Is Elvis Andrus next face of the franchise?

April, 4, 2013
4/04/13
4:44
PM CT
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels won't put a "face of the franchise" tag on any one player. The fans, he said Thursday, decide that.

For the Rangers through the years, that has been Nolan Ryan, Pudge Rodriguez and Michael Young, in chronological order. That's this 41-year-old franchise's Mount Rushmore.

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There's room for one more.

Maybe, just maybe, that player is 24-year-old shortstop Elvis Andrus, who on Thursday afternoon had an eight-year, $120 million contract extension through 2022 formally announced at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. It came on the eve of the Rangers' home opener against Josh Hamilton and the Angels.

It's ironic; this could have been Hamilton. The big contract. Face of the franchise. Now it might be Andrus.

Andrus' smile and charisma endeared him to Rangers fans a long time ago. His style of play, his fearlessness on the basepaths, his glove, his clutch hitting, his two All-Star appearances -- fans like that, too.

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What they'll really sign up for, what they'll always vote on for face of the franchise, is a player who puts winning above everything else. The Rangers were twice a strike away from winning the World Series in 2011. The 3.5 million fans who showed up at the ballpark last year thought about that every day.

So did Andrus. And he still does. He said it Thursday after becoming a very wealthy 24-year-old.

"I'm not going to rest or sleep until I get a World Series," Andrus said. "As a player, I treat myself as a winner. If I don't get a ring, get this organization a ring, I won't sleep."

The Rangers see Andrus as a critical piece to getting that last strike. He plays a premium defensive position. He hit .350 with runners in scoring position last season. No current Ranger embodies the style of play manager Ron Washington wants and asks of his players each day more than Andrus.

As Daniels said Thursday, the Rangers are built to be an up-tempo, aggressive team, something they believe got lost last year. The Rangers made it to the World Series two straight seasons because of tough at-bats, solid pitching and defense.

Andrus can't pitch, but he does the other two things at a very high level. And he should only get better in his prime years.

"He epitomizes all of those things," Daniels said. "In a lot of ways, he is everything we're all about: the charisma, the smile, the connection with our fans, the connection with our teammates. At 24 years old, with the things he's accomplished to this point, with the multiple All-Star Games and the World Series and the other personal accolades. And the way he leads the charge when we take the field every night."

Sounds like a franchise player, doesn't it?

Another focal point Thursday was the close relationship between Andrus and Washington.

Andrus and his agent, Scott Boras, gave major credit to Washington for the shortstop's development, taking on a 20-year-old rookie straight from Double-A and molding him from a player who drove Washington crazy with routine errors in 2009 into a player the manager said he was able to back off last season for the first time. No player has endured Washington's teaching and scolding more than Andrus.

"As a player, especially a young player, that's what you want," Andrus said of the manager's constant pushing and prodding. "You want, as soon as you make a mistake, to be that lucky to have somebody that wants to teach you, wants to make you get better, make you do the job that you're supposed to do. I always say I really appreciate that, I will never get mad at that. I always appreciate him personally and thank him for being there for me."

Andrus is here for the Rangers, at least until the end of the 2018 season, when he has an opt-out in his contract -- the key to getting the deal done.

Andrus was thought to be headed to free agency at the end of next season because of who his agent is. But Andrus instructed Boras to work out a long-term deal to stay with the Rangers.

Daniels and Boras made a point of spending time discussing Andrus each time the two talked in the past two years about free agents and other baseball topics. The Rangers were very interested in keeping one of their core players.

"As we sat down and looked at things," Boras said, "it became clear to me and Elvis -- and I think to [Daniels] -- that we had some very workable and common thoughts that would allow us to reach an agreement. It was a very collaborative effort and one that worked out well for all sides."

Andrus said his family jumped for joy upon hearing the contract was done. Andrus said he wanted security in his life, for his family. The contract getting done is a relief, he said.

Now he can focus on his main goal of winning a championship. Andrus talked about it over and over during his news conference and afterward.

Time will tell on the face of the franchise tag.

"Those things happen on the field," Daniels said. "Those are natural connections made to the fan base. In a lot of ways, Elvis and a lot of his teammates have already become that."

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Adrian Beltre
BA HR RBI R
.322 14 53 52
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Beltre 14
RBIA. Beltre 53
RA. Beltre 52
OPSA. Beltre .880
WY. Darvish 9
ERAY. Darvish 2.92
SOY. Darvish 159