Tuesday, March 01, 2005

2005 Ranger preview -- first base 

The second in my positional Ranger review...and unlike my grousing in the first installment, about the catching situation, I've got nothing but good things to say about the Ranger first base situation, and in particular, Mark Teixeira.

I raved about Teixeira at length in December, when talking about the rumored Teixeira-for-Wells trade, and what I said then still holds true. At age 24, he finished 6th in the A.L. in slugging, 6th in OPS, 5th in homers...hell, he was 5th in intentional walks, despite this being only his second season in the majors. BP's PECOTA system projects similar numbers for him in 2005. Statheads are enthused by his power and plate discipline. Scouts love his gorgeous swing from both sides of the plate and his attitude. He's one of those players that analysts of all stripes have embraced, and he's a guy for whom stardom is almost assumed.

He comes across as a hardass, perceived by some as humorless (owing, no doubt, to his breaking off an interview on the DFW radio station the Ticket when it was suggested that he'd be getting divorced), but he's a player who has a special aura about him out on the field. When I watch Teixeira in uniform, his demeanor reminds me of Troy Aikman when he was with the Cowboys. Aikman stood in contrast to many of his teammates...unlike Michael Irvin, for example, or Emmitt Smith, he never seemed like he was having all that much fun on the field, never seemed to show much emotion other than to dress down a lineman who missed a block or a receiver who ran the wrong route. But the word that always came to mind when watching Aikman was "professional"...Aikman inspired a sense of confidence in me when I watched him. But along with that, he seemed to elicit the respect of his teammates out on the field.

Teixeira stirs the same sort of feelings in me, when I watch him play. He comes across as constantly focused, all business, someone who sees baseball as a job rather than a game, but as a job that he's completely committed to doing as well as he possibly can. He, like Aikman, never really seems like he's having fun out there between the lines, in part because he brings a level of intensity to the game that seems to crowd out any possibility of something as mundane as fun. And like Aikman, I wouldn't be surprised if, in a few years, he's the guy on the team who gets in his teammates' faces if he thinks they aren't focused or are making mental errors. Teixeira, out on the field, reminds me of Bill James' description of Don Mattingly: 100% ballplayer, 0% bullshit.

I almost am afraid that Ranger fans are taking him for granted, even at this early stage. Teixeira was the best first baseman in the A.L. last season, but was overlooked in the All-Star discussions, and got virtually no consideration in the MVP balloting. Early in the season, when an injury put him on the shelf, there were even rumblings that the Rangers might be ready to move on without Teixeira, suggestions that management felt he wasn't going to live up to his potential...rumblings which seems to have silenced when Teixeira carried the team in the second half of the season. Even among Ranger fans, it was Mike Young and Hank Blalock that seemed to get the most attention and credit for the Rangers' surprising season last year, despite their second half slumps, while Mark Teixeira was treated almost as an afterthought.

But make no mistake, Mark Teixeira is the best player on this team. Whether he stays at first base, or moves into the outfield -- where his range and arm would seem to make him a potential plus-defender in right -- he's someone who looks to be a perennial all-star, and someone who should be a cornerstone for this team for the next decade.

That was a really well-written and interesting piece there.

It might be blasphemous for Ranger fans, but I must admit that for the first time in probably four years, my first choice for my Ranger news and views is not Newberg's newsletter and message board. I find your writings and observations more realistic than a lot of the stuff on Jamey's site.

Don't get me wrong, I still read the report and visit the website, and I'm grateful for the amazing coverage of the minor league system. It's just that I just find Jamey's writing over the last year or two to be a little too soft on the Rangers and I like the balance your site provides. (I won't get into the general level of the message boards -- I find that the only people worth reading are Brian Hayes and you).

Anyhow, just wanted to thank you and I look forward to more great writing on this blog!
Nice piece.

The only argument I might have is I may give the best player on the team to Cordero last year, but it would be mighty close.

My guess is Teixeira will be underappreciated and his professional businesslike approach will be viewed as "All about the money" and "has no love for the game", both of which are fairly preposterous. I really look forward to seeing him the next 3 years, although I'm not superoptimistic he will be a Ranger much longer than that.
Thanks for the kind words...

As Jamey knows, I'm a fan of his work, as well. I just see what we do as two very different things, though...my stuff tends to be more editorial in nature, while Jamey is a lot more plugged in than I am with things going on with the organization. He's also more of an optimist than I am, which dovetails well with the focus of his work, the minor leagues.

I'd compare what Jamey does to Baseball America, and my stuff more to Baseball Prospectus...both of those publications are great reads, but they have much different points of view and are coming from different perspectives.
Very nice piece, Adam. I agree that Teixeira is the best hitter and best player on the team and should continue to be so as long as he is with the club. It would be really nice if he was doing it at 3B (with Hank at 2B), but that looks like a dead dream at this point.
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