A few things I would like to point out before cracking open this latest can of list-compiling goodness that I have provided for you today:
First of all, a big thank you to you, the reader. Joey, Jason, and I couldn't be much happier with the positive reaction we've been getting here on the site lately - and we only have you guys to thank. Yes, Jason is able to pull off quite the amazing interview, Joey crunches numbers and stats until all hours of the night, and I ... also do stuff. But regardless, we all do it for the love of the game, and you folks show your appreciation for that by stopping by here when you do.
Also, if you're new here and coming in for the first time, I say welcome, and I hope you become a regular around here. You can expect more of the same kind of in-depth, informative, enjoyable, newsworthy, at times controversial, news-breaking commentary to continue throughout the year. And rest assured, if this is the same type of BBTiA as it was when I left it almost three years ago, when pitchers and catchers report in February your satisfaction level will only increase around here. That, my friends, is the time that we shine.
So with all that pomp and circumstance out of the way, it's time we take a look at who I deem to be the five best and worst occupants of the hot corner in Texas Rangers history:
5. Todd Zeile (1998-1999) - Todd Zeile wasn't here long. Acquired in a trade before the July 31st trade deadline in 1998, the third baseman was gone from our hearts and minds following the conclusion of the 1999 season. But considering what they got out of him for who they got him for (minor leaguers Daniel DeYoung and Jose Santo, neither of whom ever made it any further than Double-A), this was a steal of the highest order.
Zeile was a key addition for the pennant runs of 1998 and 1999, providing the Rangers with a .293 average, 24 home runs, and 98 runs driven in a full season with the '99 club.
4. Steve Buechele (1985-1991, 1995) - There is nothing flashy to look back at about Steve Buechele's career. He didn't hit for much power or average (but established career highs in 1991 with a .262 average, 22 homers, and 85 runs batted in between the Pirates and Rangers), and while he wielded a sturdy glove, he never picked up a Gold Glove Award (even though he did finish that season with the highest fielding percentage among third baseman). But if you didn't grow up "buuuue'ing" him in the late '80s and early '90s, you weren't a Rangers fan.
I also would be remiss to neglect mentioning he's the reason I'm a baseball fan in the first place. I won a raffle to go on the field at Arlington Stadium and meet him during a baseball clinic as a young punk in 1987, and from that moment on, I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do in life: write about baseball on the Internet. I knew this even before the Internet was invented - that's how sure I was about wanting to do this.
3. Dean Palmer (1989-1997) - The trade of our #4 candidate to the Pirates in 1991 paved the way for Palmer to make his debut on a Rangers club that was well out of contention. His average was usually low and he wasn't a spectacular player by any means, but from the time he entered the league his bat displayed the occasional flash of otherworldly power. His devastating (and still cringe-inducing) torn bicep in 1995 prevented Palmer from having what could have been a bust-out season of the highest order.
2. Hank Blalock (2002-Present) - Beginning in 2009, it's looking as though Hank Joe Blalock the first baseman/designated hitter will be replacing Hank Joe Blalock the third baseman. Without question, the injury bug has been a problem for Blalock over the past two years, but it's what he's done when healthy that keeps the Rangers coming back for more. Since his arrival in the league in 2003 and All-Star Game moonshot off Eric Gagne, Blalock's been the first widely successful fan favorite since the occupant of the top spot on our list...
1. Buddy Bell (1979-1985, 1989) - Bell was a fan favorite, a clubhouse favorite, and the lifeblood of the Rangers through some absolutely wretched seasons in the early 1980s. I think it's a fair assumption to say that when Bell, a four-time All-Star during his seasons in Arlington, was traded to the Reds in 1985, it broke many young baseball spirits to see him go.
(In retrospect, however, it was a pretty good trade for the club to pick up Jeff Russell in return. But does anyone between the ages of 8-12 care about that sort of stuff? Look at me, I was 10 when Steve Buechele got traded and was absolutely demoralized for the remainder of the season. I didn't want to so much as watch a game because I knew I would see the odd tandem of Dean Palmer and Denny Walling there in his place. And this as just Steve Buechele - all that he could land was Hector Fajardo and Kurt Miller. Didn't matter to me. Thankfully, I'm over it now - I promise.)
(Really, I am.)
Honorable Mention: Jerry Browne (1986-1988)
5. Mike Pagliarulo (1995) - The Rangers brought in Pagliarulo, an established veteran fresh off a tour of Japan and a season in which he batted a combined .303 for the Twins and Orioles a year before that, to give Dean Palmer a respite every now and then. But when Palmer went down for the count, Pagliarulo was thrust into a lead role for a Rangers club that sat two games behind the front-running Angels. Unfortunately for everybody, he didn't do much to fill the void, batting just .232, and the Rangers would play .500 ball the rest of the season en route to a third-place finish.
4. Luis Ortiz - (1995-1996) - In one of Doug Melvin's first deals, he grabbed Otis Nixon and the 25-year-old Ortiz away from the Red Sox for Jose Canseco.
Ortiz got a hard look at third base following Palmer's bicep injury (boy, that's getting a lot of play in this entry) and more or less took over the lead role at third base from an underwhelming Mike Pagliarulo.
In 108 at-bats, Ortiz hit .231 and committed eight errors in 35 games. One year later, he was sold to a team in Japan.
3. Leo Cardenas (1974-1975) - Johnny Bench once described Cardenas as "a lanky, skinny Cuban blessed ... with quick hands and those marvelous fluid motions in the field, and near blindness at the bat." That last part rang pretty true for him, especially during his last season in Texas and in baseball, when the once-heralded shortstop struggled to hit .230 and had just five runs batted in over 55 games.
2. Kurt Bevacqua (1977-1978) - I hope you weren't one of those fans lulled into a false sense of security after Bevacqua posted a sharp-looking .333 average in limited playing time in 1977. One year later, with a much higher amount of plate appearances, this third baseman couldn't make it out of the .220s. The fact that he left town in a historically poor trade only enhances his short-comings (Bevacqua, Bill Fahey, and Mike Hargrove to the Padres for Oscar Gamble and Dave Roberts. No, not that Dave Roberts.)
1. Ken Caminiti (2001) - Caminiti was one of three players the Rangers spent a total of $12 million on - and none of them panned out. It was part of a master plan to beat the opposition into submission through offense. What it ended up being, as you well know, was just offensive. Caminiti went down with a pulled hammy on June 17th of 2001, and would never see the Rangers' lineup again, released by the club in early July.
Dishonorable Mention: Scott Coolbaugh (1989-1990), Dalton Jones (1972), Marty Martinez (1971)