Mac Engel: After so much spending, the Rangers should be contenders (in 2024)

Tribune Content Agency

FORT WORTH, Texas — Upon his hiring as the general manager of the Texas Rangers in 2001, John Hart famously said, “The landscape is littered with train wrecks that have never made the postseason.

“Clubs that are in large markets and have floundered around and never had a clear path. We are not going to become one of those train wrecks.”

From 2001 to 2008, the Rangers were one of those train wrecks.

From 2009 to 2016, the Rangers were one of the best teams in baseball. If they get one more strike, a World Series banner hangs in Arlington.

From 2017 to present day, the Rangers have been a train wreck.

The Rangers are now in a new stadium, on their second GM since Hart resigned, and feel like they are dancing right on the edge.

On the edge of relevance. On the edge of contending for something other than another high draft pick. On the edge of becoming one of the best teams in baseball.

On the edge of becoming “one of those train wrecks.”

In the last two years under primary owner Ray Davis, the Rangers have re-made themselves through dramatic front office moves, and spending like the L.A. Dodgers and New York Yankees.

In the last two years the Rangers have added big- to obscene-contract players — Jacob deGrom, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Jon Gray, Nathan Eovaldi, Andrew Heaney — and convinced World Series-winning manager Bruce Bochy to come out of retirement.

They have committed $800 million in guaranteed contracts to six players.

This has to work.

There is no backup plan. There is no Plan B, C, or D … but if this doesn’t work it will feel like another giant F.

Spring is here, and the Rangers will host the 2022 National League champion Philadelphia Phillies at 3 p.m. Thursday at Globe Life Field for opening day.

It’s hard not to be a little excited. It’s hard not to be a lot scared.

This is the Texas Rangers.

No franchise in DFW has crushed their fans quite like the Rangers, only one of four major teams that has not won a title (the Cowboys only feel like it).

For 2023, the Rangers’ goal is not complicated: 81 wins. That would be a 13-win improvement from last year. A season finish atop Mount Mediocrity would be major progress for the Rangers.

It’s been a minute since the Rangers reached .500. More like minutes. Go back to 2016.

Since opening day 2017, the team has a .429 winning percentage. Not much winning in that percentage.

That winning percentage is why last season the Rangers fired manager Chris Woodward, and long time GM Jon Daniels. That winning percentage is why the Rangers brought in Chris Young to be the GM.

That winning percentage is why the Rangers hired Bochy as manager. That winning percentage is why the Rangers brought back Mike Maddux to serve as pitching coach.

The Rangers’ rebuild under Daniels went so poorly that Davis had no choice but to spend money hundreds of millions on pricey free agents to make his team at least relevant.

The problem is all of those hundreds of millions of dollars guarantee nothing but money spent. Not wins.

All of that money does not guarantee a return to the playoffs for the Rangers this season. Not unless the Rangers make history.

In 2022, the American League team that made the playoffs with the fewest wins was Tampa Bay; the Rays won 86 games.

In the National League, the team that made the playoffs with the fewest wins was Philadelphia; the Phillies won 87 games, and then made it all the way to the World Series.

The 2005 San Diego Padres remain the gold standard for fewest wins to barely make the playoffs when they finished 82-80, and won the NL West.

That Padres team enjoyed the benefit from playing in a bad division; these Rangers have no such luxury.

The Houston Astros dynasty is scheduled to end in the year 3000, and now the Seattle Mariners are good, too. The Angels have two of the best players in the sport, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, and also spend stupid money.

Remember, even though many of the Rangers higher-ups felt that the team should have won 75 games last season, they still won 68. They won 68 games for a reason.

The additions of Bochy, deGrom to Seager and Semien along with the arrival of prospect Josh Jung at third base give this team something to sell to a fan base that is itching every part of its body to care about the Rangers again.

Opening day is here, and people should look forward to a team that looks like it is right on the edge.

On the edge of relevance. On the edge of contending.

Of course, it’s the Rangers. The edge could just be another one of those high priced train wrecks.