David Murphy #7 of the Texas Rangers is congratulated by Mitch Moreland #18 after Murphy hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning against the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum on September 2, 2013 in Oakland, California. Moreland scored in front of Murphy on the home run. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
For a team seeking a return to first place, the Texas Rangers have finally found a solution at first base.
News over the weekend that the team signed Mitch Moreland to a contract was a refreshing reminder that this season he won’t play first. Because it’ll be manned by none other than Prince Fielder.
At one point the job belonged to Moreland, the former 17th-round draft choice. He hit only .232 last year, with a career-high 23 homers and 60 RBI. But with Fielder expected to double both of those numbers (46 homers, 120 RBI is realistic, right?), Moreland is now reduced to a 28-year-old platoon player, getting at-bats at designated hitter, playing some corner outfield and spelling Fielder once in a while.
While Moreland was serviceable at first base, he wasn’t the answer. What Fielder is, he wasn’t. Nor the litany of players the Rangers tried there over the past decade. It’s one of the most fascinating and frustrating positions in franchise history.
Mike Hargrove was AL Rookie of the Year in ’74. Pete O’Brien was Moreland-ish in the 80s, steady but not spectacular. Then in the ‘90s came Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark. Since then it’s been a revolving door of shoulda-beens and never-weres:
Carlos Pena (’01), Travis Hafner (’02) and Adrian Gonzalez all had sips of cappuccino at first base in Arlington. Mark Teixeira assumed the position in ’03, but left a gaping hole when he was traded in ’07. Moreland was subsequently drafted as a potential long-term answer, but in Teixeira’s wake Texas applied Band-Aids named Hank Blalock, Ben Broussard, Chris Davis, Justin Smoak, Jorge Cantu, Mike Napoli and even Michael Young.
Like Fielder’s uniform, the Rangers’ long void at first base is finally filled.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He currently writes a sports/guy stuff blog at DFWSportatorium.com and lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.