ARLINGTON -- Mark Teixeira holds a significant place in Rangers history. When Teixeira and reliever Ron Mahay were traded to the Braves on July 31, 2007, the haul Texas got in return was crucial in its journey toward conseuctive trips to the World Series in '10 and '11.It may have
ARLINGTON -- Mark Teixeira holds a significant place in Rangers history. When Teixeira and reliever Ron Mahay were traded to the Braves on July 31, 2007, the haul Texas got in return was crucial in its journey toward conseuctive trips to the World Series in '10 and '11.
It may have been the biggest, given how shortstop Elvis Andrus, right-hander Neftalí Feliz and lefty Matt Harrison played a significant part in the Rangers' success.
"It worked out for both parties," said Teixeira on Tuesday, as he prepared for retirement after an impressive 14-year Major League career.
But it would be wrong to remember Teixeira for just the trade. His legacy here goes deeper. Teixeira and pitcher Kevin Brown stand together as the two best first-round Draft picks in Rangers history.
Teixeira was taken fifth overall in the 2001 MLB Draft at a time when Texas was rebuilding. He became a symbol of the Rangers' future, fit in well and performed at a high level for 4 1/2 seasons while Texas forged a new identity around a group of exciting young players.
"I will always have a special place in my heart for Rangers fans, the organization and the city," Teixeira said. "It was where I made it ... I had a lot of great times. We didn't win as much as we hoped, but I take a small sense of pride my trade helped set up a nice run. I hope the fans remember I worked hard and played hard every day."
Teixeira has spent the past eight seasons with the Yankees, but his time with Texas is still important to one of baseball's all-time greatest switch-hitters, and he wants people to understand that.
It would be a great moment for all if Teixeira one day returned to Arlington -- not as the opposing first baseman but as an honored former Rangers player.
"I hope so," Teixeira said. "That would mean a lot, whether it's next year or five years from now. I would look forward to being able to give a big hug to the fans."
The Rangers, after winning three division titles in four years, fell off badly in 2000. They lost 91 games and finished last in the American League West. They were left with the fifth overall pick in the '01 Draft, and they took a switch-hitting third baseman from Georgia Tech.
"I was really excited," Teixeira said. "My agent at the time [Scott Boras] had just signed Alex Rodriguez with the Rangers, and he had nothing but great things to say about [former Rangers owner] Tom Hicks, the Ballpark, the organization and the city. A lot of players get drafted by a team and say, 'Oh, really.' Texas wasn't that way."
Teixeira was a third baseman, but with Hank Blalock ahead of him, Teixeira switched to first base and made the team out of Spring Training in 2003, with new manager Buck Showalter committing to young players.
Teixeira was part of a new direction for Texas. After the 2003 season yielded a third straight last-place finish, the Rangers traded Rodriguez to the Yanks, and the commitment to youth was complete.
The result was one of the most exciting seasons in Rangers history. With a team built around Teixeira, Blalock, Michael Young, Alfonso Soriano and others, Texas charged out of last place and went 89-73, falling just short of winning the division title.
"We had such a great season," Teixeira said. "A lot of time you focus on the end and forget about the journey. But the journey was so much fun. They brought in a lot of veterans and had a good mix of young players who just loved to play baseball. That was one of the most fun years I ever had playing baseball."
Teixeira followed that up with his best season in 2005, hitting .301 with 112 runs, 43 home runs and 144 RBIs and collecting his first Gold Glove Award. The RBI mark stands as the Major League record for a switch-hitter in a season.
Teixeira was almost as good in 2006, but the Rangers' youth movement was losing steam because of a lack of effective pitching. When the 2007 season began, it was evident that another rebuilding program was coming soon under new general manager Jon Daniels and manager Ron Washington.
With Teixeira coming up to free agency in 2008, it was also evident where they would start. After Texas got off to a slow start in '07, it was clear Teixeira would be traded.
"In '07, it was a difficult year for me," Teixeira said. "It's almost like breaking up with your first girlfriend. You don't want to do it, but it was time to move on. It was tough, because I had built a life in Dallas."
The Rangers had discussions with multiple teams, including the Angels and the Dodgers, before agreeing to possibly the most beneficial trade in club history.
"I really do believe it was the best for both parties," Teixeira said. "I'd like to say it didn't bother me when Texas fans were booing me when I came back, but I'd be lying. But what the Rangers got for me set them up for two World Series. Under better circumstances, if we were winning, I would have stayed."
Teixeira made out well. He was in the playoffs with the Braves in 2007 and the Angels in '08. He then signed as a free agent with the Yankees and won a World Series ring with them in '09.
Now, Teixeira's career is about to end, but he leaves with bright memories of how it began in Arlington.
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.