The Texas Rangers franchise traces its roots to the Washington Senators. But, wait, you say – weren’t the Minnesota Twins originally the Washington Senators? And, the answer is, Yes! When the Senators moved to Minnesota after the 1960 season, there was a great deal of displeasure among Washington fans – which included some powerful names in government. In order to avoid losing their antitrust exemption, major league baseball decided to move forward with expansion a year earlier than originally planned. And, two cities were awarded expansion franchises – Los Angeles (the Angels), and Washington.
The expansion Senators were not good. They finished with the worst or 2nd worst record in the entire American League 7 of their 11 seasons in Washington. They only achieved one winning season in Washington (with Ted Williams as their manager). Their ownership never seemed to be able to stabilize their situation – going through two different ownership groups in their first decade of existence. Finally, owner Bob Short was able to get approval to move the team to Arlington, TX. Despite how lousy the team had been for so long, Senators fans were still livid. At their final game in Washington, over 10,000 fans just walked into the stadium without paying – as security had already left. And, with two outs in the 9th, fans began running onto the field to take souvenirs – including first base. With no security, and first base missing, the umpires decided the game would be forfeited to the Yankees.
After moving to Texas, and changing the name to the Texas Rangers, it didn’t take long for the franchise to turn things around. They had their first winning season in 1977, which was followed by winning records in 5 of their next 6 seasons. However, the playoffs remained elusive until 1996, when they won their first of five division titles. They would go on to lose the ALDS in 3 of 4 seasons (’96, ’98, ’99). They later reached the playoffs in three consecutive years from 2010-2012 – which included two American League pennants (though, they would lose both World Series). Five different players have won six MVP awards while with the Rangers franchise, and they have had two Rookies of the Year. And, one player has been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Ranger. Here are the top 5 players in Rangers history, based on their play while in Texas:
5. Nolan Ryan (’89-’93) – Long-tenured Rangers are hard to come by. Especially when you look at the pitchers in their franchise history. Only three pitchers in the franchise have even totaled 100 wins. So, as the only Hall of Fame member wearing a Texas Rangers hat on his plaque, I’ll place Ryan here. While he only spent five seasons with Texas, he was still able to lead the league in strikeouts twice (at the ages of 42 & 43!), WHIP twice, and K/9 three times (though, he may be remembered more for a fight with Robin Ventura than any of that). He appeared in the All-Star game once, and finished 5th in Cy Young voting that same season (’89). He also pitched his sixth and seventh no-hitters while in Texas. On the Rangers’ all-time lists, he ranks 5th in ERA (3.43), 8th in win pct. (.567), 1st in WHIP (1.13), 2nd in K/9 (10.06), 4th in K’s (939 – and everyone ahead of him pitched over 1,000 more innings in Texas), 5th in K/BB ratio (2.66), and 4th in ERA+ (116).
4. Josh Hamilton (’08-’12) – Hamilton may not have been in Texas very long, but he had a major impact while there. He was an All-Star all 5 seasons he was in Texas, compiled a stat line of .305/.363/.549, led the league in RBI once, and total bases once. In 2010, he won a batting title, led the league in OPS, and won the AL MVP. That was also the first of consecutive years he helped lead the Rangers to the World Series – and he won the 2010 ALCS MVP along the way. Hamilton ranks 5th in Rangers history in batting, 3rd in SLG, 2nd in OPS (.912), and 4th in OPS+ (137).
3. Frank Howard (’65-’71) – Howard had a run from 1967-1970 that, if he had sustained it through more of his career, would have made him a shoe-in for the HOF. In those 4 seasons, he averaged 43 HR, 108 RBI, and a .923 OPS. He led the league in HR twice, RBI once, walks once, SLG once, and total bases twice. While with the then-Senators franchise, Howard appeared in 4 All-Star games, and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting 3 times. He ranks 8th on the Rangers’ all-time OBP list (.367), 7th in SLG (.503), 8th in OPS (.870), 6th in total bases (2,074), 3rd in HR (246), 6th in RBI (701), and 2nd in OPS+ (153 – 2nd only to the highly questionable stats put up by A-Rod).
2. Juan Gonzalez (’89-’99, ’02-’03) – the only Ranger with multiple MVP awards (’96 & ’98), Gonzalez spent nearly his entire career in Texas. He led the league in HR twice, doubles once, SLG once, and RBI once. Somehow, he finished in the top-10 in MVP voting more often than he was elected to the All-Star game (4 times to 2, respectively). He also won 5 Silver Sluggers. In 1996, he had one of the most impressive playoff series performances in history (in spite of a 4-game loss to the Yankees). He hit 5 HR, drove in 9, and compiled a .438/.526/1.375 stat line, for a ridiculous 1.901 OPS! He is the Rangers’ all-time leader in HR (372) and RBI (1,180). He also ranks 2nd in SLG (.565), 3rd in OPS (.907), 4th in hits (1,595), 2nd in total bases (3,073), and 6th in OPS+ (133).
1. Ivan Rodriguez (’91-’02, ’09) – Rodriguez should be on everyone’s top-3 list of catchers all time (only Bench & Berra can match him). He appeared in 10 consecutive All-Star games from ’92-’01, during which time he also won an amazing 10 consecutive Gold Gloves. He is the all time leader in putouts at catcher – having more than 2,000 more than anyone else in baseball history. He also won the MVP while in Texas in 1999. While he never led the league in any significant offensive stat, Rodriguez was a very good hitting catcher. On the Rangers’ all-time lists, he ranks 8th in batting (.304), 9th in SLG (.488), 10th in OPS (.828), 2nd in hits (1,747), 2nd in doubles (352), 4th in HR (217), and 4th in RBI (842).