Rangers' Top 5 DHs: Sullivan's take

May 18th, 2020

ARLINGTON -- No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the Top 5 players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is T.R. Sullivan’s ranking of the Top 5 designated hitters in Rangers history. Next week: right-handed starters.

Rangers' All-Time Team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF

1) Larry Parrish, 1982-88
Key fact: Rangers Player of the Year in 1984 and 1987. All-Star in 1987.

Parrish was an All-Star third baseman for the Expos before being acquired by the Rangers on March 31, 1982, along with first baseman Dave Hostetler for outfielder Al Oliver. The Rangers originally had a deal with the Yankees for outfielder Oscar Gamble, but he exercised a no-trade clause.

The Expos had come within one game of the World Series in 1981 and Parrish had been a big part of that team, both on the field and in the clubhouse. Some thought trading him really took a lot out of the Expos even though Oliver had a great year for them.

The Rangers had Buddy Bell at third base, so they moved Parrish to right field. Parrish got off to a terrible start with Texas. Through the first three months of the 1982 season, Parrish was hitting .186 with one home run and six RBIs over 43 games.

Then he got hot. Unbelievably hot. In his first 12 games of July, Parrish went 12-for-42 with five home runs and 19 RBIs. Three of the five home runs were grand slams, and he went on to finish the season strong.

Over the next five years, Parrish hit .272/.331/.475 while averaging 30 home runs and 104 RBIs for every 162 games. He was also dealing with bad knees and transitioned into the designated hitter spot for much of his last three seasons with the Rangers. His 1,439 at-bats at DH for the Rangers is the most in club history.

2) Vladimir Guerrero, 2010
Key fact: He hit .300 with 29 home runs, 115 RBIs and a .496 slugging percentage in 2010.

Guerrero signed with the Angels in 2004 and gave the Rangers trouble for three years. Over 54 games, he hit .431 with 20 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .796 slugging percentage.

In 2007, Rangers manager Ron Washington employed a shift against Guerrero with three infielders on the left side. This was well before radical shifts became the norm in baseball.

The shift got to Guerrero over the next three seasons. He still hit for a .354 average in 48 games, but with just four home runs, 23 RBIs and a .511 slugging percentage.

Guerrero solved the problem by signing with the Rangers and was a huge part of the 2010 AL pennant-winning team.

3) Mickey Tettleton, 1995-97
Key fact: Hit .246/.366/.450 with 24 home runs and 83 RBIs in 1996.

Tettleton was a Homewood free agent. After the 1994-95 players' strike came to an end at the end of March, the Players Association set up a camp in Homewood, Fla., for free agents to work out until they could get a new deal.

Tettleton, a switch-hitter, was coming off four strong years with the Tigers. The Rangers signed pitchers Bob Tewksbury and Jeff Russell and appeared to be out of money. But manager Johnny Oates and first baseman Will Clark lobbied hard for the Rangers to sign Tettleton.

Tettleton broke into the big leagues as a catcher with the A's and was with them from 1984-87. But Terry Steinbach came along and Tettleton was released.

He signed with the Orioles and established himself as a front-line player. From 1989-96, he hit .245/.382/.471 with an .853 OPS. He averaged 31 home runs. 90 RBIs and 119 walks for every 162 games.

Tettleton would probably be appreciated more in today’s game with a greater emphasis on advanced analytics. For example, during his eight-year prime of 1989-96, he was one of 173 players who had 2,500 plate appearances in that stretch.

Tettleton ranked 23rd with 6.43 runs created per 27 outs and 30th with a .369 weighted on-base percentage. Those two numbers -- as complicated as they are -- would have created a lot more attention in the current baseball analytical climate.

4) Brian Downing, 1991-92
Key fact: In two seasons with the Rangers, he hit .278/.390/.443 with an .833 OPS

Downing was signed late in 1991 during Spring Training after the Rangers released Pete Incaviglia. Nolan Ryan was a big advocate. After reporting to Spring Training, he suffered a fracture in his right hand.

It appeared he would start the season on the injured list. Instead he started the season 11-for-15 with six walks and three hit-by-pitches in his first five games. He was a Shin-Soo Choo-type leadoff hitter, who could get on base and draw walks.

Late in the 1992 season, Downing started realizing his career might be coming to an end. He thought about it long and hard one day when he got on a subway to ride from Manhattan north to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

He was so deep in thought he didn’t realize he was on the wrong train. The southbound train arrived at Coney Island before Downing realized he was on the opposite end of the city from the Bronx.

5) Jose Canseco, 1992-1994
Key fact: Rangers Player of the Year in 1994

Canseco had two full seasons with the Rangers after being acquired by Texas on Aug. 31, 1992. In '93, he had a ball hit off his head and go over the fence for a home run. He also blew out his right elbow in an ill-fated pitching appearance and missed three months.

The next year was different, no drama or bombast. Canseco made a terrific comeback, hitting .282/.386/.552 in 111 games with 30 home runs and 90 RBIs before the season was cut short by a strike.

Honorable mentions
Prince Fielder: Like Canseco, Fielder had a nice comeback season in 2015, hitting .305/.378/.463 with 23 home runs and 98 RBIs. It was a toss-up for the final spot. ... Milton Bradley: He was an All-Star for the Rangers in 2008 during his one year with Texas. ... Willie Horton: Another one-year DH, he filled the role in 1977 when the Rangers won 94 games. ... Rico Carty: Trivia answer. The question is who was the Rangers' first DH.