Remember this scene from Jerry Maguire?
If you could attribute that clip to any given point during my tenure as a fan of the game of baseball, you could probably piece it together with the David Dellucci (not on this list -- sorry) double that got past a diving Jermaine Dye in September of 2004. Truly a triumphant moment, and if that song was on during the drive home from that game, I'm sure I would have belted out the lyrics just like Tom Cruise did.
With the news of Michael Young that was brought to the forefront of every Ranger fan's attention earlier this week, this song would certainly not be a good choice. It'd probably be something a lot darker. I'm thinking the theme song from M*A*S*H, complete with lyrics.
But I digress. Consider this your reprieve from Michael Young/Texas Rangers related head-against-the-desk-pounding. It's time we take a look at who made the cut as the five best and five worst center fielders in franchise history:
5. Darryl Hamilton (1996) - At this point, you're probably laughing at me and wondering why I'm wasting my time putting these things together every so often. Duly noted. But here's why Darryl Hamilton belongs where he is, even if he only played here for one season: his role as the first optimal center fielder since perhaps our No. 4 candidate was, in my opinion, a major factor in helping the Rangers acquire their first division championship in club history. As a leadoff hitter, Hamilton didn't steal very many bases for the Rangers (15), but swung the bat pretty well in his first and only season in Texas, collecting 184 hits for a .293 average and 51 runs driven in.
He also claims to have once put a hex on the New York Mets and their former manager Bobby Valentine after some bad blood erupted between the two later in his career -- so yeah, he's got that going for him.
4. Oddibe McDowell (1985-1988, 1994) - I was never a fan of the Chris Berman nickname, and every time I'm graced with the "Berman-ism" of Oddibe "Young Again" McDowell, it makes me want to gouge my own eyeballs out.
McDowell was super-hyped as a prospect and burst onto the baseball landscape at an early age. His rookie season in 1985 was a memorable one: McDowell led all AL rookies with 18 home runs and 25 stolen bases, and became the first player in club history to hit for the cycle on July 23rd of that year. However, he reached his baseball plateau fairly quickly and his career, although a nice one, was reasonably short.
3. Gary Matthews Jr. (2004-2006) - Gary Matthews Jr. makes this list for two reasons. They are as follows: Matthews blossomed from just a guy signed off the scrap heap of the Atlanta Braves to a pivotal part of the Rangers offense. His .313 batting average in 2006 was 50 points higher than his career average (.263) and 58 points higher than his 2005 mark (.255). In baseball history, only Justin Morneau had a better jump up, making an 82-point improvement (from .239 in 2005 to .321 a year later), and that won him an MVP award.
Secondly, look at what you netted as compensation over losing his services to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Michael Main and Neil Ramirez. Not too shabby.
2. Josh Hamilton (2008-present) - I could throw in some additional commentary on the debut season of Josh Hamilton with the Texas Rangers, but what more could I possibly add to his story?
I think Jayson Stark best summarized the 2008 season of Josh Hamilton when, following a power display unlike any other in the Home Run Derby, he had this to say:
With every move this man makes, every run he drives in, every baseball he mashes to some far-off sector of another stadium, you keep trying to convince yourself this is all happening.
Now, I realize this list (as well as others) may have only succeeded in shooting down whatever credibility I may have built up over the time I've spent writing sentences on the internet. But let's face it -- he's been here one year. Besides, I think we all know that if he continues to destroy one baseball after another he'll end up at the top of a list like this sometime in the future. Perhaps one of my great-great-grandchildren will take my place on this website in the year 2139 and write about the historic and awe-inspiring efforts of Josh Hamilton in his career -- although in the year 2139, I'm told that the alphabet will consist of 486 letters, so that might be quite a feat in and of itself.
1. Mickey Rivers (1979-1984) - Before Michael Young ever came along, there was one "Mick The Quick" who first set the Rangers record for hits in a season with 210 of his own in 1980 -- 14 years before the embattled Michael Young shattered that record with 217 of his own.
Rivers wasn't too skilled defensively and possessed a terrible arm for a center fielder. He also rarely ever drew a walk, but was lightning fast -- right up until he reached the Rangers and was slowed down by knee and ankle injuries. Still, even through the ailments he endured as a Ranger, Rivers definitely had a nice career. Were it not for the continuing onslaught of Josh Hamilton, Rivers might remain at the top of this list for years to come.
Another one of Rivers' talents was the English language. In my humble opinion, he couldn't match up with Yogi Berra in terms of zany sayings (let's be honest, nobody in baseball can or ever will), but he definitely did a good job of holding his own.
A sampling of his work through the years:
"Pitching is 80% of the game and the other half is hitting and fielding."
