While grappling with getting old a while back, my wife asked her father, “what has been your favorite decade so far?” A man of few words, he did not hesitate and blurted, “fifties.”
She was so excited. She breathlessly told me that we had a lot to look forward to because her dad liked his fifties the best. He overheard and corrected, “I meant ‘the fifties’ when I was in my twenties.”
Yeah, I imagine those fifties were pretty cool with the burger joints, convertibles and sock hops. But having just made it through “my fifties” I can say without hesitation that can be a great decade too. It was for me. Here’s hoping it is for the Rangers.
Yes, the Rangers are 50 years old. What a year it could be, thanks to the team’s last act as a 49 year old. Last December the team went all in on free agency. They knew what they wanted: that is to be a powerful team that is strong up the middle. Five hundred million dollars later they have the best middle infield in baseball, and they have since traded for a hard hitting catcher and could start the season with an All Star center fielder who Chris Woodward says is a budding superstar.
So let’s work backwards on that list, starting with the center fielder. Adolis Garcia made the All Star team last year despite not making the big league club out of spring training. He put up gaudy numbers in the first half of the season, fought through some second half struggles and emerged as a candidate to become a superstar.
Last month, Rangers Manager Chris Woodward told
MLB.com, “When he stays in the strike zone, he’s a superstar. I mean, that’s basically what it comes down to. We’ve done all the numbers and data. When he stays in the strike zone he is a superstar.”
It will be a lot easier to stay in the strike zone with the heavy hitters around him, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien foremost among them. It is those two free agents that set the 50th year of Rangers baseball in the right direction. Semien signed a seven-year contract worth $175 million. Seager signed a decade-long deal that will pay $325 million.
There is so much to like about this keystone combination. Semien was an All Star last year, he was All-MLB first team and won a Silver Slugger award. He had an MLB-leading 86 extra base hits, 45 of which were home runs. You get the idea he has power at the plate. And, oh by the way, he won the Gold Glove at second base his first full season playing that position at the big league level.
At just 27 years old Seager has, seemingly, won it all. He is a World Series champion, he was the MVP of the fall classic in 2020, he was the MVP of the NLCS the same year, he’s a two time all star and the 2016 NL rookie of the year.
He and Chris Woodward worked together in Los Angeles and both know exactly what it takes to succeed at the highest level.
Both men are natural-born leaders; in fact Woody is excited to see Corey flex his leadership muscles now that he is a veteran, not one of the young guys on a Dodgers team that was full of veteran leadership. For his part Semien is part of the MLBPA executive committee and was personally involved with the negotiations that ended the lockout before too much damage was done.
Finally there is Mitch Garver. The Rangers traded fan favorite Isiah Kiner-Falefa to the Twins for Garver who hit 31 home runs as recently as 2019. He has a career average of .256. His rookie year in Minnesota was 2017 when he was the back-up to Bobby Wilson. Bobby is now his position coach.
Those are just a few of the Rangers new additions. They will help make this team strong up the middle and help ensure that the team, the franchise and its fans enjoy the fifties.