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4 Texas Rangers Manager Buck Showalter can turn bad teams around. This one will be a real test

March 31, 2003
March 31, 2003

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March 31, 2003

Baseball Preview 2003

4 Texas Rangers Manager Buck Showalter can turn bad teams around. This one will be a real test

Buck Showalter is a clinically diagnosed leader. He knows this
because Jerry Colangelo, his former boss and owner of the
Diamondbacks, once invited him to meet someone they both called
"the brain doctor," whom the club uses to provide psychological
profiles on its players and prospects. The doctor told Showalter
upon examination, "You cannot not lead."

This is an article from the March 31, 2003 issue

The doctor had provided the same profile of Colangelo who, after
three seasons with Showalter as his manager, fired him following
an 85-win season in 2000. For two years the man who cannot not
lead did not lead; Showalter played a supporting role as a
television analyst.

Then, in a catered ballroom on a mid-February night in Surprise,
Ariz., four days before the first full spring training workout
(two-a-days, no less) of 2003, Showalter was officially restored
to his natural state. Dressed in a jacket and tie, he stood as
the new manager of the Rangers in front of the team's players,
coaches, trainers, doctors and front-office personnel. This, he
decided, is where the changing of the team's culture would begin.

Texas has strung together three consecutive last-place seasons in
which it finished a combined 94 1/2 games out of first place.
Last year the Rangers lost more games out of their bullpen than
any other team in major league history (38), lost nearly half a
million paid fans, used more pitchers than any other team in
franchise history (27), and their players spent more days on the
disabled list than any other team in Rangers history (1,429).

Into this abyss stepped Showalter, just as he had in New York,
where he took over the Yankees in 1992 after a 91loss season, and
in Arizona, where he guided an expansion team in '98. Showalter
and several executives spoke to the ballroom crowd with largely
perfunctory introductions and remarks. The manager told his
players they must wear new team blazers whenever they
traveled--and then he held up a garishly bright red sport coat
with a Rangers logo and a Texas state flag on a patch sewn on the
breast pocket and a Major League Baseball logo on the back of the
collar. Showalter later kindly requested, "If you don't wear a
uniform, please leave the room." Left with his coaches and
players, he promptly ripped off his jacket and tie and launched
an unvarnished speech about changing the attitude in Texas. Then
he dimmed the lights and showed a highlight video of great
moments in Rangers history, which included division titles in
1996, '98 and '99 as well as homages to Jeff Burroughs, Toby
Harrah, Jim Sundberg and Jim Kern among other former Texas
players. "It was amazing," shortstop Alex Rodriguez said during
training camp. "It gave you goose bumps. And the music to it was
tight ... Jennifer Lopez, Ja Rule, stuff the guys listen to."

Showalter ran a meticulous camp. A clubhouse clock, for instance,
counted down in hours, minutes and seconds the time remaining
until the start of the next workout. Showalter ordered the
construction of a small, fenced-in bunting field. He spent hours
on bunt defense drills--as many as he did with the Diamondbacks,
he said, even though AL teams attempt to sacrifice only about one
third as often as NL teams do.

Though Showalter may be working on attitude and preparation,
changes in personnel have not exactly been hair-raising. John
Thomson (29-49 lifetime) joins Chan Ho Park and Ismael Valdes at
the front of a shaky starting rotation. Those three were 26-35
last year. Doug Glanville, fresh off a .249 season in
Philadelphia, seems an unlikely solution to the team's woes in
centerfield and atop the lineup. The Rangers tried eight
centerfielders last year (they hit .202 combined) and 10 leadoff
hitters (.237 as a group). Despite the sock of Rodriguez, a
healthy Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro and possibly a budding
star in third baseman Mark Teixeira, Texas needs table-setters.

Eleven Rangers, including Gonzalez, Palmeiro and Carl Everett,
are playing out the last year of their contracts. Showalter, who
is signed for four years, and general manager John Hart like the
motivational element associated with that status. They also like
the payroll flexibility it offers down the road. After all, any
leader knows that changing the attitude is only one step toward
turning around a franchise. Changing the players comes
next. --T.V.

COLOR PHOTO: TOM DIPACE IN NEED OF HELP Despite the team's miserable season, Rodriguez led the AL in homers (57) and RBIs (142).COLOR PHOTO: BRIAN BAHR/GETTY IMAGES URBINA

IN FACT
The Rangers were involved in 21 games last year that ended with a
walk-off hit, the most in the majors. They lost 14 of those
games, also tops in baseball.

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

"New Manager Buck Showalter is a good strategist, but he'd be a
better fit for a young team. He's probably going to have a hard
time getting Alex Rodriguez or Rafael Palmeiro to listen to him
when it comes to little disciplinary stuff.... The Rangers can
thump with anybody. Juan Gonzalez has always had a lot of nagging
injuries, but I expect this year to be a big one for him.... If
Carl Everett keeps swinging the bat as he did this spring, the
lineup could be deadly. That said, Doug Glanville has to play
center if they're going to have a decent outfield.... Hank
Blalock looked better this spring, but I don't believe he'll ever
be a star.... Palmeiro is on the way down. I'd be shocked if he's
still a 30-homer guy.... Einar Diaz will be very popular here
because he's not Ivan Rodriguez. Diaz has a very strong arm and
gets along much better with pitchers than I-Rod does.... Chan Ho
Park has nothing left. He used to be a curve-curve-curve guy, and
that'll wear an arm down. Ismael Valdez has bounced around, but
he's their best starter.... Ugueth Urbina is an upgrade over John
Rocker, but he's not a guaranteed door slammer. In fact, Reynaldo
Garcia has better stuff than Urbina."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2002 statistics

BATTING ORDER

CF Glanville
LF Everett
SS Rodriguez
RF Gonzalez
1B Palmeiro
DH Sierra
3B Teixeira
2B Young
C Diaz

DOUG GLANVILLE[#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 207 .249 6 29 19

CARL EVERETT

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
S-R 147 .267 16 62 2

ALEX RODRIGUEZ

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 2 .300 57 142 9

JUAN GONZALEZ

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 58 .282 8 35 2

RAFAEL PALMEIRO

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L 30 .273 43 105 2

MARK TEIXEIRA* (R)

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 162 .316 10 28 3

MICHAEL YOUNG

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 221 .262 9 62 6

EINAR DIAZ [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 325 .206 2 16 0

BENCH

KEVIN MENCH

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 204 .260 15 60 1

HANK BLALOCK

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 206 .211 3 17 0

DESIGNATED HITTER

RUBEN SIERRA [#]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
S-R 176 .270 13 60 4

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Ismael Valdes[#] 78 8 12 6.3 1.23 4.18
RH Chan Ho Park 120 9 8 6.2 1.59 5.75
RH John Thomson[#] 135 9 14 6.1 1.35 4.71
RH Joaquin Benoit 153 4 5 5.1 1.76 5.31
RH Ryan Drese[#] 185 10 9 5.3 1.73 6.55

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Ugueth Urbina[#] 50 1 6 40 1.07 3.00
RH Esteban Yan[#] 161 7 8 19 1.43 4.30
RH Francisco Cordero 195 2 0 10 1.01 1.79

[#]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Double A stats

PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 157)

2002 RECORD
72--90
fourth in AL West

MANAGER

Buck Showalter
first season with Texas