Mark Teixeira is finally playing postseason games in Texas — three years after the Rangers traded the Gold Glove first baseman.
Many point to the Teixeira trade as a key reason the Rangers won the AL West this season and have advanced to their first AL championship series. They opened Friday night at home against the New York Yankees, Teixeira’s third team since being traded from Texas to Atlanta in the summer of 2007.
“The player’s career doesn’t line up with the team’s competitive cycle, it’s nobody fault,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said this week about the Teixeira deal that brought five players in return.
“It was a turning point for both of us,” Teixeira said. “I got to move on in my career and got to have a chance to play in a playoff race with the Braves, a playoff race with the Angels and winning a championship with the Yankees. For the Rangers, they rebuilt.”
The Rangers got shortstop Elvis Andrus, who is in his second year as a starter, and hard-throwing reliever Neftali Feliz, who set a major league rookie record with 40 saves this season. Texas also acquired switch-hitting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (now with Boston), left-hander Matt Harrison and another minor league pitcher.
“I’ve always said if I get traded for a bunch of bums, then I don’t feel too good about myself,” said Teixeira, who was traded to Atlanta along with reliever Ron Mahay.
Teixeira was in Atlanta for about a year before getting traded to the Los Angeles Angels. Then in the winter of 2008, he signed his eight-year, $180-million free-agent contract with the Yankees.
CHARACTER AND CHEMISTRY: Getting along isn’t a prerequisite for winning, but the Phillies are certainly a close group.
“You have high-talent and high-character guys and where those two meet is basically where this team is destined to go,” said Mike Sweeney, a newcomer who joined the team in August. “The talent is off the chart and so is the character. That’s a big reason why the team has been successful for so long.”
Manager Charlie Manuel is very popular among his players and his personality filters throughout the clubhouse. Guys like Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard keep the team loose. Chase Utley and Roy Halladay lead by example and work ethic. Nobody complains about playing time and everyone accepts their role.
“This team has overcome obstacles because of the makeup and the character in the clubhouse,” left fielder Raul Ibanez said. “We have 25 gamers in that clubhouse; 25 guys who are determined to be successful and determined to win.”
Sweeney was surprised to see the confidence level of his new teammates when he arrived in a trade with Seattle in early August. At the time, the Phillies had cut Atlanta’s seven-game lead in the NL East to 4½ games.
“The consensus around the locker room was ‘We will win this division’ and ‘We will be in the playoffs,'” Sweeney said. “I heard it from a ton of guys that I should have the kids’ Halloween costumes shipped to Philly because the kids are going to be doing their trick-or-treating here.”
Game 4 of the World Series is Oct. 31 in the American League city. Two years ago, the Phillies held their World Series victory parade on Halloween after beating Tampa Bay in five games.
ROWAND RETURN: Aaron Rowand probably will get a standing ovation during pregame introductions, and he’s not just here as an extra guy in case someone gets hurt. Rowand made the Giants’ NLCS roster.
“He’s been through it,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s not just the guy we just put in there against lefties. He can handle right-handers. He’s played in this park. he knows what it’s going to be about. He can help out the other players. He gives me flexibility if I want to double-switch and keep a pitcher out there. I could put him in the outfield and be comfortable with that.”
Rowand had a tough season. He batted a career-low .230 with 11 homers and 34 RBIs, and lost his starting job to Andres Torres. Rowand was 1 for 2 in the division series against Atlanta. He hadn’t heard that he made the roster when he spoke to reporters before Friday’s workout.
“For me, it’s just about being here and trying to contribute in any way that I can,” Rowand said. Rowand spent two seasons with the Phillies and made the All-Star team in 2007. He’s beloved by fans for crashing into a wall and breaking his nose and multiple bones in his face while making a spectacular catch in a game against the Mets in 2006.
SCORE ONE FOR TEXAS OVER NEW YORK?: Rangers owner-president Nolan Ryan seems pretty certain general manager Jon Daniels will remain in Texas.
“I really would be shocked if he didn’t stay with us,” Ryan said.
Daniels can opt out of his contract after this season and there’s been talk of the New York Mets being interested — and of it possibly being mutual because Daniels grew up a Mets fan.
But Daniels also is the architect of these Rangers. He’s been with the franchise since 2002 and has been GM since October 2005. He was only 28 when he got the job, still the youngest for anyone taking over that position on any big league team.
“There’s been speculation about him getting other opportunities,” Ryan said, “but I think we feel pretty comfortable that this is his organization and these are his people, and that it’s an exciting time to be associated with the Texas Rangers.”
PAY-ROD: Alex Rodriguez is getting paid by both teams in the AL championship series.
This would have been the last season of that $252 million, 10-year contract he signed the Texas Rangers.
Rodriguez waived his no-trade clause and was dealt to the New York Yankees before spring training in 2004. He opted out of that record-breaking deal after the 2007 season, then signed an even bigger one, his $275 million, 10-year deal with the Yankees.
When the Rangers’ new ownership group led by Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg acquired the team in a bankruptcy auction this summer, the winning bid included money to pay unsecured creditors — the largest being A-Rod, who is owned $24.9 million in deferred compensation.
Texas is in its first AL championship series after winning its first AL West title since 1999, two seasons before A-Rod’s debut for the Rangers.
BACK HOME IN PLAYOFFS: Colby Lewis went to Japan with the anticipation of finishing his career there. That changed when the Texas Rangers, his original team, re-signed him to a two-year deal last winter.
Now Lewis is preparing for his second start this postseason, at home Saturday in Game 2 of the AL championship series against the New York Yankees. The right-hander threw five scoreless innings in Game 3 of the AL division series against Tampa Bay a week ago.
“There’s definitely nerves last time, but that’s to be expected,” Lewis said. “Get the first one out of the way and then we’re in the ALCS and get another opportunity.”
His start last week was in the Rangers’ first home playoff game since 1999, the year he was drafted by Texas.