Euan Leith | May 29th, 2020
The Texas Rangers have been battling with the heat in the Lone Star state since 1972. After relocating from the nation’s capital, they went 25 years before experiencing their first taste of the postseason and 39 years until they won their first series in the postseason. However, the 2010s have been a lot kinder to the franchise. Back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011 brought them two American League pennants, and they made the postseason five times in the last decade, making it the most successful period in the team’s history.
Despite never winning the big one, they have had some incredible players in their lineups. Nolan Ryan, Ian Kinsler, Alex Rodriguez, and many more have faced 100-degree temperatures and prospered. The four players that made the Texas Rangers Mount Rushmore are by no means perfect, but they have had some of the most significant impacts on the club during their 49 seasons as an MLB organization.
Be sure to check out all of our Mount Rushmore articles here.
Ivan Rodriguez (1991-2002, 2009)
Ivan Rodriguez is the only player in the Texas Rangers franchise that is currently in the Hall of Fame and has the Rangers listed as his primary team. Pudge came up as an elite defender through the organization and was one of the best catchers in the game from day one. When his bat managed to catch up to his defense, it propelled him to becoming one of the best all-around players of the 1990s.
During his tenure in a Rangers uniform, the Puerto Rican won every individual award under the sun. From 1992-2001, Rodriguez represented the American League in every All-Star game, won every Gold Glove award, and won six of the 10 Silver Slugger awards. He capped off this phenomenal stretch with the 1999 AL MVP award. Pudge batted .332 with a .914 OPS, crushed 35 home runs, scored 116 runs, drove in another 113, and swiped 25 bases on his way to beating Pedro Martinez. The 116 runs and 113 RBI made him just the eighth catcher in baseball history to have 100-plus runs and 100-plus RBI in one season and the most recent backstop to accomplish this feat.
Although he eventually became a force at the plate, he was a stud behind it from game one. As a rookie, he threw out 49% of the opponents that tried to steal a base on him, and it got even better throughout his career. He led the AL in caught stealing percentage nine times and did it six-straight seasons from 1996-2001 in a Rangers uniform.
Rodriguez would never take a Rangers team to postseason success, but he did make the playoffs three times with the club. He remains the franchise leader in Wins Above Replacement, and will always be considered among the greatest catchers in all of baseball. Pudge was the automatic choice to make the Texas Rangers Mount Rushmore.
Michael Young (2000-2012)
I am a reasonably analytically-driven baseball fan. Wins Above Replacement, OPS+, Statcast data, and other advanced stats matter a lot when I form opinions about players or who I’m taking in my latest fantasy draft. That doesn’t apply as much here as Michael Young is the second entry on the Texas Rangers Mount Rushmore. Longevity matters to fan bases and Michael Young was part of this franchise for a dozen years through some of the best times in the club’s history.
Young doesn’t rank in the top-10 in WAR or OBP or OPS, but he does hold several Ranger’s records. The California-native ranks first in games played, at-bats, hits, runs scored, total bases, and is top-seven in home runs and RBI.
Although Young never won the ultimate prize, he led the Rangers to back-to-back appearances in the World Series in 2010 and 2011. That was something that had not been accomplished in the previous 39 seasons of the franchise. He did add some personal hardware during his twelve seasons in Arlington. The 1997 draft pick made seven All-Star teams and won the 2008 Gold Glove at third base.
Maybe Young wouldn’t belong on the advanced metrics Mount Rushmore, but he was a vital part of a Texas Rangers franchise that achieved new heights while he was an integral part of that team. The Rangers have had a lot of talent that hasn’t stuck around for a long time. Young brought stability to a franchise that became a serious contender during the early part of the 2010s.
Adrian Beltre (2011-2018)
Remember when I was talking about Michael Young and how vital longevity is to a franchise and a fanbase? Let’s put that aside for now and talk about Adrian Beltre. The future Hall of Famer played in Arlington for eight seasons and put up some phenomenal numbers while reaching the postseason four times and winning three division titles.
Beltre played 21 seasons in the majors, and his stay in Texas was his longest with any franchise. When he arrived at Globe Life Park (formerly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington) in 2011, Beltre was not the lock he is today for the Hall of Fame. Look at these splits from before and after he signed with the Rangers in 2011.
|1998-2010||LAD, SEA, BOS||1835||1889||278||1008||.275/.328/.462|
Some people will point out that he had better numbers because playing in Texas gives you an offensive boost. Those hot summer days make the ball fly out of the yard. However, if we dig a little deeper, it turns out that over the first 13 seasons of his career, Beltre had a 108 OPS+, meaning that he was eight percent better than league average when adjusted for park factors. So despite playing in bigger ballparks like Los Angeles and Seattle, he was still an above-average player. Well, the man from the Dominican Republic had a 128 OPS+ in Texas. So even with the park factors taken out, he was still 28 percent better than the league average ballplayer. For context, Mike Trout has a career 176 OPS+.
Adrian Beltre ranks fourth in Jay Jaffe’s JAWS leaderboard (a measurement for Hall of Fame likelihood) for third baseman, and he only sits behind Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, and Wade Boggs on that list. Maybe the argument isn’t that Beltre was one of the best players Texas has ever seen grace the diamond, but they did get to watch an above-average player blossom into a lock for the Hall of Fame. Beltre should have a Rangers hat on top of his head when it’s his time to enter Cooperstown.
Juan Gonzalez (1989-1999, 2002-2003)
I’ve left off some notable names off the Texas Rangers Mount Rushmore, but I feel like Juan Gonzalez deserves the final spot. I’m not going to leave off a two-time MVP with a career .907 OPS in a Rangers jersey. The more research I did on the guy, the more I convinced myself that I was making the right call for his production on the field.
From the time Gonzalez became a full-time player in 1991 until he was traded in 1999, he had a .296 batting average with a .922 OPS while averaging 45 home runs and 143 RBI per 162 games. From 1995-1998, he played in 511 games and drove in 514 runs. I promise that was not a typo. Juan Gone averaged more than one RBI per game throughout four seasons. His postseason debut in 1996 saw him hit 5 home runs and 9 RBI in a four-game series loss to the New York Yankees. I found a lot of these statistical anomalies when looking through his baseball-reference page and reading stories about him. Still, I can only widen my eyes and shake my head in disbelief so many times before it becomes permanent.
Another fun fact about Juan Gonzalez is that he one of four players in the last 25 years of baseball to win the MVP award in the same year that he didn’t make the All-Star team. His 1996 season joins Chipper Jones (1999), Justin Morneau (2006), and Jimmy Rollins (2007) on the ultimate “Screw You” team.
He won a second MVP award with Texas in 1998 and joins Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Ted Williams, Frank Thomas, and Mike Trout as the only American League outfielders to win the award multiple times with one team.
Over the first eleven seasons with Texas, Gonzalez would go on to win two MVP awards, five Silver Sluggers, and make two All-Star teams. He led the American League in home runs twice and made three postseason appearances.
Juan Gonzalez was one of the best sluggers, if not the best, that Texas fans have ever seen. He had some controversial moments with the team off the field, but his contributions on it mean he snags the fourth and final spot on the Texas Rangers Mount Rushmore.
Check out our Texas Rangers Team Preview for the 2020 season while we wait for baseball to get back on the field.
Questions and comments?
Hit us up on the Socials:
Check out our Facebook Group where you can read and post articles at The Scorecrow
Reddit Group where everyone can post without fear of being banned at The Scorecrow
Follow Euan Leith on Twitter @EuanOrYouOut
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images