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Showalter ready to turn things around in Texas
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
Buck Showalter says Tom Hicks is "impressive," and for those who wonder about working for the tempestuous, ambitious Texas Rangers owner ...
Well, Showalter has worked for another tempestuous, ambitious owner. "The way I look at it," says Showalter, "is that I've been fortunate to have worked for three owners (George Steinbrenner, Jerry Colangelo, Hicks) who sincerely care about winning. Is there pressure in that? Sure, but every day in baseball has pressure."
Showalter is taking over a team that was one of baseball's greatest disappointments last season. The pitching didn't work, Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzalez, Carl Everett, Rusty Greer and Frank Catalanotto all were injured. But while Alex Rodriguez played hard and was the league's best player, reality is that Texas and general manager John Hart suffered every imaginable stretch of misfortune, from the loss of Jeff Zimmerman that exposed the middle relievers to the Rodriguez/Everett/Gonzalez injuries to the disappointment that was Chan Ho Park.
"There's a lot here," says Showalter. "There is a lot of young talent, and I find that exciting."
This week, Showalter is in the Metroplex meeting with Hart, assistant GM Grady Fuson and the rest of the baseball staff. He will then go to the Arizona Fall League (where Mark Teixeira is tearing it up), then begin traveling to meet his new players, starting with Everett and Gonzalez.
It seems likely that Hicks' promise to roll back payroll will itself be rolled back for the second straight winter, and Showalter is believed to have received some promises. The first likely concerns center field, and anyone who knows Buck knows he'd love to get free agent Steve Finley, who no matter what the calendar says remains an outstanding player. The second promise is believed to involve the catching, which points to the Rangers going after free agent Dan Wilson or Damian Miller, who may be available if the Diamondbacks decide to use Chad Moeller and Rod Barajas.
Showalter is excited about the blend of veteran and young players. Teixeira, who has already had two AFL games in which he's homered from both sides of the plate, is a potential superstar. Hank Blalock is coming off a disappointing season, but remains a big-time potential bat. Kevin Mench proved himself. One AL coach told Showalter that Michael Young should have won the Gold Glove at second base. Look down a little further, and center fielder Laynce Nix was the Florida State League MVP and knocked in 110 runs.
"What's really impressive is all the young arms they have here," says Showalter. "Joaquin Benoit. Colby Lewis. Danny Kolb really came. (Jovanny) Cedeno, (Francisco) Cordero, Aaron Myette. I still like Doug Davis. There's a lot of young talent here, and I'm looking forward to it. I think this is going to be exciting, starting with a state-of-the-art spring training complex."
Showalter, like Hart, knows that he faces extraordinary expectations in what may be the strongest top-to-bottom division in the game. "That's better than no expectations," he says. Hey, when your first job was for Steinbrenner ...
Around the majors
Move on. This has nothing to do with one of the best franchises in the game, it has to do with Piniella moving closer to family issues, and everyone's known it was going to work out this way for more than a month. But both the Mets' and Devil Rays' first impressions were that the M's are driving a hard bargain on the compensation, and if it goes too long, don't be surprised if the Mets talk more earnestly with Art Howe, although that window closes quickly.
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