Who will have the Rangers' next retired number?
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers had a busy summer last year retiring uniform numbers, as both Adrián Beltré (No. 29) and Michael Young (No. 10) were given the honor.
The Rangers now have six uniform numbers retired, with the pair joining Nolan Ryan (34), Johnny Oates (26) and Ivan Rodriguez (7). Texas, like all the other Major League clubs, has also retired No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson.
The Rangers deem having a jersey number retired more exclusive than being in their Hall of Fame. There are 22 members of the club’s Hall of Fame, with more soon to come, including the likes of second baseman Ian Kinsler and former manager Ron Washington.
Texas prefers to reserve uniform number retirements for those who had National Baseball Hall of Fame-caliber careers. Ryan and Rodriguez are in Cooperstown, and there is little doubt Beltré will eventually join them.
Oates, who led the Rangers to their first three division titles in 1996 and ‘98-99, had his number retired after being diagnosed with a brain tumor that ultimately proved fatal. Young was honored because … well, there is no doubt what he meant to the franchise.
It seems like there will be a long wait until anybody else’s number is retired. So who are potential long-term candidates?
The clues lie in those who have already been honored.
The Ivan Rodriguez equivalency
Rodriguez came from the Rangers’ farm system after being signed as an amateur free agent in 1988 out of Puerto Rico. He is the best homegrown prospect ever developed by Texas.
Who best follows that blueprint among the current Rangers? That would be outfielder Joey Gallo (a 2012 first-round Draft pick of the Rangers) and second baseman Rougned Odor (signed by Texas as an amateur free agent in '11), both of whom have many years of baseball left before any post-career honors could be seriously considered. But these two talented players are in position to be a huge part of Texas’ potential next wave of success.
The simple fact is if Gallo and Odor fulfill high expectations and help bring about postseason glory for the Rangers, they will earn their place in the franchise’s pantheon of honored players.
The Michael Young equivalency
The Rangers acquired Young from the Blue Jays while he was in Double-A. Elvis Andrus was acquired from the Braves in 2007 when he was still in the Class A Advanced level.
Andrus, entering his 12th season with the Rangers, does not have Hall of Fame credentials. But he does have a chance to fulfill an elusive dream for the club.
Andrus could be the rare player who had a long and productive Major League career while playing for just one franchise. The only other current member of the Rangers Hall of Fame to play his entire career in Texas is Rusty Greer, and his time was cut short because of injuries.
The Nolan Ryan equivalency
Ryan was 41 and had already played 22 years before even agreeing to play for the Rangers at the 1988 Winter Meetings. He spent just five seasons in Texas, but he threw two no-hitters, recorded his 5,000th career strikeout and earned his 300th career win. He also energized a franchise in need of a boost and created the momentum that helped lead to the construction of The Ballpark in Arlington.
So … Corey Kluber? Why not? He has already won two American League Cy Young Awards, he went to high school in Texas and he could easily enjoy a tremendous second wind to an already impressive career.
The Adrián Beltré equivalency
Beltré may be the best free-agent position player ever signed by the Rangers. They were coming off the 2010 World Series, fan interest was at an all-time high and new ownership had just taken over.
This past winter, Texas appeared willing to make another big splash with Anthony Rendon. Though the third baseman chose to join the Angels, the Rangers still intend to be aggressive in upcoming free-agent markets. And they might just find another player destined for greatness in Texas.