Texas Rangers stick to the plan
Blueprint for franchise's first World Series trip could be the start of something big
ARLINGTON, Texas -- As confetti floated and ginger ale sprayed through the air above the Rangers Ballpark infield, new owner Chuck Greenberg got greedy.
"Let's do this every year!" he hollered into a microphone while standing on a podium and celebrating the Texas Rangers' first American League pennant.
OK, so that's a little too optimistic, albeit understandable considering the euphoria of the moment. But the Rangers' wait for their next postseason series win should certainly be a heck of a lot shorter than 39 years.
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The Rangers brass, which rescued the organization from bankruptcy and irrelevancy, has good reason to believe that Texas' first trip to the World Series is the beginning of something big. The claw-and-antlers crew can be a force for the foreseeable future.
"That's the plan," general manager Jon Daniels said. "I don't know if we can or we can't, but I know we're going to try, and we've got a lot of good baseball people that put a lot of time and effort into making sure that we're at least in position to contend every year. Now, what happens is somewhat out of our control at this point, but we put a plan together a few years ago with the goal of not being a one-hit wonder."
The Rangers have a roster loaded with players in their prime. Six of the nine regulars in the lineup, including MVP candidate Josh Hamilton, are 30 years old or younger. The rotation features three twentysomethings (C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hunter and Derek Holland). Greybeard lefty Darren Oliver is their only playoff bullpen arm on the wrong side of 30. And the farm system is considered one of the most talented in baseball.
That farm system is the foundation of the plan Daniels put in place in 2007, when he convinced the previous owner (whose name won't be mentioned since we're trying to keep a positive tone) that the Rangers needed to go into rebuilding mode. The first significant step in the right direction was a trade-deadline deal that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta for five prospects, two of which were shortstop Elvis Andrus and closer Neftali Feliz, a pair of 22-year-old All-Stars this season.
Texas legend Nolan Ryan, Greenberg's partner who has been serving as team president since 2008, vows that the Rangers will continue to place a priority on building their big league team from within.
"The main focus is the development side of our organization, and we are going to continue that," Ryan said. "We would like to think that we have some young talent in the system that we project will come in at some point in time and be part of a winning effort. So I think from that position, we feel pretty good about where we are."
That doesn't mean the Rangers, who made it clear that they were playing to win big by trading for Cliff Lee while still sorting through the bankruptcy mess, are afraid to act their market size.
Not that they'll have a Yankee-like payroll or make any more $252 million mistakes. They'll pick their spots to make big splashes, starting with trying to keep the free-agent Lee this winter. And they'll continue to complement their core by making moves such as signing No. 3 starter Colby Lewis and cleanup hitter Vladimir Guerrero to reasonable, short-term contracts last offseason.
"We have all the foundation elements in place to compete for long-term success," said Greenberg, still giddy but measuring his words a little more carefully than he had moments before. "We're committed to using all the resources that we have to build upon the foundation that we have and enhance it.
"We're going to be smart about it. Ballclubs that just throw money in search of solutions live to regret it. The great thing is we've got good pieces in place right now. For us, it's about maintaining the core that we have and looking for great accents. We firmly intend to do that."
If the Rangers keep following their plan, the sight of confetti falling during the fall in Arlington might seem routine a few years down the road.