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4 Texas Rangers An unpredictable staff, a volatile clubhouse and a Murderers' Row--things won't be dull

March 25, 2002
March 25, 2002

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March 25, 2002

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4 Texas Rangers An unpredictable staff, a volatile clubhouse and a Murderers' Row--things won't be dull

The day after righthander Chan Ho Park signed a five-year, $65
million free-agent contract this winter, his new boss, Rangers
owner Tom Hicks, drove him around the Dallas-Fort Worth area. A
few weeks later Park, who in 1994 became the first Korean to
play in the majors, returned the favor by presenting Hicks with
a framed set of 12 miniature handmade Korean cultural masks.
They're similar to Western drama masks, each one representing a
different emotion. It was a touching gesture, but Park could
have left out the mask showing sadness--after watching Texas
pitch last season, no one would be surprised if Hicks and his
Rangers had their faces scrunched into permanent scowls.

This is an article from the March 25, 2002 issue Original Layout

For the second consecutive year the Rangers had the majors'
worst ERA (5.71). They allowed the most walks (596) and home
runs (222) in the American League. Texas also blew a lead in 52
of its 89 losses, a fact that frustrated the Rangers' offense,
which led the league in homers and slugging percentage. "Our
guys played hard every night last season," says manager Jerry
Narron, who took over when Johnny Oates resigned last May.
"There were times when they had every right not to."

While the staff may be a literal horror show this
season--volatile reliever John Rocker plays a deranged killer in
a low-budget slasher movie called The GreensKeeper--Texas is
counting on Park to turn last year's frowns upside down. They
christened him their ace, a significant bump in responsibility
for a pitcher who has showed flashes of superb talent in six
full seasons with the Dodgers but hasn't proved he deserves the
mantle of a No. 1. Yes, he racks up strikeouts with a fastball
in the mid-90s and a sharp, back-straightening curve. However,
he has won more than 15 games just once (18 in 2000) and never
finished among the top five in the National League in ERA. In
his career at spacious Dodger Stadium, Park was 42-24 with a
sparkling 2.98 ERA. Elsewhere his ERA was a mediocre 4.74, a
troubling sign considering he may make more than half his starts
at the hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington.

Park isn't the only new pitcher on the staff. First-year general
manager John Hart, who this winter spent a large portion of his
time and Hicks's wealth (the Rangers' payroll will approach $100
million this year) overhauling an atrocious bullpen, invited a
club-record 34 pitchers to camp. In addition to trading for
Rocker, Hart signed righty setup men Todd Van Poppel, Jay
Powell, Rudy Seanez and Hector Carrasco. He also lavished a
three-year, $10 million deal on closer Jeff Zimmerman, the
bullpen's lone bright spot last year, when he converted 28 of 31
save chances.

The good news for the Rangers is that they have a modern-day
Murderers' Row that will trot out future Hall of Famers Ivan
Rodriguez, Alex Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez and Rafael Palmeiro
back-to-back-to-back-to-back.

The Rangers' clubhouse has the potential to be as explosive as
the offense. In addition to Rocker there's centerfielder Carl
Everett, who over the last two years with the Red Sox
head-butted an umpire and accused his manager (Joe Kerrigan) of
being a drunken racist, and righthander Hideki Irabu, who missed
a rehab start for the Expos last season because, reportedly, he
had been drinking. Ivan Rodriguez, who's disgruntled over the
Rangers' reluctance to give him a contract extension, was
increasingly grumpy last year. "It remains to be seen if we come
together as a team," says outfielder-DH Rusty Greer.

Even Park has stirred up trouble in the past--he was suspended
for seven games in 1999 for kicking Angels pitcher Tim Belcher.
The Rangers wouldn't mind seeing their new ace wear his
intimidation mask more often, but even that won't be enough to
lift them into the playoff race. --S.C.

COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON Rocker, who flopped in Cleveland, is one of a slew of new arms Hart brought to pitching-poor Texas.COLOR PHOTO: RICK STEWART/GETTY IMAGES PARK

In FACT
The Rangers have not had a Rookie of the Year since Mike Hargrove
in 1974, the longest American League drought.

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

"Wow, they're going to score a lot of runs, and have a chance to
give up a lot.... Clubhouse chemistry will be very important.
How Juan Gonzalez fits in, how Ivan Rodriguez reacts to being
underpaid, Gabe Kapler isn't happy about losing playing
time--they have some funky elements.... I-Rod is the one to
watch. His pitchers hate throwing to him. All he puts down with
men on base is a 1. How his knee, his back and his psyche
respond will be interesting. He's making about half of what some
guys like Chan Ho Park are making. How does he feel going out to
the mound to talk to a guy making more than him for being little
better than a .500 pitcher?... Carl Everett is happy now, and
he's a productive player when he's happy, but we'll see how long
that lasts.... Manager Jerry Narron is a classy professional,
but he's been given a huge dog to walk. He'll be walking it
some, and the dog will be walking him some.... The pitching
staff is going to be interesting. To me, here's the key: They
brought over a lot of NL guys to a small hitter's park with a
jet stream to right center. The success or failure of all those
guys will depend on how they adjust to the league and to The
Ballpark in Arlington. You throw 93 mph in the NL and you can
overpower most people. In the AL, with the deep lineups, they
eat that like Twinkies. But if the bullpen can make the
adjustment, this club will get better in a hurry.... I don't
think they have enough to contend, and the fact they play in the
league's toughest division works against them."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2001 statistics

PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
BATTING ORDER

LF Frank Catalanotto L-R 87 .330 11 54 15
C Ivan Rodriguez R 14 .308 25 65 10
SS Alex Rodriguez R 1 .318 52 135 18
RF Juan Gonzalez[1] R 16 .325 35 140 1
1B Rafael Palmeiro L 35 .273 47 123 1
CF Carl Everett[1] S-R 70 .257 14 58 9
DH Rusty Greer L 170 .273 7 29 1
3B Hank Blalock (R)* L-R 148 .327 11 61 3
2B Mike Young R 188 .249 11 49 3

BENCH

OF Gabe Kapler R 167 .267 17 72 23
IF Herbert Perry[1] R 319 .256 7 32 2

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA
STARTERS

RH Chan Ho Park[1] 50 15 11 6.7 1.17 3.50
LH Kenny Rogers 91 5 7 6.0 1.65 6.19
RH Ismael Valdes[1] 151 9 13 6.1 1.39 4.45
LH Doug Davis 169 11 10 6.2 1.55 4.45
RH Dave Burba[1] 190 10 10 5.1 1.61 6.21

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA
BULLPEN

RH Jeff Zimmerman 48 4 4 28 0.90 2.40
LH John Rocker[1][3] 113 5 9 23 1.48 4.32
RH Todd Van Poppel[1][3] 203 4 1 0 1.35 2.52

[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 154)

*Double A stats [2]Combined AL and NL stats

Manager
Jerry Narron
second season with Texas

2001 record
73-89
fourth in AL West

IN THE FIELD
with defensive ratings

Golden Glover

Everett
I. Rodriguez

Good Leather

Gonzalez
Palmeiro
Young
A. Rodriguez
Blalock
Park

Iron Hands

Catalanotto