"I was eating too well and getting too much rest. I take my old lady dancing every night now. Doin' the bump keeps your legs in shape." (Rivers's response to a 1975 interview question of why he started playing better)
"That felt good. I hadn't hit off a lefty in two months." (A post-game comment by Rivers after hitting a double off of Boston Red Sox right-handed pitcher Bob Stanley)
And perhaps my favorite, when Reggie Jackson once claimed he had an IQ of 160, Rivers's reply?
"Out of what, 1,000?"
Honorable Mention: Cecil Espy (1987-1990), Gabe Kapler (2000-2002)
THE NOT SO BEST
5. Ruben Rivera (2002) - Truth be told, Rivera was once a promising prospect. But his sports smarts could have probably used a little makeover. Case in point: he possessed upper-deck power, but was a abhorrent baserunner. Once, as a member of the Padres, he was inserted as a pinch-runner late in a contest and was promptly picked off first base to end the ballgame. But Rivera's crowning moment definitely came as a Yankee, when he stole Derek Jeter's glove and hocked it to a memorabilia dealer. As a result, he was kicked off a team that had just spent a cool million (chump change) to re-sign him. The Rangers signed Rivera to a deal towards the end of spring training in 2002, but he failed to deliver the goods (no pun intended?) for the Rangers in a relief role and was cut following the season.
4. George Wright (1982-1986) - Why am I being so hard on George Wright, you ask? He did have one pretty good and one really great season where he actually finished 24th in MVP voting. But as phenomenal as he was in his first two seasons as a Ranger, he was exactly the opposite in his final four and a half. His batting average plummeted from .276 in his MVP radar screen year of 1983 down to .243 one year later. From there, it bottomed out to below the Mendoza Line in 1984 when he batted .190 in 363 at-bats. He started off the 1984 season in a fairly chilly fashion as well before he was sent to the Expos as part of a conditional deal.
3. Vic Harris (1972-1973) - I once had a baseball card of Vic Harris, the same one that a fine individual named Josh Wilker mentions in his blog. It was given to me with a bunch of other old baseball cards as part of a "Look What I Found, Here Why Don't You Take Them Because You're Young And You Love Baseball" type of gift from my uncle. But even as a kid, I couldn't help but notice that Vic Harris, outfielder, had the following sentence stated on the back of his card as a bit of trivial knowledge about the guy:
"Vic is most comfortable at second base."
Um, okay. Sound kind of like a similar situation going on with a local team?
At any rate, Harris didn't impress anybody after the Rangers moved him to center field to replace the forgettable Joe Lovitto in 1973. That season ended up being the only one of his career when he received regular playing time, and it wasn't an exceptionally memorable one. Harris hit just .249 with eight homers and drove in 44 runs in 555 at-bats.
2. Laynce Nix (2003-2005) - Patience was most definitely not a virtue to Laynce Nix. The man just wasn't very good at getting on base. Actually, now that I think of it, not very good may be putting it rather lightly. The man was horrendous at getting on base. As a Milwaukee Brewer last August, Nix put an end to a streak of 125 plate appearances without a walk. Before that, the most recent base on balls in his career occurred on September 24th, 2004.
That fact, combined with a torn labrum that ended his season prematurely in 2005, may have likely played a role in the club choosing to cut bait with him in 2006 and sending him to Milwaukee for Carlos Lee and Nelson Cruz. His career as a Ranger showed a reasonable amount of promise, but it never manifested into anything.
1. Donald Harris (1991-1993) - In this week's stroll down draft pick memory lane, we find Donald Harris. A two-sport standout at Texas Tech, Harris was also a target of the Dallas Cowboys before the Rangers selected him with the fifth-overall pick of the 1989 amateur draft.
One pick in front of The Big Hurt, Frank Thomas.
All Harris could manage in his career was three cups of coffee with the Rangers, playing a total of 82 games with a batting average of .205, 17 runs scored and two home runs. But perhaps worse than his tenure as a major leaguer was how it splattered against a brick wall and came to an end abruptly.
In 1994, Harris was in the midst of his best season of professional ball. In Triple-A that season, he had tallied 15 home runs and was expected to receive a September call-up with the big league club. Only there was no September. The following year, with the game still on strike, Harris refused to cross the picket line and join replacement players. This was frowned upon by the powers that be, and as a result, Harris found himself out of a job.
In this nine-year-old article from the Abilene Reporter-News, it sounded as though he was still pretty bitter about the whole ordeal:
"I played for three different managers, and all three of them were more worried about saving their own job. I was up every time the team was struggling, and I was never given a chance to play regularly. If I had been given the chance to play every day and play the way I'm capable of playing, I would have been fine. They've given guys like Benji Gil the opportunity to play every day, but I never really got that chance."
Well Donald, I hate to break it to you, but congratulations. You may not have played as much as Benji Gil, but you're both at the front of the line on here.
Dishonorable Mention: Ryan Christenson (2003)
Next time around, it's on to right field.