By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
It is February 2, and he's stranded in baseball's off-season. His future manager's shocking drug revelation is still buried under winter's bitter blanket. Prized off-season acquisitions are weeks away from their first pitch (Rich Harden) and hit (Vladimir Guerrero). In fact, he's not yet even officially the owner of the Texas Rangers.
Nonetheless, Chuck Greenberg is about to win you over.
At Sherlock's Pub and Grill on Central Expressway in North Dallas, it takes Greenberg, oh, about 90 seconds to be everything that outgoing scapegoat of an owner Tom Hicks wasn't. Endearing. Generous. Funny. Self-deprecating.
"Man, am I a dork or what?" Greenberg says to the standing-room crowd as he tries to dig his cell phone out of his pocket to show off his Rangers Ballpark wallpaper photo. "Had my camera on in my pants. That could be dangerous."
During the welcome-to-town event hosted by longtime Rangers superfan Jamey Newberg, Greenberg and veteran third baseman Michael Young help raise more than $10,000 for Wipe Out Kids' Cancer. The prospective owner also raises the bar.
Here to meet players, staffers and fans in the wake of an agreement to buy the team from Hicks, he auctions the red pullover Rangers jacket off his back for $500. He matches donations. He listens to fans' questions and suggestions, promising to "seriously consider" lowering beer prices and prohibiting fans—via the stadium scoreboard—to do "The Wave" while the Rangers are batting.
"You guys are my customers, of course I'm going to listen to you," Greenberg says. "I want the Rangers to be a family atmosphere. I want the experience of going to Rangers Ballpark to be a feeling you can take home with you. If you don't like something, I want to hear about it."
While Hicks' reign was characterized by snappy suits and global sports empires and Republican bigwigs and have-your-people-call-my-people, Greenberg is refreshingly blue jeans and sneakers and baseball and jot-that-down-on-this-napkin.
Funny, because in hand-picking a successor and pinpointing a life preserver to help him out of debt and out of baseball, Hicks found the anti-Hicks. Greenberg, whose group beat out two others for the right to buy the Rangers, won't be handed the keys to the franchise until the deal is approved by Hicks Sports Group's 40 lenders and 75 percent of Major League Baseball owners. Though Greenberg still considers that process a formality—at spring training he told folks he was planning on being in power in time for Monday afternoon's season opener against the Toronto Blue Jays in Arlington—he also warned observers of the process' inherent volatility.
"There are usually some unforeseen speed bumps along the way," Greenberg said in Surprise when asked about a SportsBusiness Journal story that revealed significant I's to be dotted and T's to be crossed before a deal could be finalized. A similar story appeared in this week's Wall Street Journal, suggesting some of Hicks' lenders would even attempt to halt the sale. "But I'm very confident there are no road blocks ahead," Greenberg responded.
"He's an impressive guy, full of energy and optimism. You can't help but like him," Young says. "I think he'll be a good fit at this point in our development. He says he'll be a guy who lets the baseball people make the baseball decisions and that's how it should be."
Until then, Hicks' legacy will be littered with alienating fans, constantly changing organizational course, running out of money and losing. His heir has arrived from, of all places, Pittsburgh with a clean slate, a big smile and an adamant promise that Rangers fans will surely latch onto.
"It's a business, but to run a successful business, you have to put out a quality product," Greenberg says as the Sherlock's meeting clears out. "I want the product to be a winning baseball team. I want to win. Win big."
Yes, Rangers fans who suffered last summer when your team didn't have the cash to add a bat during the pennant race and ultimately wilted to a second-place finish in the American League West, he has all the right answers. Greenberg has a Hall of Fame partner in Nolan Ryan. He has astute timing, considering the Rangers' glacial rebuilding program through baseball's top farm system is finally expected to ripen into tangible, successful results. And, yes, he has cash.
Greenberg will wear Rangers red but, more important, he'll keep the team in the black.
