Since becoming the Texas Rangers, in 1972, many great players have called Arlington “home”.
As we look back through the years, we relish on wonderful memories in Rangers history. These memories have been offered to us by some of the best players in the game. From back-to-back World Series appearances to all-out brawls on the Diamond, the Texas Rangers have offered fans some wonderful experiences.
Names like Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Michael Young and Nolan Ryan come to mind immediately. But who can we truly call the “best of the best” in Texas Rangers history?
After over 40 years in the Lone Star State, there are a few players to consider, spanning from all positions across the field.
Let’s take a look at the top five Texas Rangers in club history.
*This list does not include players who are currently active.
- Alex Rodriguez
In just three years with the Texas Rangers, A-Rod had one heck of an impact. He signed with the Rangers after the 2000 season, for a 10-year deal worth $252M. At the time, it was the most expensive contract in sports history.
In 2001, A-Rod started 161 games at shortstop and one at DH. He was the only Major Leaguer to start all 162 games for their club that year. He had an All-Star year, with a Silver Slugger to tack on to it.
The 2002 season was yet another success for the then 26-year-old. He won his first Gold Glove, and the Babe Ruth Home Run Award, leading Major League Baseball that year in HRs.
Of course, 2003 was nothing off the norm for A-Rod. After being a two-time runner-up, he finally pulled ahead and earned his first MVP award. He was given his second-straight Golden Glove, as well as the second-straight Babe Ruth Home Run Award.
Over his three seasons with the Rangers, A-Rod slashed .305/.375/.615. He was a dominate hitter, knocking in 395 RBIs, and slamming 569 hits. In just three years, he managed to jack 156 homers.
Rodriguez was signed to the massive deal, and never got to take the team anywhere. He did, however, produce some of the best single-players stats in his tenure as a Ranger.
- Juan Gonzalez
Juan Gonzalez spent 13 years with Texas. He hit .293/.342/.565 in that period, earning 1,180 RBIs and 1,595 hits. He went deep 372 times with the Rangers.
Gonzalez was a two-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugging as a Ranger. In 1992, he earned the HR Crown at just 22 years-old. He led the league in long balls again, the next season.
From 1995-1998, he was the first player since WWII to have a RBI per game in any four-year period. He also claimed the MVP award in ’96 and ’98.
Gonzalez was a force to be reckoned with in the 90s. He was one of highest run producing players, and one to be feared at the plate.
More than that, he was loved and awed by the fans.
- Michael Young
Michael Young is top-tier. He dedicated 13 years to Texas, and they were fantastic.
In that tenure with the Rangers, he slashed .301/.347/.444. Tack on 2,230 hits, 177 HRs, and 984 RBIs, well, you have one fantastic ballplayer.
Young had seven All-Star years, six of which were consecutive. He also had a Golden Glove in ’08.
What’s probably most impressive, is that in seven of 11 seasons, he hit over .300. All of those years were with the Rangers.
Young was a true leader in the club. He moved around the diamond, taking on several roles for Texas. All to benefit his team.
- Nolan Ryan
Nolan Ryan spent five wonderful years on the hill for the Rangers.
From 1989 to 1993, he gave Texas something to be proud of on the mound. He led the league in strikeouts in ’89. In 1990, he recorded his sixth and seventh no-hitters.
In his final season, Ryan had one of his most memorable moments as a Texas Ranger. After hitting Chicago White Sox player Robin Ventura, Ventura charged the mound prepared to fight. Ryan, who was about 20 years older than Ventura, put him in a headlock and proceeded to hit him in the head. The Ryan Express got in six solid hits before Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez could wrangle Ventura away.
It was a tough decision deciding who to place at No. 1 and No. 2. It was a close call between Ryan and our top player. But, most fans might agree on our pick as the best Ranger in history…
- Ivan Rodriguez
He came into the league in ’91. Scouts had him pegged as a defensive catcher, and didn’t consider him an offensive weapon. Someone must have told him what people were saying, because, after a few years of work, he was on fire.
Beginning in ’95, Pudge hit over .300 for eight seasons straight. That’s just the beginning of his highlights:
– 13 Gold Gloves, 10 straight
– The only catcher to throw out Ricky Henderson twice, in one game
– He’s the only catcher in HISTORY to even be mentioned on the same page as Johnny Bench
-Career .296 AVG, 2,844 hits, 311 home runs, 1,332 RBIs
-AL MVP (1999)
Overall, Pudge was a leader and a positive influence on the club. He led the Rangers to AL West titles in ’96, ’98, and ’99. This was the club’s first three titles ever.
Again, it wasn’t easy coming up with a top Ranger. But Pudge set the tone and was a fan favorite for many years. His leadership, talent, and favorable reputation pushed him to the top of this list. He’s definitely one of the best catchers to ever play the game. Honestly, I think he’s the best catcher to ever play the game (all due respect to Bench).
Pudge is one of the 34 players on the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot. For the reasons listed above, I truly believe that he will be inducted this year, his first of eligibility.