3 Texas Rangers A-Rod gives them marquee value, but how many 10-9 games can a team win?

March 26, 2001

The bulletin board in the Rangers' spring training clubhouse
featured a Xeroxed photograph of a zookeeper standing behind an
elephant, dutifully catching in a paper bag what had earlier been
the animal's lunch. Beneath the photo, a caption read, and YOU
THOUGHT YOUR JOB SUCKED. Against that backdrop Rafael Palmeiro
recently greeted a visitor, offering an answer to a question that
had yet to be asked. "Yes," said the Texas first baseman,
referring to a certain other elephant in the room, "I am very
happy to have Alex Rodriguez on my team."

Palmeiro's Pavlovian response is understandable; no doubt he and
his teammates heard A-Rod questions in their sleep this spring.
Upon lavishing Rodriguez with the fattest contract in sports
history (10 years, $252 million) in December, Texas owner Tom
Hicks gushed that the deal would "leapfrog [the Rangers] into an
arena where we've never been before." He's gotten his wish. When,
for example, was the last time you saw camera crews from CNN and
60 Minutes milling around the team's spring home in sleepy Port
Charlotte, Fla.?

Rodriguez will receive the lion's share of attention in this new,
zoolike atmosphere, but he's not the only big game to arrive in
Texas. After a disastrous season in which they lost 91 times and
became just the fourth team ever to tumble from first to worst in
its division, the Rangers underwent a makeover that would've been
dramatic even without the addition of their star shortstop.
Designated hitter Andres Galarraga (one year, $6.25 million) and
third baseman Ken Caminiti (one year, $3.25 million) signed hefty
free-agent deals, and veteran second baseman Randy Velarde was
acquired in a trade with Oakland. "Everyone wants to talk about
Alex," says righthander Rick Helling, "but in any other year
those other guys would be a big story."

The newcomers, along with holdovers like Palmeiro, catcher Ivan
Rodriguez and outfielders Rusty Greer and Ruben Mateo, form a
fearsome lineup that features two MVPs (Caminiti and Ivan
Rodriguez), two batting champions (Galarraga and Alex Rodriguez)
and 21 100-RBI seasons. The Rangers' lumber is so heavy that
centerfielder Gabe Kapler, who hit .344 after the All-Star break,
will bat eighth.

The anticipated avalanche of runs will be protected by a vastly
improved defense. That's partly due to the new blood and partly
because the Rangers' fielding couldn't get any worse. Gold
Glovers (Caminiti and Palmeiro) will man two of the four infield
positions, meaning Texas is unlikely to lead the American League
in errors (135) for a second straight year. Last season's shoddy
glovework also had a less quantifiable effect: A shell-shocked
staff of pitchers wondered why ground balls were no longer their
friends. "To an extent all you can worry about is making your
pitches," says Helling. "On the other hand, we're in the big
leagues, and when the ball's hit to a big leaguer, the play
should be made. It's a nice feeling to know that now if I get a
key double play ball, it'll be a double play."

Finding base runners to double up won't be a problem since a
horrid pitching staff was one area the Rangers ignored this
winter. A rotation that had the league's second-worst ERA (5.56)
returns virtually intact. The plan is to mask the mound
shortcomings with a bludgeoning offense and airtight defense and
hope that general manager Doug Melvin can find some arms by
midseason. More likely the Rangers will have to wait until next
winter, when Hicks can empty his pockets yet again in the
free-agent market. "One of the problems this off-season was that
we made all those moves kind of late," says Palmeiro. "I have no
doubt in my mind that if we had signed Alex and Andres and Ken
earlier, guys like Mike Mussina and Mike Hampton would have taken
a closer look at coming here."

For now the Rangers will have to content themselves with A-Rod,
who confessed to nervousness this spring. "I feel like a rookie,"
he said. "This team is filled with veterans. I'm just joining the
pack."

Until that pack includes better pitchers, however, A-Rod and the
Rangers won't be leapfrogging anywhere near a World Series.

--S.C.

COLOR PHOTO: BRAD NEWTON The big money for Rodriguez bought a sterling glove that Texas expects will pay off by calming its pitchers' fears of ground balls. COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO CAMINITI

[ENEMY LINES]
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Rangers

"You can make the case that the middle of the Rangers' lineup is
as good as anybody's. But I don't think they can contend with
Oakland. It's not as if they have the only big offense in the
division. It would be different if they were like the '95
Indians and were the only team that could really mash like
that....The other big problem is that there are a lot of rings
around the old tree. Rafael Palmeiro, Andres Galarraga, Ken
Caminiti, Randy Velarde--all are 35-plus guys with injury
histories....Rusty Greer is a major question mark because of his
ankle problems. He may be on the down side of his career, and he
must get on base in front of the thunder guys....They're going
to keep Ricky Ledee as insurance against the other two
outfielders--Ruben Mateo, who they're really counting on, and
Gabe Kapler, who's interesting. I think Kapler will do better if
they leave him in a corner outfield spot [as opposed to center]
and just let him concentrate on his offense....This staff has
only one guy with legit power stuff, and it's Tim Crabtree, and
he has an awful lot to prove as a closer. A lot of guys who can
pitch the eighth can't pitch the ninth....Rick Helling and Kenny
Rogers are the 1-2 starters when they should be 2-3....This team
is so short on pitching that Pat Mahomes is in the mix for the
No. 5 starter spot, and Jeff Brantley and his 83-mph fastball
could be a middle innings guy.... Alex Rodriguez isn't running
as well as when he came up. He's had some ankle and knee
injuries. But he'll push 50 home runs in Texas. That park plays
like the Kingdome."

[THE LINEUP]
projected roster with 2000 statistics

2000 record: 71-91 (fourth in AL West)
Manager: Johnny Oates (seventh season with Texas)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

LF Rusty Greer L 120 .297 8 65 4
2B Randy Velarde[1] R 197 .278 12 41 9
SS Alex Rodriguez[1] R 1 .316 41 132 15
1B Rafael Palmeiro L 26 .288 39 120 2
C Ivan Rodriguez R 6 .347 27 83 5
DH Andres Galarraga[1] R 54 .302 28 100 3
3B Ken Caminiti[1] S-R 100 .303 15 45 3
CF Gabe Kapler R 64 .302 14 66 8
RF Ruben Mateo R 108 .291 7 19 6

BENCH

OF Chad Curtis R 317 .272 8 48 3
IF Frank Catalanotto L-R 264 .291 10 42 6
IF Scott Sheldon R 377 .282 4 19 0
C Bill Haselman R 379 .275 6 26 0

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Rick Helling 30 16 13 6.2 1.43 4.48
LH Kenny Rogers 74 13 13 6.7 1.47 4.55
LH Doug Davis 136 7 6 5.7 1.69 5.38
RH Ryan Glynn 184 5 7 5.5 1.67 5.58
LH Darren Oliver 278 2 9 5.1 1.79 7.42

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Tim Crabtree 33 2 7 2 1.46 5.15
RH Mark Petkovsek[1] 222 4 2 2 1.35 4.22
LH Mike Venafro 234 3 1 1 1.51 3.83
RH Jeff Zimmerman 247 4 5 1 1.64 5.30
RH Pat Mahomes[1] 300 5 3 0 1.72 5.46
RH Jeff Brantley[1] 327 2 7 23 1.68 5.86
LH Mike Munoz 360 0 1 0 3.50 13.50

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 156)

"This staff has only one guy with legit power stuff, and it's
Tim Crabtree."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)