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Rangers pay price for ignorance


© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 10, 2001

It is a good thing Alex Rodriguez is signed to a 10-year contract because it does not appear the Rangers will be contending any time soon.

In awarding interim manager Jerry Narron a contract extention last week, Texas owner Tom Hicks said his team is about to undergo a youth-oriented makeover. In effect, he acknowledged Texas bungled the off-season.

Along with the ludicrous, market-breaking $252-million deal given to Rodriguez, Hicks and Co. signed 40-year-old Andres Galarraga, 38-year-old Ken Caminiti and 38-year-old Randy Velarde in the off-season.

Those investments would have been iffy for any team, but they made no sense for a franchise that was starving for pitching help. The Rangers, apparently having paid no attention to the Yankees the past five years, decided they could slug their way to a title.

So Texas leads the AL in home runs, yet has the worst record in its division. Why? Because the pitching staff is atrocious.

It is not as if it is a surprise. From the time they signed Rodriguez, the Rangers heard questions about their pitching. Either they grossly overestimated the value of Kenny Rogers, Rick Helling and Darren Oliver, or they blindly believed a team can win without legitimate starting pitching.

So the Rangers have the seventh-largest payroll in the majors and the 28th-best record.

They have committed $25-million a year to their best player, and it will take another $20-million a year to keep their second-best player (Ivan Rodriguez) beyond next season.

That does not leave a lot of room for other salaries, which means the Rangers are going to have to develop a lot of young talent in a big hurry.

"Mr. Hicks deserves the credit," Rangers general manager Doug Melvin said. "He's proven he'll spend the money. It's up to us to prove we can put a team together. There may be some growing pains. It may take us a year or two, but this is the right way to do it.

"If an agent wants to call me about a 36-year-old player who wants a four-year contract, he can just save his dime."

Too bad it took the Rangers this long to figure that out.

EXPERT ADVICE: Since manager Don Baylor arranged for Kerry Wood to speak on the phone with Nolan Ryan, the Cubs ace is 4-0 with 36 strikeouts in 28 innings.

BAD NEIGHBORHOOD: The Padres went from first to last in the NL West in a little more than two weeks. Their biggest problem? The unbalanced schedule. San Diego is 9-20 in the division and 19-12 outside the division.

SHORTSTOP SWAP: Not only are the Mariners winning without Alex Rodriguez, they have gotten a shortstop named Garciaparra in return. With one of two draft picks they received as compensation for A-Rod, the Mariners drafted Mike Garciaparra, younger brother of Red Sox star Nomar.

AND PAUL WILDER IS CLOSING IN ON DOUBLE A: Nick Bierbrodt, the first-ever draft pick of the Diamondbacks, has replaced the injured Brian Anderson in Arizona's rotation. Bierbrodt has had shoulder and elbow problems in his career but was 2-0 with a 0.72 ERA in Triple A.

AROUND THE HORN: The Braves went 15-7 after moving Quilvio Veras to the top of the order. ... Manager Art Howe's job security is once again being questioned in Oakland. ... The Cardinals do not anticipate Rick Ankiel returning to the majors this season. ... With Todd Jones temporarily removed as closer in Detroit, Matt Anderson is getting the opportunity to prove he can finish games. ... Last week, the Dodgers had about $39-million of their $106-million payroll on the disabled list (Andy Ashby, Kevin Brown, Eric Karros and Gary Sheffield). GIANT MISTAKE: Jeff Kent, the 2000 NL MVP, says the Giants made a mistake in letting Ellis Burks leave after last season. Burks signed a three-year, $20-million contract with the Indians because the Giants feared his knees were about to go. "We had a good combination last year and we don't have it this year," Kent said. "I'm not complaining about losing a player, but this is a different lineup, and we've got to deal with different things than last year."

WALKING PAPERS: There is only so much a manager can do during an extra-inning game, but Detroit skipper Phil Garner was determined to control one aspect of an 18-inning loss to Boston. Garner was going to make sure Manny Ramirez did not win the game. Ramirez was walked intentionally four times, tying the AL record held by Roger Maris and one short of Andre Dawson's major-league record. Included was a two-out walk in the 14th with first base occupied and a two-out pass in the 16th with the bases empty.

FOWL MOVE: Arizona manager Bob Brenly called it "chickens---" when Ben Davis dropped a bunt single in the eighth to break up Curt Schilling's perfect game. He oughta know. A week later, Arizona pitcher Randy Johnson drilled Padres pitcher Kevin Jarvis in the pitching arm with a pitch. In his previous at-bat, Jarvis had gotten a hit. Johnson, who had 14 strikeouts in six innings, was removed from the game by Brenly before his next at-bat.

LAST WORD: "Steve Carlton. Mike Schmidt. Now the Paul Byrd era in Philadelphia comes to an end." Phillies right-hander Byrd's humorous response after being traded to Kansas City for Jose Santiago.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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