A Rangers Repeat? History Suggests Odds Are Long.

One Hit Wonders

Buster Douglas. Phoebe Cates. Vanilla Ice.

Your Texas Rangers?

On March 13 a record sellout crowd of 12,014 packed Surprise Stadium for a meaningless yet energized World Series rematch against the San Francisco Giants. Though smack in the middle of the Arizona desert and basking in the glow of the most successful season in the franchise's 40-year history, the Texas Rangers soon felt drops of doubt raining upon spring training. Starting pitcher Tommy Hunter was lit up for seven runs in three innings. Center fielder Julio Borbon lost a fly ball in the sun for a two-run error. Shortstop Elvis Andrus threw wildly to the plate as another run scored. Some pitcher named Mark Hamburger came in to mop up an early 7-1 deficit. By the time the Giants capped an 11-8 thumping, the questions about the American League champions began blooming, cropping up like so many splendid yellow flowers on the green branches of the endless Palo Verde trees.

Michael Young's tumultuous off-season raised doubts about whether he would return in a Texas uniform.
Paul Connors
Michael Young's tumultuous off-season raised doubts about whether he would return in a Texas uniform.
AL Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton with manager Ron Washington.
Paul Connors
AL Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton with manager Ron Washington.
Josh Hamilton with All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre: The Rangers are relying on Hamilton's and Beltre's bats to launch them into the playoffs.
Paul Connors
Josh Hamilton with All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre: The Rangers are relying on Hamilton's and Beltre's bats to launch them into the playoffs.
Washington faces a starting pitching rotation that's still in doubt as the season opens.
Paul Connors
Washington faces a starting pitching rotation that's still in doubt as the season opens.
Fans flocked to see the AL champions in Arizona's Surprise Stadium,
though the team's spring training was disappointing.
Paul Connors
Fans flocked to see the AL champions in Arizona's Surprise Stadium, though the team's spring training was disappointing.
MVP Hamilton draws autograph seekers in Surprise.
Paul Connors
MVP Hamilton draws autograph seekers in Surprise.
"We've got to build on what we did and get better," Hamilton says of the 2011 season.
Paul Connors
"We've got to build on what we did and get better," Hamilton says of the 2011 season.

What if last year was a fluke?

"We're doing all we can not to be one of those one-hit wonders," general manager Jon Daniels said one day between the numerous games, scrimmages and workouts at the team's Surprise Recreation Campus about 45 minutes northwest of Phoenix. "What we accomplished last year was special. It's something that this organization will be proud of for a long time. But, look, a lot of teams have done it once. We don't want to just fade away and have nothing but memories of 2010. We're building this thing in hopes that we're competitive on a playoff level every year. But history says that's pretty difficult to achieve."

Certainly it would be irrational to correlate one exhibition game in March with what will play out in April, much less July or even October. But it wasn't just the loss to the Giants. Let's face it, since Nelson Cruz struck out swinging against San Francisco reliever Brian Wilson to end Game 5 of the World Series last November 1 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the news has been more negative than positive. A team that raised its first AL pennant just five months ago hasn't spent the off-season in turmoil but certainly in upheaval, with more notable departures than arrivals.

When the Rangers open the 2011 season Friday in Arlington against the Boston Red Sox, they'll do so under the no-frills reign of team president/chief executive officer/dictator Nolan Ryan and without several key components from their historic 2010 pinnacle. Gone are pitching ace Cliff Lee, starting catcher Bengie Molina, designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, hitting coach Clint Hurdle, television play-by-play voice Josh Lewin and CEO/managing general partner Chuck Greenberg. Long-time face of the franchise Michael Young is still a Ranger, but even his role and position have been tweaked and his tenure in Arlington endangered by an unsettling off-season in which he requested a trade after accusing management of being untruthful. Even last year's viral hand signals—the "claw" and "antlers"—were exchanged sparsely in Surprise.

"There's a little bit of a different feel," Young said in the clubhouse before a spring training game. "We've got to learn to deal with some success, something we've never had to do before. We've handled adversity, now can we handle the other side of it? It can be tough. We've got a great group of guys and our core is intact. But until you do something you're not real sure how you'll respond. It's a different situation for me, and for this team. But it's a good situation to be in for sure."

A year ago Ryan was boldly predicting 92 wins and a division championship. After initially calling for as many as 95 wins and a title for this team, by the time a sloppy, sporadic spring training was ending last weekend he was forced to temper his optimism.

