The Ranger’s commitment to expand looks promising

Since their inception as an expansion franchise in 1961 as the Washington Senators and their subsequent move to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 1972, the Rangers have been more of a Greek tragedy than a baseball team.

Like the Greek warrior Achilles, the Rangers have had to battle through their opponents with brute force by out-hitting everyone. However, like the Greek hero, the Rangers are often undone by a rather anti-climactic and devastating weakness: pitching.

Even in the days of Nolan Ryan, the Rangers haven’t had pitching. It’s been said for many years: If you want to win in October, you need pitching.

It’s not like this has been some new development and the Rangers just haven’t gotten the memo. Even the game’s signature franchise has had to learn the hard way.

After several consecutive years of paying luxury tax and having a payroll in excess of $200 million, the Yankees didn’t seem to realize they couldn’t buy a championship. They constantly paid old, battle-tested position players, hoping to recapture their glory.

In 2007, the team gave Alex Rodriguez the largest contract in Major League Baseball history. The deal was a 10-year, $275 million contract. The Yankees hoped A-Rod would lead the team back to the promised land. The result was a 2008 dud when the team missed the playoffs all together. Humiliated, the team resolved not to repeat its frivolous mistakes in 2009.

Instead, the Yankees quickly snatched up young pitcher C.C. Sabathia to the tune of a seven-year, $161 million contract. As if that wasn’t enough, they also added A.J. Burnett with a five-year, $82.5 million contract. The result was their first World Series title since 2000.

I guess the Yankees were on to something. Paying for premium starting pitching pays off in the playoffs. The Yankees finally got that memo, but the Rangers’ copy is still lost in the mail.

To make the point further, let’s take a look at the stingiest team in recent history to win it all.

The Florida Marlins have won two World Series titles since their first season in 1993. They’ve also never had a payroll that has come close to cracking the $100 million mark.

Their most recent World Series, a 2003 nail-biter against the Yankees, saw them win it all off of the arms of young pitchers.

A.J. Burnett (sound familiar?), World Series MVP Josh Beckett and 2003 National League Rookie of the Year Dontrelle Willis confused the Yankees’ hard-hitting sluggers and made them look like the rookies.

The Rangers have tried high-priced free agents and failed miserably when they signed free agent pitcher Kevin Millwood in 2005.

However, since Ryan was hired as the president of team operations, the Rangers have seen their pitching slowly improve.

The main reason for their turn around has been their pitching prospects.

The Rangers have also made it a point to lock up their young veteran pitchers, such as Scott Feldman, who won 17 games last
season.

Further, the club signed free agent pitcher Rich Harden to a one-year deal worth $7.5 million. Harden is one of the league’s best pitchers when healthy. However, the key word with Harden is healthy, as he’s only pitched an average of 81 innings a year during the past six seasons. That’s a dismal statistic when you consider the lowly Millwood averaged 180 innings a season with the Rangers.

On the whole, the Rangers’ new commitment to recruiting pitchers looks like it will pay off, and that’s a good thing. For a team that couldn’t afford to water its outfield last year, it certainly can’t afford a bidding war with the Yankees.

Nathan Wall is a senior broadcast journalism major from Arlington.