By David Mullen
In the 46 year history of the Texas Rangers, there are still no flags over Texas, despite playing right next to Six Flags Over Texas.
Oh, they were close. They finally made it to the World Series in 2010 but were quickly dispensed by the San Francisco Giants, 4-1. The following year, they won the American League pennant and had the World Championship in their glove against the St. Louis Cardinals in game six, except that Nelson Cruz didn’t realize that you have to have the ball in your glove to win. Hall of Fame and Rangers play-by-play announcer Eric Nadel said that it was the lowest moment of his life.
The Rangers have had some great players in their past. Hall of Famer Ted Williams was their first manager when they moved from Washington to Turnpike Stadium, where there were ultimately more bleacher seats than box seats.
They have had four Most Valuable Player award winners: the big power hitting Jeff Burroughs (1974), Juan Gonzalez, who won the award twice in 1996 and ’98, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez (1999) who had to go to Miami to finally win a ring, the never locally embraced and performance enhancing drug user Alex Rodriguez (2003) and the troubled, but incredibly talented Josh Hamilton (2010).
The Rangers had Rookie of the Year winners in Mike Hargrove (1974), who is still adjusting his batting gloves. He was dubbed the “human rain delay.” And in 2010, Neftali Feliz won the Rookie of the Year with Rangers fans thinking he was the second coming of New York Yankee closer Mariano Rivera. Ah, not so much.
We fell in love with Michael Young, who played 12 seasons with the Rangers with class and style. He retired as a seven-time All-Star and as a .300 hitter.
There were fan favorites like Colby Lewis, Jim Sundberg, Charlie Hough, Jeff Russell, Pete Incaviglia, Toby Harrah, Rusty Greer and Buddy Bell. Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan only pitched here five years and went to the front office before being forced out, only to lead the Houston Astros to a World Championship.
Kenny Rogers pitched a perfect game. Kevin Brown was a great pitcher with a bad attitude. Rafael Palmeiro had Hall of Fame stats, but lied to Congress about his discretions. Al Oliver, Vladimir Guerrero and Julio Franco played well but were toward the end of their careers.
Ruben Sierra and George Wright never became the players everyone thought they would be.
And then there was Adrian Beltre.
Dubbed “El Capitan,” Beltre is the greatest player in Texas Rangers history. He retired on Nov. 20 with zero fanfare. Just the way he wanted it.
Beltre finished with 3,166 hits. He won five Gold Gloves. He hit 477 home runs, only one of four third baseman in history to have more than 400 homers and had 1,707 runs batted in, the most of any third baseman in Major League history.
He originally came up as a 19-year-old in relative obscurity. He played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners and the Boston Red Sox, but had his longest stint with the Rangers.
Of the other third baseman in the Hall of Fame, Beltre, when he is eligible for the Hall of Fame in five years, may become the best third baseman in the Hall. He had a much higher batting average than the great Philadelphia Phillies star Michael Jack Schmidt. He had more power than George Brett.
Wade Boggs was a slap hitter. Eddie Matthews might be the closest comparison, but he never won a Gold Glove. Neither did Larry “Chipper” Jones. Ron Santo, who might be Mr. Cub, Jr. compared to Dallas’ own Ernie Banks, was a Chicago favorite but not nearly the player that Beltre was. Brooks Robinson was the “human vacuum cleaner,” but didn’t hit like Beltre.
Because he retired with little celebration, I am not sure that Rangers fans can truly appreciate what Adrian Beltre meant to the Texas Rangers. I just hope he goes into the Hall of Fame with a Rangers hat on his plaque. The franchise and their fans deserve it.