"I'll be honest," Ryan told the media in Surprise last weekend. "My confidence level isn't as high today. That's because of the concerns I have for certain segments of the club."

The Rangers fanned on their attempt to land Lee or elite pitcher Zack Greinke, and the team enters the season with only two proven starting pitchers. They did sign All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre, who they hope not only makes up for Guerrero's bat but also improves the team by shoving Young's limited defensive range to the bench. Still, World Series teams usually don't encounter so much change in the wake of their success. Absorbing alterations everywhere from owner to utility infielder might be enough to erode confidence, shake optimism and raise questions about the Rangers being another one-hit wonder.

"Don't worry about that one bit," says manager Ron Washington. "Is there a pressure to repeat? Of course. Have we undergone some changes? Yes. But we've been the hunters around here for a long time. It's nice to be the hunted for once."

Last year the Rangers overcame unprecedented adversity to achieve surreal success. A year ago in spring training Washington confirmed he had used cocaine the previous season. The team spent most of the season in bankruptcy and was purchased by an investment group fronted by Greenberg and Ryan in a late-night auction in the middle of the summer. A fan fell out of the upper deck of the ballpark and survived. A pitcher (Dustin Nippert) took a line drive off his temple and lived to throw again. Perhaps most shocking, the Rangers finally exceeded expectations, winning 90 games, the American League West Division, their first playoff series—against the Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series—and vanquishing the New York Yankees in the ALCS to reach their first World Series.

The Rangers accomplished more last fall over 30 days than in their previous 39 seasons of baseball in Arlington combined. The reward: Ratcheted anticipation that the Rangers will use 2010's success and, armed with invaluable experience as well as reigning AL Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton, trampoline to even greater heights in 2011. The expectations require the Rangers to get better.

"Last year was great," Hamilton says. "We'll always treasure it. But we can't forget we came up short of our goal. I don't think anyone in this organization is satisfied by how last season ended. I know I'm not. We've got to build on what we did and get better."

History has taught us—through literature and movies and music and, yes, sports—that it's easier to have one shining moment than sustained excellence. One-hit wonders litter every corner, but few elite dynasties exist.

After he shockingly knocked out undefeated and feared boxing heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in 1990 in Tokyo, Douglas lost his next fight to Evander Holyfield and never again held a title belt. Margaret Mitchell's first novel—Gone With the Wind—was also her last. Same for Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Viewers—red-blooded males of a certain age, anyway—vividly remember Cates' iconic and erotic exit from the swimming pool in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but likely forgot her lesser, more clothed roles in Drop Dead Fred, Shag and Gremlins. And after his debut smash "Ice Ice Baby," rapper Vanilla Ice—aka Robert Van Winkle of Carrollton's R.L. Turner High School—never again had a Top 40 hit.

OK, so the one-hit curse has some redeeming qualities too.

The Rangers boast arguably the best player in baseball in Hamilton, a pitching ace in C.J. Wilson, who last year ranked among the AL's Top 10 in almost every major statistical category, a 22-year-old All-Star shortstop in Andrus and a golden arm in Neftali Feliz, whose 100-mph fastballs saved 40 games out of the bullpen in 2010. Ryan again predicts his team will make the playoffs and most prognosticators pick the Rangers to hold off the Anaheim Angels and Oakland A's to win the American League West in 2011. But just in case, keep handy the It's Time! highlight DVD featuring the claw, antlers and October euphoria.

In baseball the only thing more difficult than getting there is staying there.

No team has gone back-to-back in the AL in almost a decade. The Yankees were the last team to accomplish the feat, winning the last of four consecutive AL pennants in 2001. Of the last nine AL champs before the Rangers—Yankees ('01), Angels ('02), Yankees ('03), Red Sox ('04), Chicago White Sox ('05), Detroit Tigers ('06), Red Sox ('07), Tampa Bay Rays ('08) and Yankees ('09)—in the year following their pennants all but one had a winning record but only five made the playoffs and just two returned to the ALCS. There have been sustainable AL powers such as the '60s Baltimore Orioles (led by Jim Palmer and Boog Powell), the '70s Yankees (featuring Reggie Jackson and Ron Guidry), the '80s A's (powered by Mark McGwire and Dennis Eckersley) and '90s Toronto Blue Jays (led by Joe Carter and Juan Guzman), but this millennium has sprouted nothing more than a bunch of "Duh...winning!" fads here today and gone tomorrow faster and more forgettable than Charlie Sheen.