"We will have money in the budget," Greenberg reassures. "Money will not stop us."
It's a relatively small gathering at Sherlock's, not unlike the intimate, yet momentous scenes that played out when the Dallas Cowboys and Dallas Mavericks ushered in bold new eras with brash new owners. In 1989, at a stunned Valley Ranch, new Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talked passionately about controlling everything down to "socks and jocks." In 2000, at the under-construction American Airlines Center, Mark Cuban christened his new Dallas Mavericks ownership by slipping on a jersey. In 2010, Greenberg wowed 'em at Sherlock's.
In the pub's parking lot, Rangers fans are giddy and grinning, if not a little gullible. For the first time in a long time, they believe their owner wants to win as much as they do.
"I'm not ready to say he's some savior or anything," says fan Jerry Walters, who drove from Aledo to meet Greenberg. "You know what, check that. If what he said in there is the truth, he will be a savior."
Not a bad first impression.
Especially for a guy who, as a kid, cheered wildly against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X, whose childhood memories of the Rangers could fit in a thimble, and who is such a metroplex newbie that he isn't sure if he's house-hunting in Southlake or Westlake.
It is sunny and 70 on March 10 in Surprise, Arizona. A perfect afternoon for baseball.
Greenberg sits in the front row near the Rangers' first-base dugout at the team's spring training complex about 45 minutes northwest of Phoenix. He will, likely in April, officially become the sixth owner in club history, and he spends his first and only day here talking of being both anxious and ecstatic about becoming the Rangers' CEO.
The Rangers on this day are promising, but far from perfect. In a quaint stadium accessorized by retirees wearing caps, chirping birds nesting in the rafters and the unmistakable smell of fresh-popped kettle corn, Greenberg watches pitcher Neftali Feliz strike out the side with 99 mph fastballs one inning, then hit a batter and surrender four runs the next. The regular, recognizable players then are replaced with a bunch of prospects ultimately headed for minor-league outposts like Frisco, Oklahoma City or even Bakersfield, California, and who finish out the 6-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Greenberg would like to tell you he grew up a fan of these Rangers and always dreamed of owning a team in Texas. But he's too honest to stretch his yarn into warm 'n' fuzzy hyperbole.
Truth is, he's a gritty Pittsburgh guy, a sharp entrepreneur who sees the Rangers as an enticing business opportunity rather than some holy grail. He wasn't raised on Fergie Jenkins and Bobby Valentine and Juan Gonzalez, but instead grew up in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, as a fan of Pittsburgh Pirate Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente (his youngest son, Ben, shares Clemente's middle name, Walker) and, later, Willie Stargell's "We Are Fam-uh-lee!" World Series champs of 1979. His knowledge of the '70s Rangers?
"I remember Billy Martin...and Mickey Rivers," says the 48-year-old Greenberg, scratching his healthy head of black hair during the eighth inning of the exhibition loss. "But you gotta remember, those were the days before cable and satellite and interleague play. The Rangers just didn't get a lot of national exposure."
Sitting in the same row with general manager Jon Daniels, investor Ray Davis and team president/soon-to-be co-owner Nolan Ryan, Greenberg is casual, on the verge of being hip. Nothing about him is pretentious, from his family (wife, Jennifer, of 25 years and three 20-something sons—Jeff, Jack and Ben—who kept him a traveling sports dad following baseball and hockey), to his ride (Cadillac Escalade SUV), to his iPod (filled with classic and Southern rock), to his drink (Bud Light).
On his most recent flight from Pittsburgh to Dallas, Greenberg jammed to Johnny Cash. "Love the man in black," he says.
"He's just a normal guy," Daniels says. "Jeans and T-shirts. He's really in tune with fans and knows how to have his finger on the pulse of what they want. He's very impressive. He wants revenue, make no mistake about that. But above and beyond that comes winning."
