These Are Not The Same Old Rangers

Texas is building for the future, and they just might win some ballgames in the process

These are not the same old Texas Rangers.
When I make such statements, I do so with complete understanding that, well, apres moi le deluge -- the deluge being the bitter voices of bitter Rangers fans or ex-fans perhaps, who have been burned one too many times by high hopes and low finishes to meet a new season with anything other than sideways skepticism.
But, I repeat, these are not the same old Texas Rangers. Not because the team will win a World Series this year, because they (probably) won’t. This has little to do with what happens on the field in 2009; the reason these Rangers are different isn’t so easy to read as a huge off-season free agent pickup, or obvious and immediate contender status.
If you want to see why the Texas Rangers have been born anew of recent, sometime in the past three years or so, you must look closer. Simply enough, Texas has the best farm system in baseball, and, unlike in years past, those prospects aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The lineup is stacked as it stands now, with young talent.
Of course, pitching is not yet where it needs to be for Texas to be considered a legitimate contender; this is the swan song of Rangers-haters, and it was justified for a long time. Really, it still is justified, to some degree anyway. But with Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz waiting in the minor leagues, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And, unlike in years past, this light isn’t going to be traded to -- oh, I don’t know -- Chicago, in exchange for Brandon McCarthy.
This is a far cry from early on in the decade, when Texas relied heavily on free agency to the demise of its own farm system. The A-Rod deal alone left the team reeling for several years. Buying talent is all well and good when you’re on the brink of a championship, but otherwise, collecting a hodgepodge of veterans is usually a recipe for mediocrity in professional baseball.
Just ask the Atlanta Braves, who sent (arguably) their three best prospects to Texas in exchange for (now Yankee) Mark Texeira and (now Royal) Ron Mahay in a desperate attempt to make a late push in 2007; or the New York Yankees, who have constructed an All-Star team of sorts in recent years, with nothing much to show for it.
We’re witnessing a change in culture now, a reliance on youth and homegrown talent similar to the model that kept the N.L. East crown in Atlanta from 1990 to 2006.
There will be no fire-sales in Arlington any time soon. It will result, inevitably, in occasional frustration, as this kind of thing takes time; but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was any decent franchise in baseball.

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