The Rangers have amassed a remarkable amount of talent, particularly pitching talent. Most of this talent is in the low Minors now, but it widely recognized as genuine talent. Baseball America recently ranked the Rangers fourth in organizational talent, which is the kind of thing that leaves 26 other clubs feeling envious.
This is the surest route to success for any organization that cannot simply spend its way to success. The Rangers, under a previous baseball administration, tried the spending gambit in the instance of Alex Rodriguez, and did not succeed. The scouting, drafting and development of young talent from within the organization is time-tested, time-honored and basically the most intelligent path to building long-term success.
This could take 1-3 years for a franchise that has had seven losing seasons in the past eight years. What happens between now and then? The Rangers are in a division with one of baseball's elite teams, the Angels, and a team that last season was on the verge of the elite category, the Mariners. A resourceful Oakland club is rebuilding with its own formidable young talent. The competition is difficult. At the big league level, the Rangers do not appear to have the pitching depth of either of their primary competitors.
Can the Rangers stay the course and wait for the young talent to fully develop, regardless of what happens between now and then at the big league level? General manager Jon Daniels, while watching his team take on the Mariners, said on Monday that the Rangers organization was fully and totally committed to this direction. For the long term, that is good news. The Rangers are on the right road. It might be a long road, but it's the right one.
"If you look around the industry at different teams, where they have their competitive advantages, how they go about building, what models do we want to follow, we're not going to be the Yankees, or the Angels or the Red Sox, we're not going to compete regularly in the free-agent market to the same degree that they can," Daniels said. "Our competitive advantage has got to be in developing our own players. There is no other way this organization is going to work.
"It's really a tip of the cap of to our scouts and our development folks and the work that they've put in. Our scouts have really found some quality players and now the challenge for us is to develop them and get them to the Majors as winning players.
"It's been very flattering, some of the recognition we've received from Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus and some of the other experts in the industry. The most reassuring thing and the thing that confirms our own feeling is that other clubs are asking for our young players, and other scouts are talking to our scouts and opposing managers and coaches are talking to our guys on the field, saying: 'I like this guy, I like that guy.' That's when you know, these guys are real."
The standard temptation, of course, would be to move at least some of this impressive young talent in return for immediate help. That is a difficult temptation to resist, but for the long-term organizational plan to work, it has to be resisted.
"That's really where you've got to have the commitment of everyone in the organization, from the owner through the front office and out to the field staff, everybody's got to be committed to going in one direction and to stick to it, regardless of the bumps in the road," Daniels said. "You look at what Colorado and some of these other clubs have done, it takes time and it takes a commitment, from all of us."
So the organizational byword is "patience." But at this level that cannot be used as an excuse for not winning now.
"You don't want to use that as a copout, but it's a requirement," Daniels said. "I think complacency and patience are two different things. You've got to guard against one and protect the other."
A microcosm of now-vs.-the-future is occurring with the Rangers' fifth starting spot. With Brandon McCarthy temporarily shelved with a right-elbow injury, an opening has occurred in the rotation. The candidates are a veteran, Sidney Ponson, 31, and two talented young pitchers, Luis Mendoza, 24, and Eric Hurley, 22. Rangers staff members had meetings much of Monday morning discussing their pitching plans. This one decision won't dictate the organization's total direction, but it might provide a clue.
"At some point, you've got to commit to people you believe in," Daniels said. "The only way young players are going to develop is if you give them a chance to learn and sometimes they learn through failure, a little bit."
For the immediate future, the 2008 season, when Daniels was asked where he projected his team, he smiled and responded: "Under the radar."
The popular AL West pick, Daniels said, would be the incumbent division champion, the Angels, with the Mariners picking up some support. The Rangers, Daniels suggested, would be better this April than they were last April, and better in June than they will be in April.
"We're going to try to stay focused on our little niche here in Texas and try to keep plugging in as many of our quality young players, once they show they're ready," the general manager said.
That is the Rangers' plan. It may require time and patience, but it is a plan with history and good sense on its side.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.