With the vows not yet formalized, obviously, the honeymoon hasn't commenced, much less ended. But at this point the only discernible blemish in Greenberg's makeup is the fact that he rooted for the Steelers' Terry Bradshaw and against the Cowboys' Roger Staubach in Miami in 1976.
"I respect Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys," he says sheepishly, "but ... "
At Super Bowl X, Greenberg was a wide-eyed 14-year-old more consumed with sports than sex. His father playfully warned him to watch out for fast women in Miami.
Jokes Greenberg, "Not that I would've known what to do with them anyway."
In business, however, he's always made shrewd moves.
It is January 30, a gray, gloomy and frigid day at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. At the team's annual FanFest, longtime promotions guru and voice of the stadium Chuck Morgan is shooting the bull about his prospective boss.
"You talk about hitting the ground running; he comes to me and says, 'Whatever you need, it's yours,'" Morgan says, laughing. "I talked about upgrades to video boards and this and that around the park, and he was nodding, like he'd already thought of the same things. I don't suspect we're going to see that much of a learning curve with Chuck Greenberg. The man knows his stuff."
Given the protracted sale process, Greenberg won't be able to give the old yard a facelift in time for the 2010 season. But if his track record is any indication, the Rangers are now eligible for upgrades.
Born in Englewood, New Jersey, to David and Barbara Greenberg, Chuck moved to Pittsburgh before his first birthday. At Tufts University in Massachusetts, he graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor's in political science in 1982 and received his law degree from the University of Michigan three years later. As a partner at two Pittsburgh law firms over the next 17 years, he served as a corporate and sports attorney who gained national recognition for crafting a deal that in 1999 handed ownership of the then-bankrupt Pittsburgh Penguins to National Hockey League Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux.
But with Greenberg, it's more guile and guts than genius.
Over drinks with Lemieux's agent, Greenberg offered to help smooth out some wrinkles the hockey star was having with contractors building his new home. Greenberg saw to it that the house was finished without flaw, and he soon became Lemieux's personal attorney. From there he grew into roles as the Penguins' outside counsel, negotiating TV deals and overseeing a project to renovate their Pittsburgh Civic Center.
In Pittsburgh, Greenberg not only helped save the Penguins but also oversaw the building of the new Consol Energy Center arena scheduled to open in September with every luxury suite already sold. In Arlington his mission is much less complex: Leave alone baseball's most talented young players while convincing fans to return to Rangers Ballpark.
"He knows business," Ryan says. "But what I like about him is he knows baseball."
Greenberg fell in love with the game through his father, through his aunt Florence and, mostly, through Clemente, the five-tool star who led the Pirates to the 1971 World Series before dying in a plane crash in 1972 on a trip to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.
"He was the man. Could do it all," says Greenberg, whose boyhood Clemente poster has hung in his St. Clair bedroom the last 30 years. "When he died, my childhood sort of ended with him. But it comes back at the ballpark."
In 2002, Greenberg's youthful obsessions with baseball and the Pirates morphed into a business enterprise. He led an ownership group that bought Pittsburgh's Double A affiliate, the Altoona Curve, and for six years served as managing general partner and president. He did everything from negotiating corporate contracts to once helping the grounds crew pull the tarp over the field on a rainy night.
Buoyed by Greenberg's innovative promotions and fan-friendly amenities such as state-of-the-art scoreboards and video screens, the Curve set minor-league attendance records and, in 2006, received the Johnson Award as minor-league baseball's best overall organization.
"We didn't have winning teams, but we still set attendance records," Greenberg says. "That's something I'm proud of."
Greenberg sold the Curve in 2008, but still owns the State College Spikes in Pennsylvania and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in South Carolina. The Spikes' home—Medlar Field at Lubrano Park near Penn State University—became in 2006 the country's first ballpark that was LEED-certified, an independent assessment that verifies that a building meets the highest standards in environmental and energy design. At Myrtle Beach he spent $2.5 million in upgrades to BB&T Coastal Field, including a section of sandy, waterfront seats dubbed "Pelican's Beach."
