Top 5 debut seasons in Rangers history

February 1st, 2021

Some of the biggest debut seasons in Rangers history have come from trades and free-agent acquisitions, rather than rookies coming up through the Minor Leagues. There's always risk involved in big-name signings, but notable players like Alex Rodriguez and Nolan Ryan backed up the hype.

Here are the top five debut seasons in Rangers history:

1. , 2008
Hamilton spent his rookie season with the Reds in 2007 before being traded to the Rangers. His debut season in Texas was quite the sensation. It wasn’t just the numbers -- a .304/.371/.530 slash line with 98 runs scored, 32 home runs and a American League-leading 130 RBIs. It was just the whole package: the tremendously gifted athlete who had been resurrected from three-plus years of suspension because of a harrowing journey through drug and alcohol abuse. The highlight didn’t even come during a regular-season game, even though he was the AL Player of the Month for April and May. His record-setting performance of 28 home runs in the first round of the Home Run Derby at old Yankee Stadium, including several over 500 feet, remains one of the great moments in All-Star history.

2. , 1989
Ryan spent nine seasons pitching for the Astros and was planning for 1989 to be his last one. Then the Astros made the mistake of trying to cut his salary, and Ryan didn’t like that. At age 41, he decided to become a free agent, and the Rangers won the bidding over the Angels and Giants. There was some doubt about how good Ryan would be at his age, but he ended up going 16-10 with a 3.20 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 301 strikeouts. He recorded his 5,000th career strikeout that season and took two no-hit bids into the ninth inning before they were broken up by Nelson Liriano of the Blue Jays and Dave Bergman of the Tigers.

3. , 2001
Rodriguez’s three seasons with Texas were spectacular and inconsequential. It is amazing how one player can perform so well and have so little impact on a team. The Rangers finished in last place in the AL West during those three seasons and didn’t start climbing out until after Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees. In his first season with Texas, he hit .318 with 52 home runs, 135 RBIs and a .622 slugging percentage after leaving the Mariners. He also alienated Derek Jeter by saying the Yankees' shortstop had never had to carry a team by himself and infuriated the people of Seattle by lending his name to a campaign trying to lure Boeing to Texas.

4. , 1974
Jenkins was a 20-game winner for the Cubs from 1967-72 before slipping to 14 wins in '73. At age 30, the Cubs feared he might be on a downhill trajectory, so they traded him to the Rangers for infielders Bill Madlock and Vic Harris. Jenkins was far from finished, however. He ended going 25-12 with a 2.83 ERA in '74, while setting club records with 328 innings pitched and 29 complete games.

As a reward, Rangers manager Billy Martin let Jenkins bat in the last game of the season rather than use the designated hitter. Jenkins went 1-for-2 with a single and a run scored in a 2-1 victory.

5. , 2011
Beltre signed a five-year contract with the Rangers in 2011, but his entry did not go smoothly. The Rangers had Michael Young as their third baseman, and he wasn’t happy about losing his position. The possibility existed that Young could have been traded instead of accepting a nebulous super-utility role. Things were settled by Opening Day, and Beltre ended up hitting .296 with 32 home runs, 105 RBIs and a .561 slugging percentage. He was an All-Star and won a Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger Award.