I say this every time I do one of these articles, but this might be the toughest Best/Worst list I've done to date. I really mean it this time too. There are at least three entries on here that, thanks to recent revelations by Alex Rodriguez, you seriously have to question. Because of those individuals, and their speculated cavorting into the realm of substances you either inject, swallow, or otherwise, this list has entered into a gray area of the highest proportions. I'm sure that by the time you're done reading this, you'll have gone through a wide range of emotions including, but not limited to, rage, disgust, horror, satisfaction, resentment, curiosity, and sorrow.
You may also get a little hungry.
I'd better get started. Here goes nothing.
5. Richie Zisk (1978-1980) - The one melancholy thing about the career of Richie Zisk might be the way it got started. The outfielder was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1972 when Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash during a humanitarian mission that December. His tragic death caused a very large hole to form in the outfield of the ballclub, and Zisk was chosen as the player to replace his rather large presence in the lineup.
After seven successful seasons with the Pirates and White Sox, the Rangers swooped in and signed Zisk during the winter of 1977, giving him a lucrative 10-year contract. Though he never displayed a great deal of power (although he did hit 22 home runs in his first season with the Rangers), Zisk was more adept at being a solid run producer, and drove in his fair share during his time here (85, 64, and 77 in three years).
Indeed, Zisk was a solid contributor while in town, and he's certainly deserving of his spot on this list.
4. Ruben Sierra (1986-1992, 2000-2003) - OK, here's where the big gray cloud of mistrust slowly begins to settle in over all our heads.
As Richie Whitt points out in this blog entry, after he inked a contract with the Rangers in 1985, Sierra quickly burst onto the scene. His efforts during the 1989 season, which included a .306 batting average, 29 homers, and 119 runs batted in, were good enough to garner a second-place finish (albeit a controversial one) in that year's Most Valuable Player voting, along with a Silver Slugger and the first All-Star appearance of his career.
But just like "The Wizard Of Oz," when Sierra returned to camp the following spring he was a horse of a different color. He had easily put on an additional 30-odd pounds of muscle mass and no longer looked like the five-tool outfielder the club had taken great interest in only a handful of years earlier. Instead, Sierra resembled some kind of hybrid of Lou Ferrigno after he turned into the Incredible Hulk and Arnold Schwarzenegger during his "Conan The Destroyer" years. His production dropped off noticeably in 1990, but Sierra was back at it again in 1991, clubbing 26 home runs and driving in 116 runs.
In 1992, Sierra, Jeff Russell, and Bobby Witt were shipped to Oakland in exchange for another controversial fellow we'll get into a little later on. There, he put together three mediocre seasons before he began to bounce around MLB like one of those hyper-bouncy balls you'd get when you win enough tickets playing Skee-Ball. (For the record, his résumé over the remaining 11 years of his career looked a little like this: New York, Detroit, Cincinnati, Toronto, Chicago, Texas, Seattle, Texas again, New York again, and then finally, Minnesota. Whew.)
Make no mistake; Sierra had talent and lots of it. He was dubbed the "Next Clemente" by citizens of his native Puerto Rico, and was persuaded by former manager Bobby Valentine to wear Clemente's famous #21 on the back of his uniform. But with Sierra's name thrown into the mix of allegations, court documents, and congressional investigations, one can only imagine what Clemente would think of his fellow countryman nowadays.
3. Larry Parrish (1982-1988) - Parrish can best be described as one of those types of pull hitters who would seek out a ball that was up in the strike zone, and then obliterate it. If this were golf, he would be one of those grip-it-and-rip-it kind of players. But it's not.
Parrish arrived in Texas via a trade in 1982, and got off to a horrendous start if there ever was one (he managed to hit just one home run and had six runs batted to compliment a .186 batting average though June). Meanwhile, the other piece of the swap, Al Oliver, found himself in the midst of a batting crown-winning season for the Montreal Expos. Some of the blame for Parrish's poor play was directed towards some new contact lenses the slugger had been trying out, but just one month later, his offense would finally wake up in a rather mammoth-sized way.