As a minor-league owner of three franchises over eight years, Greenberg has proven he can have success at the small levels. Rather than a billionaire spontaneously dabbling in a high-profile hobby, he's a passionate apprentice who's paid his dues. But can he play amongst Major League Baseball's big boys? The man with that answer resides right under our noses, after growing up just down the street.
Greenberg and Mark Cuban lived about three miles apart in Pittsburgh, attended the same synagogue —Temple Emanuel—and developed similar styles. No, Greenberg won't watch games from the dugout or take pre-game infield with players, but he is, like Cuban, a perceptive salesman who's skilled in the art of listening.
"Mark's certainly someone I look up to," Greenberg says. "If I have a question or an idea, I'm not afraid to shoot him an e-mail. I value his advice."
Cuban's heavy, hands-on style has led the Mavericks to 10 consecutive playoff seasons of 50-plus victories and an NBA-high sellout streak of 359 games at AAC. And, yes, he sees a little of himself in Greenberg.
"Yeah, in a lot of ways he does remind me of me," Cuban says. "He puts the fan first, and he likes to make sure they have fun. I think he is going to be great for the Rangers, and I have told him I am happy to help in any way I can. And he has come to a ton of Mavs games as well, so I think he is making a commitment to support all sports in the town."
There is, however, one chasm between the two.
"He is a lawyer," Cuban jokes. "As my daughter would say, 'Ewwww.'"
It is December 15, 2009, and after an eight-month search, Hicks selects Greenberg's ownership bid over groups led by Houston businessman Jim Crane and former high-profile sports agent Dennis Gilbert. Greenberg's bid, at $530 million, isn't the highest, but is by far the healthiest in that it allows Ryan to remain in place as the face of the franchise and the organization's most powerful baseball decision-maker.
Greenberg, who immediately begins making plans for a permanent move to the metroplex, is scatty over the purchase of a baseball team that has exactly one playoff game victory in 38 years, hasn't been to the post-season this millennium and in recent years has absorbed staggering declines in attendance and relevance. His plan to include Ryan in his ownership group has proven a stroke of smarts, as any credibility and goodwill the Rangers have accrued the past two seasons could've instantly dissolved if Ryan left.
According to team sources, Gilbert's bid failed because he wanted to shove Ryan aside and grab the controlling interest of baseball operations. Crane's group made the most lucrative offer, but Major League Baseball owners might have been leery of his previously backing out of the purchase of the Houston Astros at the 11th hour two years ago.
Besides, Greenberg knows enough to realize that Hicks couldn't withstand another public relations nightmare, especially one in the form of selling the team to a group that would sell up the river the most popular person in franchise history.
"If they had a Mount Rushmore of baseball in Texas, Nolan would be the first face chiseled out," Greenberg says on a conference call with reporters days after Hicks' announcement. "If he had affiliated with any other group, I would have dropped out immediately. There are 29 other teams out there. But the Rangers and Ryan belong together."
By January 23, Greenberg/Ryan's Rangers Baseball Express, LLC signed a definitive agreement to buy the Rangers.
"It was a long, tough process, but I think the correct outcome was reached," Greenberg would later say in the Arizona sunshine. "I'm a Pittsburgh guy, yes, but the Rangers offer the perfect set of circumstances. The metroplex is a great community that's crazy about its baseball. I think the fans want to believe in and embrace the Rangers, but they've never quite gotten over the hump. From a baseball standpoint the team is loaded, and the farm system is, by far, the best in baseball. The franchise just needs a push, a little direction, a little energy. That's where I come in."
Greenberg envisions himself as the CEO of the Rangers' board of directors, running the business side of the organization but delegating the day-to-day baseball decisions to Ryan and Daniels and manager Ron Washington. Basically, he'll nod. He'll oversee. He'll write checks. He'll cheer. He'll keep his distance.
