"It doesn't take a very bright person," says Ranger general manager Joe Klein, "to realize that when you lead the league in pitching and you lead the league in defense, but you still finish eight games under .500, then you better add some offense."
Division-winner Chicago scored 800 runs in 1983; third-place Texas scored 639. Klein wants the Rangers to score 100 more runs in 1984. And to star in this new production number, Klein traded for outfielder Gary Ward, who averaged 34 doubles, six triples, 24 homers and 90 RBIs for the Twins in the last two seasons.
Ward may be the first player in history to be upset about being traded away from Minnesota. "I was hurt," he says. "I had grown up with the organization." Yet he worked hard during the winter, installing a batting cage, complete with a JUGS pitching machine, in his backyard in Perris, Calif. Twice a day he faced the machine, hitting 100 balls at noon and another 100 at 2:45 p.m.
Manager Doug Rader says Ward will make the entire lineup more productive. "In effect," says Rader, "what we did last year was have only five or six innings of offense every game because two or three guys never hit."
April 2, 1984
But if the Rangers are to Ward off offensive malaise, they'll need help from catcher Ned Yost and first baseman Pete O'Brien. Last year Texas catchers had only a total of seven home runs and 44 RBIs, so the Rangers sent No. 1 receiver Jim Sundberg to Milwaukee for the un-proven Yost, who had understudied Ted Simmons the past three seasons. O'Brien probably led the league in warning-track outs in '83, and he hopes an off-season weightlifting regimen will add eight or 10 feet to his longer shots.
Unfortunately, in this attempt to increase their production, the Rangers have sacrificed defense and pitching. As a Brewer, Yost threw out just 16 of 101 base stealers. The Rangers insist he had a problem with his delivery but that it has been corrected. His spring performance—he threw out Steve Sax, among others—seemed to bear this out.
To get Ward, Texas relinquished pitchers Mike Smithson and John Butcher. And the Rangers are short on short relief. "It's nice to have a stopper," Rader says, "but you can ham-and-egg it, get the right people in the right situations and experience some success." Odell Jones and Dave Tobik will be the ham and egg of a bullpen that may be devoured too frequently.
In 1983, the Rangers spent 37 days in first place before collapsing in July. A little more sock, a little relief from the bullpen, and they may not repeat that collapse in '84.
Texas was the most improved team in the American League, winning 13 more games than in '82 and climbing from sixth place to third in the West Division. The hitters were only minimally better, up six points to .255. But the pitchers trimmed their ERA substantially, from 4.28, which was 12th in '82, to 3.31, the American League's lowest.