Parity. Economics. Chemistry. Injuries. Luck. They all play a part in determining the fine line between consistency and shooting star. While the Cowboys have won five Super Bowls, the metroplex's other professional sports teams have struggled to maintain. Though they regularly win 50-plus regular-season games and will next month make their 11th consecutive playoff appearance, the Dallas Mavericks haven't sniffed a return to the NBA Finals since their epic collapse in 2006. The Dallas Stars won the National Hockey League's Stanley Cup in 1999 and returned to the finals the next season, but have since meandered between mediocre and morose.

Starting with Wilson's first pitch Friday against Boston, the Rangers seemed positioned and primed for a long, healthy run among the best teams in baseball. But...

"I'm very excited about the future," Greenberg said in a December interview. "Remember, we had this success this season running around with a lot of uncertainty. We were scrambling, but still found a way to make it work. Next season we'll have more stability and hopefully that will translate into even more success. We've got great players, a great fan base, and I think we've got a great management team in place. There's no reason to think the Rangers can't win for years to come. We're in great shape."

Or so it seemed.

Clint Longley. Calvin Booth. Edie Brickell & New Bohemians.

Your Texas Rangers?

Everywhere in Surprise there were reminders of the Rangers' unprecedented success, but there was also one screaming void which served as a warning that it might not happen again for another 40 years.

In right field of Surprise Stadium there flew a red American League championship flag, across the complex from the white one that whipped in the breeze at the epicenter of the Rangers' cluster of smaller fields. Walk into the team's office and clubhouse and you were immediately greeted by an official logo plastered on the wall, commemorating last year's World Series appearance. Rest assured that, win or lose in 2011 and beyond, the Rangers' 15 minutes of fame has been duly memorialized.

The usual suspects were omnipresent at spring training. Optimism? Check. Lots of hitting throughout the lineup? Sure. Clear, sunny skies? Daily. Elderly fans wearing floppy hats, oversized sunglasses and driving their Cadillacs 22 mph to 5 p.m. dinner at Coco's before hitting the hay by sundown? Plentiful.

What was missing? Lee.

"We can't sit here and feel sorry for ourselves," Washington says of the off-season departure of his '10 ace. "We're going to get it done with what we have and not make excuses for what we don't have. But if you're asking me if we'll miss Cliff Lee, I'd be lying if I said no. He's one of the best in the game, and we would've loved to have had him here. Didn't work out that way. Life goes on."

With Lee, the Rangers would have enjoyed the luxury of throwing one of baseball's five best pitchers every fifth day. Without him, they are left with a starting rotation of talented arms led by pitchers who have had success for, yep, one year. Wilson and Colby Lewis will anchor Texas' staff. Each is coming off his one and only successful season as a starter, a seemingly flimsy foundation upon which to build a rotation. Last year was Wilson's first as a Major League starter and Lewis excelled in his first year back from a two-year sojourn pitching in Japan. The Rangers are counting heavily upon both, but in baseball terms they are entering their sophomore seasons.

That's not to say Wilson can't replicate last season when he went 15-7 with a 3.35 ERA in 204 innings, but after his improbable Thanksgiving Day rally over the Washington Redskins in 1974 quarterback Longley completed only seven more passes for the Cowboys before being traded. Not to say Lewis can't pick up where he left off in a dazzling playoff performance that saw him go 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA, but then again the Mavericks figured it was just the tip of the Booth iceberg when the power forward's layup beat the Utah Jazz in Game 5 in 2001 to give Dallas its first NBA playoff series victory in 13 years. He started only eight games over two seasons in Dallas.

A year ago heading into the regular season the Rangers were reliant upon Scott Feldman and Rich Harden at the top of their rotation, so you never know exactly how pitching will play out. We expected bigger, better things from Dallas-based New Bohemians after their 1988 hit "What I Am," but instead got another legendary one-and-done along the lines of Toni Basil arriving, peaking and disappearing in 1982 within her endlessly irritating "Mickey."

Lee, who spurned the Rangers and Yankees to sign in December with the Philadelphia Phillies, won Games 1 and 5 against Tampa Bay in the Division Series last year and shut out New York in Yankee Stadium in pivotal Game 3 of the ALCS. Though he did go 0-2 in the World Series (he lost decisive Game 5, 3-1, on Edgar Renteria's 7th-inning homer), he gave the Rangers a luxury they've never enjoyed—a top five, playoff-tested ace in the prime of his career.