In the span of one week, and games against Oakland, Boston, and Detroit, the muscular Parrish went bananas and clubbed three grand slams, tying a major league record. He rebounded in a big way over the final 85 games of that season, hitting .296 the rest of the way with 16 homers and 56 runs batted in. Unfortunately for him, injury problems led to his undoing with the ballclub (not to mention a young slugger by the name of Pete Incaviglia who had his eye on Parrish's starting job). Knee surgery wrecked his 1985 campaign, and three years later, he was dealt away in a mid-season trade with the Boston Red Sox. Still, Parrish remains one of the more noted sluggers in team history, and currently ranks seventh on the Rangers' all-time home run list (149) and eighth in RBI (522).
2. Juan Gonzalez (1989-1999, 2002-2003) - Yet another native son of Puerto Rico, and our next entrant on the toughest "Best Five" list I've ever created.
Since I've placed him where he is, I suppose a nice place to start would be by covering all the "good" the two-time Most Valuable Player accomplished during his time in a Rangers uniform.
Gonzalez came to the majors as a bright-eyed 21-year- runsold in 1991 and collected 27 homers while driving in 102 in his first full season as a big leaguer. From there, it was just onward and upward into the ionosphere for Gonzalez. His home run totals exploded to 43 and 46 the next two seasons while his RBI numbers followed suit (and they both would have likely remained high had it not been for injuries and the strike-shortened seasons of '94 and '95).
Over a three-year span from 1996-1998, Gonzalez averaged better than one run batted in per ballgame. Who could forget him becoming the first player since Hank Greenberg to reach the 100 RBI plateau before the All-Star break in 1998, or his assault on Hack Wilson's unbreakable run-producing record that same season?
Yes, make no mistake, he was an RBI machine. But as you know, it wasn't all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows.
Gonzalez found himself in the pages of the Mitchell Report when it arrived in 2007, four of them to be exact, all detailing an incident where illegal substances were found in his luggage during a road trip in Toronto during the 2001 season. Later that year, in an interview with a local D/FW station, Rangers owner Tom Hicks listed reacquiring Gonzalez in 2002 among his biggest free agent blunders. His comment that signing the right fielder "for $24 million after he came off steroids, probably" was an eye-brow raising allegation to say the least, and one that may have done irreparable tarnishing to his reputation with the Texas Rangers.
1. Jeff Burroughs (1972-1976) - He many have only played in Texas for four seasons, but I selected Jeff Burroughs as the best right fielder in club history for a few reasons. They are as follows:
- Burroughs is the only player in team history to win American League Most Valuable Player and not be named in a Congressional report or have an alleged rendezvous with illegal substances. (He's also one of only four number one draft picks in baseball history to win that award. The others? Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr., and everybody's favorite shortstop turned third baseman, Alex Rodriguez).
- Although he often had clashes of near-violent proportions with former manager Ted Williams, Burroughs credited the Hall-of-Famer for making him become more of a thinking man's hitter. It was a struggle at times, as evident by a batting average in the .230's during his final two seasons in Arlington (Burroughs was also constantly plagued by the occasionally horrendous winds at the old Arlington Stadium). But he was a consistent power threat, averaging just over 25 home runs a year.
- Four words: Ten Cent Beer Night. The night Cleveland got a little too stupid was set into motion when the cap of Jeff Burroughs was flipped off his head by an unruly fan who had ventured onto the field. Moments later, after Burroughs disappeared from the view of manager Billy Martin in the visitor's dugout, the wily leader of the Rangers grabbed a fungo bat from a nearby rack, uttered the words "Let's go get 'em, boys!", and led a Mel Gibson-like "Braveheart" charge onto the field. All that was missing was someone bellowing the word "FREEEEDOMMMMMMM!!!" and faces half-painted in the color blue. To his credit, Burroughs was able to keep his calm, even though he was basically surrounded by drunk and disorderly fans running amuck on the field. When the rest of his teammates reached the outfield, they found their right fielder aghast of the action around him, but very lucky to be unharmed. Later, Burroughs asked one reporter whether a forfeit in favor of the Rangers would erase his 0-for-3 at the plate that evening.
Unfortunately, the writer informed him that it would not.
You could make the argument that Jeff Burroughs never received enough credit for his contributions to the game of baseball. He was a slow defensive outfielder, but could swing a really nice bat, and he won the league's highest honor through hard work alone. That, friends, is something you should be proud of.
