Texas Strangers: Roster turnover ushers in change

03/30/2014 1:39 PM

11/12/2014 4:28 PM

The hottest-selling item at Globe Life Park on Monday, Opening Day for the Texas Rangers, won’t be an insurance policy. Try a game program.

It certainly stands to be the one thing fans will need most as they attempt to figure out exactly who is playing for the Rangers this season.

The players themselves, though, learned early on that the days of spending their entire careers with one team have gone the way of cassette tapes and manual transmissions. A one-uniform career might pop up every once in a while, but older players are the only ones who have them.

In other words, get used to years like the one facing the Rangers in 2014, when the roster has almost turned over entirely from their World Series heydays of only three and four years ago.

And don’t forget to buy a program.

“It’s kind of like the first day of school,” said catcher J.P. Arencibia, one of the new faces on the Rangers this season. “There’s that unknown feeling. You’re looking forward to a new journey in life. What I’ve learned is one door closes and another one opens. It’s kind of like the circle of life.”

Arencibia played only three full seasons with Toronto before having to find a new employer. First baseman Prince Fielder is with his third big-league club, but he lasted only two seasons in Detroit before a November trade for Ian Kinsler.

Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers’ new leadoff hitter and left fielder, lasted only one season in Cincinnati. The Rangers are his fourth big-league team.

“You’ve got a new everything,” Fielder said. “It’s not bad. Once you get to know everyone the first day, everything seems to work out. Having the experience of changing teams makes it a little easier.”

Rangers fans aren’t necessarily going to struggle with putting names to the new faces, but they might have trouble saying goodbye to the players they had come to adore.

Gone are Kinsler, a three-time All-Star second baseman, and two-time All-Star right fielder Nelson Cruz. So is closer Joe Nathan, an All-Star in both of his seasons with the Rangers, along with outfielders David Murphy and Craig Gentry.

Catcher A.J. Pierzynski and utility man Jeff Baker spent only the 2013 season with the Rangers before heading elsewhere over the off-season.

Those departures came an off-season after outfielder Josh Hamilton headed west to Anaheim to join left-hander C.J. Wilson, who left after the 2011 season. Mike Napoli went east to Boston in the winter of 2012.

Hamilton, Wilson, Kinsler, Murphy and Gentry were among the 25 players who helped the Rangers to the 2010 World Series. Only seven of those 25 were on the Rangers’ 2014 spring training roster.

There has been a similar exodus from the 2011 World Series roster. Of the 25 who lost to St. Louis in seven games, only eight remained this spring. The Cardinals and Giants also have seen massive roster turnover since taking down the Rangers.

“There’s always going to be turnover,” said Murphy, who signed a two-year deal with Cleveland in November. “I look at it from the standpoint that we were fortunate to have everyone together as long as we did. We had an extremely talented group, and the results showed that.”

Saying goodbye isn’t easy for fans or the players. It also isn’t easy for club officials.

“Each one of these calls is hard, and you understand it might not be popular,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “At the same time, you’re appreciative of what these guys have done.”

Maybe Matt Harrison or Elvis Andrus, the two longest-tenured Rangers, will pull the one-team feat. Neither is 30 years old, though, and each will want to keep playing once his deal allows him to become a free agent.

Harrison and Andrus might want to stay, or they might want to bolt. The Rangers might want them back, or maybe not.

Baseball has become a big business, after all.

“Some of it is the nature of the game and economics,” Daniels said. “Some of it is by design.”

But if any team can withstand the new faces and their personalities in the clubhouse, the Rangers believe they are the one that can flourish. Part of that is the tone set by manager Ron Washington, who lets the players know what is expected of them and then lets them try to meet his expectations.

Milton Bradley was transformed from a troubled talent into a troubled All-Star in his lone season with the Rangers in 2008. Already, Fielder and Choo have talked about how easy it has been to fit in, and their teammates have found the duo to be equally easy to get to know.

“The key with them is just getting them to fit into the clubhouse and let them know that they are part of a team and not let it get individualized,” Washington said. “The bottom line is we’ve got to win ballgames.”

That’s the same in any uniform.

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