"We made what we thought was a very competitive offer to Cliff, and he chose to go with Philadelphia," Daniels says. "We can live with that. We like our pitching. In fact I like our pitching a lot. We don't have a lot of sexy names and guys whose pictures are going to be on the covers of the preseason magazines, but I think we'll be just fine."

It is fair to point out that when the Rangers traded for Lee last July 9, they already led the AL West by 6 1/2 games. But without him, it's also safe to predict that Texas' starting rotation ranks third in its four-team division. While the Angels will throw Jered Weaver, Danny Haren, Ervan Santana, Joel Pineiro and Scott Kazmir and the A's have Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill, the Rangers trust in Wilson, Lewis...

"That's it right there," Washington says, stopping the secured spots in the rotation at two. "We've got a lot of good arms. A lot of guys who have pitched very well for us at times. But after those two, nothing's been settled, and it might not be settled until we get into the season a little ways."

While Rangers relievers—everyone from Mark Lowe to Arthur Rhodes to Darren O'Day—were bad in Surprise, the starting staff wasn't any better. After Wilson and Lewis, the Rangers are tentatively counting on a collection of starters including Hunter (who had 13 wins last season but without an "out pitch" couldn't get through five innings in any playoff start), Matt Harrison (who had the best spring of any candidate), Derek Holland (still struggling to throw his fastball for strike one), newcomer Michael Kirkman and veteran journeyman Dave Bush. Feliz was poised to land in the rotation—he has the stuff and the desire—but with the off-season trade sending Frankie Francisco to the Toronto Blue Jays for Mike Napoli, the Rangers were leery of not having a proven closer in the bullpen and kept him in his 2010 role.

"You can have a guy who can sometimes get you three outs," Washington says. "Or you can have a guy you trust to slam the door like Neftali. If we move him, I trust Jon (Daniels) to go out and get us a closer."

Making matters worse, Hunter strained a groin the last week in Surprise and opened a spot for Kirkman, who also had an underwhelming spring. Privately—perhaps even desperately—the Rangers are counting on a reclamation project to help soothe of the loss of Lee.

Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux says it's only a matter of time until former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb joins the rotation. With a salary of only $3 million—or about $21 million less than Lee—Webb is a low-risk, high-reward arm who hasn't pitched in a game since opening day 2009 because of shoulder injuries.

"I'm about four weeks behind, but I'm getting there," says Webb, whose dominating sinkerball led him to be the NL's best pitcher in '06 before he suffered arm trouble and eventually underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder in August '09. "The Rangers are being patient with me. I've just got to be patient with myself."

Turns out the Rangers need some assets to not suddenly fade away and others to slowly come back better than ever.

Timmy Smith. Justin Bieber. Right Said Fred.

Your Texas Rangers?

In Arlington this season there will be a new look, courtesy of $13 million in upgrades to Rangers Ballpark including a 40-yard high-definition scoreboard atop the right field seats. On television there will be a new sound, with nine-year veteran play-by-play voice Lewin replaced by conservative newbie John Rhadigan. In the lineup the Rangers will trot out many familiar faces in their accustomed places, but even at the plate Texas will be a different club, as Hurdle left to become manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, replaced by Thad Bosley.

"This was a very productive offense last season," Bosley says. "This team is coming off the World Series. The last thing I'm going to do is come in here and make radical changes. Let's just keep these guys doing what they've been doing and we should be all right."

Smith had a similar game plan to retain status quo or even improve organically, but the Washington Redskins' rookie running back followed up his record 204 rushing yards in Super Bowl XXII with only 602 more in a disappointing three-season, 22-game NFL career that officially petered out with the Cowboys. Dave Hostetler was seemingly in line to be the Rangers' next slugger when he mashed 22 homers in only 113 games and finished sixth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Cal Ripken Jr. in 1982. But during his next four seasons, he managed only another 15 dingers. The English pop band Right Said Fred had designs on building upon its 1991 No. 1 hit "I'm Too Sexy" but, alas, went down the same one-way street as Smith, Hostetler and, perhaps, Justin Bieber who, for all his fame, fortune and female fawning, has exactly one Billboard Top 10 hit—"Baby"—on his flimsy discography. Not that anyone (wink) is trying to rush him off the stage.

Unlike their pitching, the Rangers' everyday lineup should be among the best in the American League. More often than not Ian Kinsler will lead off and play second base, followed by Andrus (shortstop), Hamilton (left field), Beltre (third base), Cruz (right field), Young (designated hitter), Mitch Moreland (first base), Yorvit Torrealba (catcher) and Borbon (center field). Off the bench the Rangers will have David Murphy, who kept the team afloat with clutch hitting last year during Hamilton's prolonged rib injury; Napoli; and Andres Blanco.

