About seven years ago, the Texas Rangers handed the Padres two gifts, each of them invaluable, over a period of six months: first, in 2005, a summer trade that freed San Diego of Phil Nevin, whom the Padres, limited by Nevin's bloated contract, reputation for churlishness and ability to veto a trade to several teams, had been trying to jettison for years; second, six months later, a stunningly lopsided swap of talent that put two emerging, low-cost stars, Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young, in Padres uniforms. Each move prompted celebrations among Padres executives, led by general manager Kevin Towers. The Padres, fortified as if with a magic wand, responded to each transaction by winning the National League West. The Padres had never won division titles in consecutive years. They haven't since. Had Towers diverted a case of champagne from each division-clinching celebration to Arlington, Texas, the baseball gods wouldn't have called foul.
The Rangers aren't anybody's fool these days. Visiting San Diego for the first time, they entered the recent series against the Padres as the sport's best team, as listed by Baseball-Reference.com's rankings that combine run differential and strength of schedule. The Padres, meantime, stood 30th out of 30. The pedigrees played out on the field, the Rangers winning all three games. Ron Washington's team departed Petco Park with a 43-27 record, best in the majors.
Readers of this blog's Pink Pony Scouts Chat knew the Texas talent ran deep going into the season.
"Minor leagues and majors, they're loaded, unbelievably loaded," said one scout in late March. "And they did not have a player on their 40-man roster who was out of options. How unusual is that? They have pitching. They have infielders. They have outfielders. If anybody gets hurt, they've got young people ready to step right in with a better than ordinary chance to have success."
A recent check of the franchise's Double-A affiliate validated the scout's bullishness about the farm system. Two elite prospects, shortstop Jurickson Profar and third baseman Mike Olt, are having monstrous seasons for the front-running Frisco Roughriders (42-29) of the Texas League.
A West Coast Bias hat tip goes out to Rangers GM Jon Daniels, who as a rookie GM in March 2006 candidly answered my pointed questions about why he had traded Gonzalez and Young, in return for pitching that seemed in decline. I again met Daniels during the first of his team's consecutive trips to the World Series, in 2010 at San Francisco, and came away impressed. Daniel said he entered the GM job with an appreciation for good scouting. As a GM, his regard for scouting and the value of players' intangibles had only grown, he said.