In other words, he won't be Jones calling the shots in the Cowboys' draft-day war room or Cuban passionately pleading with players in the Mavericks' timeout huddle.
"Ultimately, I'm responsible for the end product," Greenberg says. "When it comes to baseball, I'll talk it and love it. But I won't inject my opinions unless I'm asked."
Though he won't publish and promote his e-mail address as aggressively as Cuban, Greenberg promises to ingest, decipher and act upon fan feedback.
"We need to connect with the community, fill the stands and positively impact people's lives," he says. "What's the best way to go about that? That'll be more of my focus, rather than the makeup of our roster or what goes on out on the field."
Greenberg attended 15 games in Arlington late last season. In the future, he foresees a bigger, centrally located HD video board. In the present, he expects—as do Ryan and Daniels—his team to compete in, if not win, the American League West Division championship.
To facilitate that, he realizes he'll have to spend money. Welcome to a new era in Rangers ownership.
Where in the past Hicks frustrated fans by having on average the league's 16th-highest payroll in the country's fifth-largest media market, Greenberg vows to not let money be a liability.
"It's my job to get this franchise to operate like a big-market team," he says. "The resources are here, and it's our job to cultivate them. If we do that there's no reason we can't spend our money along the lines of, maybe not Boston and New York, but what they do in Anaheim and Philadelphia."
Though Ryan and Daniels realize Greenberg is ascending to power too late to directly affect this year's off-season transactions and payroll, his influence could be felt in time for trading-deadline deals come July. They no longer expect to be entering a gun fight armed with only a slingshot.
"I'm not saying Chuck is going to come in here, snap his fingers, and deliver us a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow," Daniels says. "But he's determined to find the right synergy between revenue and the product on the field."
Greenberg will sit atop the Rangers' flow chart, slightly above Ryan and the other 11 families and individuals (80 percent of whom are from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including Dallas billionaires Ray Davis and Harold Simmons and the Fort Worth family of Bob and Janice Simpson) who will invest in the team and sit on the board.
After desperate attempts to create a solution in which he would still maintain majority ownership, Hicks is all but photoshopped out of the picture.
His once powerful Hicks Sports Group took staggering financial body blows in the current recession, forcing him into massive debt and to default on interest payments for $525 million in loans in April 2009. While Hicks is also looking to sell the National Hockey League's Dallas Stars, Greenberg is left to appease the outgoing owner's creditors and restock $39 million into a mandatory Major League Baseball deferred compensation fund (used as insurance in case of a labor stoppage or a franchise in crisis) that Hicks failed to satisfy in 2009.
Though he'd never say it publicly, MLB commissioner Bud Selig must be ecstatic that Greenberg is coming, but even more so that Hicks is going. Last summer the Rangers borrowed approximately $30 million from the league and were governed by MLB the last half of the season. Hence, when the Rangers desperately needed to acquire a free-agent hitter at the July trading deadline, they were financially handcuffed.
Says Daniels, "I'm looking forward to some financial flexibility."
Though still a minority owner, Hicks will not sit on the board and will have zero say in baseball or organizational decisions. His real estate holdings around Rangers Ballpark and Cowboys Stadium are also downsized from 195 acres to 42. Hicks bought the team in 1998 for $250 million.
"I expect him to make a smooth transition into the role of being one of our biggest fans," Greenberg says. "I look forward to his support and enthusiasm."
It is March 17, and the Rangers are calling a hastily arranged press conference in Surprise. Not to announce the confirmation of Greenberg or to trumpet their organizational high hopes of 92 wins and the first division crown since 1999.
Instead, it's the staggering, unprecedented news that their manager tested positive for cocaine last July. After three days of intense introspection last summer, the Rangers decided not to accept Washington's resignation, not to fire him or otherwise discipline him in any way.
While Washington comes clean and Ryan and Daniels offer explanations of why the organization orchestrated a dirty cover-up, Greenberg—without going into detail or elaborating on the decision—is back in Dallas talking about how the saga represents another hoop to jump through in order to obtain control of the Rangers. In the same manner he was apprised of Hicks' colossal debt, Greenberg was informed in detail about his future manager's incident.