"I like this team and our lineup a lot," Washington says. "I like Kinsler batting first because he can lay down a bunt, steal a base, hit one to the gap or make it 1-0 with one swing. I've got speed at both ends and lots of power in the middle. No reason to think that group won't put up a lot of runs night in and night out."

There are, of course, concerns.

Along with Kinsler's pop in the leadoff spot comes his propensity for popping up. Torrealba, while younger and faster, isn't the leader Molina was. And Borbon struggled in spring training, misplaying fly balls, losing pop ups in the sun and even throwing to the wrong base.

"He's my center fielder," Washington assures. "He can go get 'em out there, and he keeps Josh from playing like a wild man and crashing into walls out there."

After his MVP season in which he missed the final month, Hamilton had a remarkable ALCS (four homers, eight walks) against the Yankees sandwiched between forgettable series against the Rays (2 for 18, one RBI) and Giants (2 for 20, one homer). In January he spent a week in the hospital with pneumonia and had a sluggish spring training low-lighted by only one homer and a .250 average in his first 50 Cactus League at-bats. Last month the Rangers avoided arbitration with Hamilton, signing him to a two-year, $24 million contract extension.

"He's the least of my worries," Bosley says.

While Beltre, who led baseball with 49 doubles last season, should provide a healthy hitting environment for Hamilton in front of him as did All-Star DH Guerrero last year, the Rangers are counting on Young to again swallow his pride, change positions and accept a diminished role. Most important, they need him to drive in runs as DH and something called part-time super utility infielder, in which he could play first, second and third base on any given night. The sight of Young jogging to take his position at first base was jarring in Surprise, but his unhappy squawking has quieted for the moment.

"I'm just working on trying to learn a new position, trying to get better as a baseball player," Young says.

After not speaking to each other all spring, Daniels initiated two separate talks with the veteran in camp's last week. The general manager apologized for a lack of communication, and Young seemed to accept the apology, giving Daniels credit for the face-to-face time.

Says Daniels, "As of this time I don't expect Michael to be traded, no."

Just with the substitution of Beltre's two Gold Gloves for Young's visibly deteriorated range and reactions at third, the Rangers are instantly a better defensive team. With Andrus and Beltre, there may not be a better left side of the infield in all of baseball.

"We have a couple questions on this team, yeah," Kinsler says. "But we're way better off than last year. And look where we went from there."

Jorge Cantu. Trevor Bayne. Baha Men.

Your Texas Rangers?

While neither side will talk openly about the shocking annulment of a marriage between Ryan and Greenberg that once seemed so perfect, it's easy to sum up what transpired: The man who hired Ryan was ultimately fired by Ryan.

"Chuck did a lot of good things in a short time here," says a team source in Surprise. "But he got carried away with stuff. His ego got the best of him. He started out staying on the business side, which is his expertise. But then he got a little taste of being out front with the media and all that, and that not only rubbed Nolan the wrong way but also the co-owners that Nolan brought to the party."

In the annals of one-hit wonders there is Eddie Stanky, who managed the Rangers for one game—a win—in 1977 before judging the job too stressful and promptly quitting. Last season Jorge Cantu went 0 for 8 in the playoffs and in his 33-game stay in Texas had just one homer, the tie-breaking wallop in the eighth inning that clinched the West for Texas in Oakland on September 25. In baseball there was Tigers pitcher Mark Fidrych, whose zany mound antics earned him "The Bird" nickname and a 19-9 record in 1976 before he went a modest 10-10 over the next four seasons. In 1996 the Orioles' Brady Anderson hit 50 homers, followed by consecutive seasons of 18. The Baha Men had their only hit—"Who Let the Dogs Out?"—in 2000. Despite never finishing in the Top 10 of a PGA tournament or ever playing in a major, Ben Curtis somehow won golf's 2003 British Open. And in February, 20-year-old Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500. Seemingly destined to be a star-studded member of the one-hit wonder club, Bayne has dropped to 44th in NASCAR's points standings and led only six laps all season.

Greenberg's fall is so shocking because his rise was so smooth.