Honorable Mentions: Roberto Kelly (1998-1999), Mike Simms (1997-1999)
5. Ricky Ledee (2000-2001) -Ledee was acquired from the Indians in 2000 for a player whom I'll touch on briefly in a moment. It was a bounce-around kind of season for Ledee, who began the year with the Yankees before being shipped off to Cleveland (along with Jake Westbrook, mind you). However, his stay with the Tribe lasted a grand total of 17 games before they traded him to Texas.
Most of his time in a Rangers uniform was spent as a backup outfielder, and none of it was really worthwhile: Ledee failed to break out of the .230s in limited playing time. He would be unceremoniously let go during the off-season.
But back to the trade that sent him from Texas to Cleveland. In keeping with a developing theme of this week's offering, who did the Rangers include in the deal?
Yes, that's correct. The Indians, who were in the thick of a pennant race, asked for and received the talented (and ultimately, illegal) offensive skills of David Segui in return.
4. Brian Jordan (2004) - It's sad when there's really only one highlight of a player's career with a certain team, and in Jordan's case, it can best be summarized using this picture.
In all fairness, that was a pretty exhilarating moment. I distinctly remember my throat being sore from screaming my head off for at least a week following David Dellucci's double that scored Jordan as the winning run to creep the Rangers ever so closer to an elusive playoff spot.
Of course, that playoff spot never came into fruition.
Not much else happened in 2004 for Brian Jordan either, who had been inked to a one-year, $1.25 million contract the previous winter. He toiled through one injury after another all season, and hit just .222 in 61 games.
3. Duane Walker (1985) - On July 19th, 1985, the Rangers dealt aging fan favorite Buddy Bell to the Cincinnati Reds for Duane Walker and a player to be named later. This is important to note because the deal was for Walker and a PTBNL, and not the other way around.
The player to be named in this particular deal was Jeff Russell - easily one of the best closers in team history. He would go on to have a bountifully successful career as a stopper in the major leagues.
Walker? Not so much. But the club had to have him, so said former team sabermetrician Craig Wright. He pointed to the relevance of a new statistic everybody in baseball was using called "on-base percentage" as a large reason why the team should acquire Walker's services.
Sad to say, it didn't work well for the Rangers or Mr. Wright, and after a half-season's worth of games with the Rangers and a .174 batting average, Walker was given his walking papers.
2. Richard Hidalgo (2005) - The Rangers went right to work during the 2004 winter meetings
Originally, they had their sights set on Jermaine Dye, but the club had to regroup after he spurned them for a deal with the White Sox instead. And so, almost immediately, they jumped at the opportunity to sign the best available everyday outfielder and settled on Richard Hidalgo for a one-year, $5 million contract.
Dye would go on to help lead the White Sox to their first world championship since 1917.
Hidalgo, meanwhile, slumped through a good portion of the year and finally succumbed to a bum wrist in early August that ended his season prematurely. He showed some decent pop, connecting for 16 home runs, but his .221 batting average was well below the kind of output the Rangers had hoped for. As soon as the 2005 season had ended, Hidalgo was granted free agency and sent on his merry way
1. Jose Canseco (1992-1994) - After successfully overcoming my bout with a combination of bronchitis, the flu and the common cold (or something I'm sure the medical industry would like to know I refer to as "Bronchofluenzacolditis"), I was feeling slightly generous. That can really be the only suitable explanation as to why I actually considered putting Canseco in the "Best" category at one point in the process of writing all this. Love him or hate him, you cannot deny that having one of the biggest players in the game donning a Rangers uniform created a pretty sizeable buzz around the ballclub in the early 90's.
But after acquiring the Bash Brother through a trade in 1992, Canseco's numbers actually went down upon his arrival. Plus, who could forget him taking a fly ball off the melon that went for a home run in Cleveland, followed by his first and only pitching performance in Boston a few days later that resulted in a season-ending injury.
Oh yes, and then there's Jose Canseco, steroid user. The guy who claimed responsibility for introducing Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez and several other teammates to illegal substances during his time here.
But if I were to provide for you one particularly bad figure involving the tenure of Jose Canseco with the Rangers, it could be this: When Canseco arrived in Arlington on August 31st, 1992, the Rangers were 15 1/2 games behind front-running Oakland in the American League West. By the time the season ended, they were actually FURTHER behind then they were when the trade had transpired.
Ladies and gentlemen, Jose Canseco.
Dishonorable Mention: Mike Devereaux (1997)
Next time around, we take a look at the five best (and, of course, worst) backstops in team history.