"This won't be the last or the biggest challenge we face," Greenberg says. "Obviously it's an unfortunate circumstance to have happen, but you have to deal with it and move forward."
After using cocaine for what he contends was the first and only time in his life, the 57-year-old Washington alerted team officials that he would probably fail a random drug test administered by MLB. Though it marked the first time in American professional sports history for a head coach or manager to test positive for cocaine, Washington finished out the season and, after completing baseball's first-offender drug treatment program, arrived in Surprise with no restrictions and bubbling optimism.
"I am truly sorry for my careless, dangerous and, frankly, stupid, behavior last year," Washington said in a prepared statement.
The Rangers only addressed the issue after Sports Illustrated broke the story, and a column by Randy Galloway in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram opined that a disgruntled former team employee attempted to blackmail the team with information about Washington's ordeal. Though team officials publicly denounced the theory, two club sources pointed an off-the-record finger at longtime clubhouse manager Zack Minasian, fired after last season.
Minasian did not respond to an interview request from the Dallas Observer, but told The Dallas Morning News he never attempted to blackmail the Rangers.
While fans and media and peers debate whether Washington should be allowed to manage, there is no argument about his team's plethora of talent. For the first time since Y2K, this isn't a rebuilding year. The Rangers are built, constructed to win right here, right now.
A team that stayed in the pennant race until September before finishing in second place 10 games behind the Anaheim Angels has added pitching ace Harden, former Most Valuable Player Guerrero and the organic maturity of baseball's most talented farm system.
While Greenberg brings stability, the players offer genuine hope. Washington's hiccup notwithstanding, in Surprise there is unabashed optimism. There is belief that ownership won't run out of cash, thereby limiting stadium restocking and forcing fans to eat ice cream out of San Diego Padres plastic cups instead of Rangers cups. And there is belief that young players such as Julio Borbon, Elvis Andrus, Chris Davis and Feliz will turn the corner from tantalizing prospects to elite performers.
In separate games over the Cactus League's first week, Borbon leads off a game with a single and a steal, Nelson Cruz smacks a couple of homers, Davis digs out of an 0-2 hole with an opposite-field single and Guerrero sends the first pitch he sees as a Ranger to the wall in right field. There are still talented, hyped prospects playing on the minor-league fields that dot the complex, but—despite a lackluster spring training record that included a six-game losing streak—inside Surprise Stadium, the future is now.
"I'll be disappointed if we don't go out and win our division," says Ryan, who predicts 92 wins will achieve that goal. "We've got the talent and depth in place to have us a pretty special team."
Echoes Greenberg, "I trust my baseball people. Everyone in the organization thinks this is the year a lot of our young players break out and make great strides. There's a real belief that we can compete for this thing."
Though the Rangers last season finished 87-75 (fourth-best in the AL) and haven't topped 90 wins since 1999—Las Vegas oddsmakers set the over/under for their wins this season at 84—there are authentic reasons for enthusiasm. Coming off as many as 87 wins for only the sixth time in franchise history and with consecutive second-place finishes, they don't have to be a dramatic one-hit wonder. Rather, they merely must sustain and enhance their gradual rise from worst to first.
Tired, old retreads are gone from the pitching rotation (Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla) and the lineup (Hank Blalock and Frank Catalanotto), replaced with a cramped cupboard stocked by savvy trades and clever drafting by Daniels. Pitcher Thomas Diamond, not long ago part of the team's supposedly prized DVD pitching nucleus of the future along with Edinson Volquez and John Danks, is now not among the club's top 86 prospects according to Baseball America. While Feliz dazzled opponents with his velocity and variety last year, he is suddenly being pushed by blue-chip prospects such as Martin Perez, Tanner Scheppers and Kasey Kiker.