With Tom Hicks' financial missteps having steered the Rangers into bankruptcy, Greenberg arrived as a savior. While last summer interested buyers such as Dennis Gilbert, Jim Crane and Mark Cuban refused to promise to retain Ryan as part of their ownership group, Greenberg immediately hand-picked the Texas legend to co-lead his charge. In a Fort Worth court room on a late night in August, Greenberg and Ryan outbid Cuban and bought the Rangers with the help of money from North Texas oil and gas men who loved Ryan's legacy and learned to—at least temporarily—lean on Greenberg's business expertise. Greenberg vowed to handle the business side of the operation while leaving the baseball decisions to Ryan and Daniels.

Ironic to the last drop and revealing one of the strangest flow charts in the history of modern business, the only reason Ryan is with the Rangers is because of Greenberg, yet the only reason Greenberg isn't with the Rangers is because of Ryan.

"From Chuck's perspective and mine, we had a difference of opinion and styles," Ryan said at an awkward, mostly uninformative news conference to announce Greenberg's resignation as CEO/managing general partner March 11 at Rangers Ballpark.

Reached by phone last week, Greenberg refused to talk specifics of his departure. He would only say that he and his family will continue living in their new house in Westlake and that he has no plans to be at Rangers Ballpark for tomorrow's opener or on Saturday when the team will be presented with their 2010 American League Champion rings.

"I gotta take the high road," Greenberg said.

According to the source, Greenberg irked Ryan and Daniels when he took a last-second, impromptu and otherwise unauthorized recruiting trip to Arkansas to visit Lee after the Rangers had told the pitcher's agent they were done dealing. During the Lee courtship Greenberg was anything but in the background, doing interviews with local and national media outlets and talking openly about the Rangers' desire for the free-agent pitcher and the financial strategy they were using to lure him back to Arlington. There wasn't one incident that severed the Ryan-Greenberg relationship, but the Rangers' management didn't approve of Greenberg bickering via the media with Yankees President Randy Levine. They didn't appreciate the way completion of Daniels' new contract was dragged out. And in February when Greenberg tried to diffuse the Young situation by publicly promising he'd be on the team in 2011, the source says the front office—including Ryan and normally anonymous lead investors Ray Davis and Bob Simpson—had enough.

"I don't think there was necessarily a breaking point more than our differences were to the point that the further we went the less compatible we were," Ryan said in Surprise. "We felt like we had to make a change before the season so it wouldn't be a distraction. Had enough of those last year."

Simpson, in a rare speaking part in the press conference in Arlington, said, "Any conflicts with Nolan were also with the chairmen of the board."

Ryan is nothing if not patient. Since he took over as team president he's watched Daniels learn from his mistakes and grow into one of baseball's best general managers. He also stood behind Washington after his drug admission and refused to quit when Hicks' mismanagement had the Rangers requiring loans from Major League Baseball to make monthly payroll. He's been married to wife Ruth for more than 40 years. Ryan doesn't quit easily, shedding light on how rocky his relationship with Greenberg had grown.

"There were some obvious day-to-day working differences," Daniels says. "But it was a cumulative thing more than one event. At least it was with me."

Says Ryan, "It's like a marriage. You think things are going to work out in business, but until you get in there, you never know how things are really going to work."

Reminiscent of Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones tugging at the Super Bowl XXX trophy in Atlanta and then divorcing two months later, it was just in November that Greenberg and Ryan were on the field drenched in ginger ale and smiles in the wake of conquering bankruptcy and the Yankees en route to the World Series.

While the source says Greenberg signed a confidentiality agreement as part of his severance package, just like that the friendly, approachable face of the Rangers is involuntarily kaput. At Surprise the sign for his reserved parking spot was immediately removed. Greenberg loved selling the Rangers so much that the source says he often crowed about "being bigger than the Cowboys" within five years.

But in fact, his nine-month voyage to own a part of the Rangers (his financial stake was about 1 percent) lasted longer than his seven-month tenure.

In recent years the Rangers have endured Hamilton's one-night episode with coeds and whipped cream, Washington's drug use and almost a full season of financial instability. Despite Greenberg being gone and Ryan now wearing a 20-gallon hat of power—seemingly set on ridding the franchise of colorful characters like Lewin and Greenberg and anyone else who dares to be more than a conservative combo of Baseball 101 and a slice of white bread with the crust cut off—the Rangers barely blinked.

"Seems like we always have some sort of drama around us," Harrison says. "Chuck was a great guy. He had a lot of energy, and he was a big part of our ride last season. But it doesn't really affect us as a baseball team. After all we've been through we're a pretty tough group to rattle."

Cliff Lee. Vladimir Guerrero. Chuck Greenberg. Claw. Antlers. It's Time.

Next on the list of singular success sans encore, your Texas Rangers?

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