Not everything that transpired this season for the Texas Rangers was as sub-par as their record, though at 78-84 the lows outweighed the highs.
Arguably the biggest highlight came off the field, as Ivan Rodriguez was inducted into the National Baseball Hall Fame on July 30. The 13-time Gold Glove catcher became the 52nd player voted for enshrinement in his first year on the Hall ballot.
Though he shared the weekend with Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell, Bud Selig and John Schuerholz, Pudge was the star of stars.
And Adrian Beltre was courteous enough to let Pudge hold the spotlight for, oh, 10 minutes after concluding his speech.
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If Pudge’s journey to baseball immortality isn’t the No. 1 Rangers highlight of 2017, the double down the left-field line at Globe Life Park that punches Beltre’s Hall ticket is.
Here’s a look at the best memories/moments/developments for the Rangers in 2017.
Beltre’s 3,000th career hit
History came later than Beltre would have liked, having missed essentially the first two months because of a balky right calf. But come it did, as he went on a tear after the All-Star break to become the 31st player in MLB history with 3,000 hits.
Beltre collected his historic hit off Wade Miley of the Baltimore Orioles in the fourth inning to become the first Dominican-born player with 3,000 hits. He collected 48 more hits the rest of the season and will likely pass Rod Carew (3,053) and Rickey Henderson (3,055) in the first week of next season.
His expectation is that he will do so with the Rangers, but he also might ask to be traded if the Rangers opt for a youth movement that isn’t conducive to his ultimate career goal — winning a World Series.
Adrian Beltre said he felt like he was in a cloud as he rounded first base on a fourth-inning double for his 3,000th hit Sunday afternoon.
Gallo breaks through
The injury to Beltre gave Joey Gallo the opening he needed to make an impression on the Rangers after going only 1 for 25 in 2016. That’s the silver lining — a 6-foot-5, 250-pound silver lining — to the Beltre injury to open the season.
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The Rangers say that they might not have sent down Gallo had Beltre missed only the season’s first five games, but it was on the table. Beltre ended up on the disabled list until May 29, and Gallo ended up becoming only the sixth player in franchise history with a 40-homer season.
The 41 homers, .209 batting average and 196 strikeouts tell outsiders that Gallo is a one-trick pony. But he plays three positions adequately, runs well, draws walks (75) and started hitting the ball to all fields.
The book is far from written on Gallo. Beltre believes that Gallo can hit .300. If he hits .270 with 40-homer power, he will be a perennial All-Star.
The Texas Rangers released new renderings of the new Globe Life Field, a $1.1 billion ballpark.
Who is that guy?
Some Rangers players and manager Jeff Banister hadn’t met Austin Bibens-Dirkx until he entered in the middle of an inning of a meaningless Cactus League game as a just-in-case player from minor-league camp.
Well, the JIC many came to call ABD became a fixture on the Rangers’ roster beginning in mid-April after 12 years in the minor leagues and independent ball trying to live out his dream of reaching the majors.
He did that, and along the way beat two-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer on June 11, allowing one run in seven innings and at one point retiring 19 straight.
Bibens-Dirkx wins with guts and deception, not by overpowering hitters. He could be the Rangers’ fifth starter in 2018 but at minimum should have a role in the bullpen.
The Rangers’ best reliever, the one they came to trust the most with a game on the line, is lucky to crack 88 mph, and often will throw pitches that don’t hit 70 mph. Yet, Alex Claudio has blossomed into a bullpen fixture.
Will he be the Rangers’ closer next season? Banister wouldn’t commit to it Sunday as he committed to Sam Dyson after last season.
Claudio’s ability to log multiple innings might make him too valuable to stick at closer. He can keep the Rangers in the lead or keep them close by pitching the seventh and eighth before handing the ball to a more traditional power closer.
Then again, the Rangers don’t have that pitcher on their roster. They have three who fit the profile, but none who have closed consistently.
One, though, was as much of a feel-good story as Bibens-Dirkx, though for wildly different reasons.
The Texas Rangers activated Jake Diekman from the 60-day disabled list Friday, and then he was thrown into a tight spot in the seventh inning and retired all three batters he faced (video by Jeff Wilson).
Life with ulcerative colitis was becoming too miserable for Jake Diekman, the lanky, hard-throwing left-hander who was the other guy in the Cole Hamels trade in 2015.
Diekman established himself as a key bullpen piece, and early in the off-season was considered a no-brainer pick for late-inning relief duty. But he opted to have three significant surgeries to rid his body and his life of the disease, knowing the procedures could cost him the entire season.
But he returned Sept. 1 after six rehab appearances and posted a 2.53 ERA in 11 appearance. His velocity was down, the by-product of not being allowed to throw until July, but is expected to return.
If the Rangers don’t sign a closer in the off-season, Diekman would be a candidate for the job. That would add to his remarkable story.