"With prospects, you never know until you know," says Daniels, whose trade-deadline deal in 2007 netted Texas its starting catcher (Jarrod Saltalamacchia), starting shortstop (Andrus), bullpen stalwart (Feliz) and starting pitcher (Matt Harrison) in exchange for a player (Mark Teixeira) who almost assuredly would have left via free agency with zero compensation. "But I'm excited that we've got some guys ready to perform and perform at a pretty high level up here with the big club."
Says Washington in his office in Surprise, "Our young guys are growing up faster than we expected. That's a good thing."
The Rangers made two significant signings in the off-season, adding the oft-injured Harden to anchor the pitching staff and the 35-year-old Guerrero as a veteran bat that will produce runs while also protecting and rebooting Josh Hamilton.
Texas is counting on a healthy Harden, a strikeout pitcher who has never won more than 11 games in a season, backed up by bullpen convert C.J. Wilson, 17-game winner Scott Feldman, Harrison and Colby Lewis. The latter last pitched in Texas in 2004 but dominated in Japan the last two years, prompting the Rangers to give him another shot.
The Rangers' bullpen should again be a strength, bolstered by 2009 starters Tommy Hunter. Feliz, Darren O'Day and veteran lefty Darren Oliver will set up the late innings for consistent closer Frankie Francisco.
Last year, for basically the first time since arriving from Washington, D.C., the Rangers found that pitching wasn't their problem. In a pennant race into mid-September for only the fifth time, the Rangers lost 13 of 19 games because its vaunted hitting vanished. For the first time in 14 seasons, they failed to score 800 runs and were shut out four times in five nights—at home, no less—during a crippling 2-7 homestand late in the season.
The drought cost longtime hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo his job, replaced by former Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle. While Jaramillo was popular and productive, his message was lost on the franchise's younger players.
First baseman Chris Davis was sent down to the minors after starting the season on a MLB-record pace for strikeouts. Despite a 30-homer/30-stolen-base season, second baseman Ian Kinsler developed an obvious upper-cut and led all of baseball with 257 flyouts. And Hamilton, after a dazzling 2008 in which he had 54 RBI by May 27, tinkered with his swing and managed only 10 homers and 57 RBI the entire season.
While Jaramillo preached mechanics, Hurdle is attempting to reshape the Rangers' mental approach in the batter's box. It won't be easy. Drilled by the mash-or-miss philosophy of Jaramillo, the Rangers last season finished second to the Yankees in homers, but also led the majors with 2,633 swings-and-misses and hacked at more first pitches than any team in baseball.
The template for Hurdle's extreme makeover is the PTPA—productive team plate appearance. It calls for productive at-bats, in the form of hits, walks, advancing runners with outs or eight-pitch battles that wear down opposing pitchers. Ideally, Hurdle wants 16 PTPAs per game.
"The Angels are our model," Hurdle says. "They're selfless at the plate and aggressive on the base paths. We've got to be better in all areas with our offense."
Admits Kinsler, "It's different than Rudy for sure. This is more of a mind-set with Clint. But his message is refreshing. Sometimes players need a different point of view."
Washington's desired lineup has the speedy Borbon (center field) leading off, followed by Young, Hamilton (left field), Guerrero (designated hitter), Kinsler, Cruz (right field), Davis, Saltalamacchia and Andrus.
"Boy, I really get excited by this lineup," says Hamilton, healthy again after a 2008 ravaged by hip and rib injuries. "We've got speed and power all the way through. We can be really good. Scary good."
Greenberg agrees. Buying the Rangers on the rise, he sees no reason why the team's most special year can't be his first year.
"Most times the longer you wait for something, the sweeter it is when you finally get it," Greenberg says to the last stragglers at Sherlock's. "I can't wait to share some Champagne with you fans. It's been on ice for way too long."
It is April 1, and his Texas Rangers haven't yet recorded their first victory.
But Chuck Greenberg has already won you over.
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