ARLINGTON -- Who are the best Rangers not in the National Baseball Hall of Fame?
Here are the top five, and Alex Rodriguez is not one of them. There is much to debate about A-Rod, but he played just three seasons in Texas and, as great as they were, he doesn’t match up with these five as far as their place in Rangers history. Mark Teixeira is another big name who falls short of Texas' top five.
1. Adrián Beltré
(21 MLB seasons, 2011-18 with Rangers)
Beltré should be the next Rangers player elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He is eligible in 2024.
When he retired, it was fashionable to pronounce Beltré as an automatic first-ballot Hall of Famer. That initial exuberance may fade over the five-year waiting period, but he is one of the best third basemen in the history of the game, so his induction is only a matter of time.
2. Rafael Palmeiro
(20 MLB seasons, 1989-93 and '99-2003 with Rangers)
There is no doubt Palmeiro has the on-field résumé to be in the Hall of Fame. Start with the 569 home runs and 3,020 hits and go from there. Half of his 20 seasons were spent with Texas, so if inducted, it should be as a Ranger.
But Palmeiro lasted just four years of eligibility before failing to get the required 5% in 2014 to stay on the ballot. His murky Hall of Fame chances now rest in the hands of a Veterans Committee sometime in the future.
It also rests on other players who were implicated in performance-enhancing drugs breaking through. A-Rod, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are the most obvious test cases for the many tainted players still holding out hope for induction. Palmeiro has a tougher roadblock than most, having actually tested positive and serving a suspension in 2005.
3. Michael Young
(14 MLB seasons, 2000-12 with Rangers)
This has been covered many times. Young and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor were similar players except ... Molitor reached the big leagues quicker than Young and stayed five years longer, burnishing his offensive numbers as a productive DH. Molitor had a career-high 225 hits at the age of 39. Young, at the same age, was sitting in the stands watching his sons play youth league baseball.
There are no guarantees Young -- who retired after his age-36 season with 2,375 hits and a .300 average -- would have had the same great end to his career as Molitor. But putting his family ahead of a reachable pursuit of 3,000 hits put Cooperstown out of reach.
4. Juan Gonzalez
(17 MLB seasons, 1989-99 and 2002-03 with Rangers)
Larry Walker agreed to a six-year, $75 million contract extension with the Rockies on March 5, 1999. At the time, he and Gonzalez were comparable players. An argument could be made either way on who was better, but both were premium right fielders.
Gonzalez was due to be a free agent after the 2000 season. The Rangers approached him during the 1999 season about an extension based on what Walker received, but Gonzalez wasn’t interested
The Rangers traded him to the Tigers after the 1999 season, and his career dropped off quickly after that. One can’t help wonder what would have happened if Gonzalez had never left Texas, where he was comfortable and productive.
5. Kevin Brown
(19 MLB seasons, 1986-94 with Rangers)
Brown was the best pitcher ever drafted by the Rangers. He was the No. 4 overall pick in 1986 out of Georgia Tech and spent six full seasons in Texas' rotation (1989-94). During those six years, he was a combined 76-63 with a 3.80 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and 1.73 strikeouts per walk. Among all qualifying pitchers over that span, he was 16th in wins, 43rd in ERA, 58th in WHIP and 59th in K/BB. He was good but nothing extraordinary, outside of a 21-win, All-Star season in 1992.
When he became a free agent, the Rangers let him walk. There was too much acrimony built up between player and club, and the Rangers made no attempt to re-sign Brown. He spent the next six years pitching for the Orioles, Marlins, Padres and Dodgers. During that stretch -- 1995-2000 -- Brown was 92-50 with a 2.65 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 3.89 strikeouts per walk.
Those were the seasons that led him to sign the first $100 million contract in MLB history, and also why some analytics-minded people think he deserves far more Hall of Fame consideration. There are plenty of lists that have Brown rated far higher than a number of Hall of Famers, including Don Drysdale, Don Sutton, Dizzy Dean, Jim Bunning, John Smoltz and Catfish Hunter.
Brown is not going to the Hall of Fame. He received just a dozen votes in his first year of eligibility in 2011 and disappeared from the ballot. The guy could pitch, but let's just say his prickly personality -- among other factors -- didn't help him receive the benefit of the doubt from many voters.