his time in the majors, managing a feeble 5.39 ERA over three seasons. As of 2010, Harrison has been made into a reliever, though he made 6 starts for Texas this season. He has not been on the postseason roster for Texas.
- Beau Jones has been off and on in the Texas organization, but his 2010 in AA seemed to show some promise. The 24-year-old lefty struck out 62 over 52 2/3 innings, with an ERA of 2.91 and a WHIP of 1.27. He could be bumped up to AAA next season, and possibly make an appearance for the big league club.
Those three have been less than ideal returns for Texas’ former superstar Teixeira, but there were two more names, and they are big ones: Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz.
- Converted from being a starter, Feliz looked like a potential Rookie of the Year candidate with his 2010 season. His blistering fastball carried him to the elite level of closers at just 22 years of age. His 159 ERA+ produced a WAR of 1.8, behind only White Sox fireballer Matt Thornton and Kansas City’s Joakim Soria in terms of wins provided. That’s right–he even surpassed the great Mariano Rivera (1.7 WAR), and he helped send both Rivera and Teixeira packing last night, throwing a perfect ninth inning with two strikeouts and a fastball that registered as high as 100 MPH.
Meanwhile, his teammate Elvis Andrus wasn’t exactly a slouch, either. After stealing 33 of 39 bases in 2009, and posting an AL-best 13.5 UZR (among those who qualified), the young shortstop took both an offensive and defensive step backwards in his sophomore season. His OPS went from a decent .702 to an anemic .643, mostly due to putting zero fly balls over the fence in 2010, dropping his SLG from .373 to just .301. His baserunning suffered, managing just 32 steals in 47 attempts. The stellar defense regressed the most, though, as his UZR fell all the way to a 0.1. Regardless, his play in the postseason has been outstanding; he has managed to hit .333 and steal 7 bases in 8 attempts, including a perfect 4-4 against the Yankees.
That pair of 22-year-old rising stars (born less than 6 months apart) has helped carry the Rangers in the postseason, and they are a big part of why Texas is sitting in the position that it is now–its first playoff series win, its first home playoff game win, and its first World Series birth, all in the same postseason.
And it’s not just THAT Texas won; it’s also HOW the won. Game 6 was crucial, both in the sense of momentum, as well as in terms of rotation alignment. By winning against Yankees righty Phil Hughes, Texas now gets to guarantee a Game 1 start for Cliff Lee, something they will definitely need, whether they face two-time (soon-to-not-be) defending Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum of the Giants, or if they get Lee’s 2009 squad, the Philadelphia Phillies, who could march out a man among men in Roy Halladay, who has managed a perfect game against Josh Johnson, a playoff career debut no-hitter against Cincinnati, and 20 wins–all in 2010, which will likely see him win the 2010 NL Cy Young.
So when all of you Rangers fans are watching Elvis Andrus swipe bases and Neftali Feliz turn the dial up to triple digits, remember to thank the former franchise first baseman that you thought scorned you, because he clearly left you a big present on his way out the door.
Editor’s note: We are deeply sorry that Ron Mahay was not mentioned in this blog post. While Mahay was only a LOOGY who wasn’t good at anything else, he was probably extremely vital in a deal that featured Mark Teixeira. But we must not forget about Ron Mahay, for we do not want to offend him and his family/relatives by not giving him any credit for building this current Texas Rangers team. From the PTP^2 staff.