01/30/2003 4:38 pm ET
Rangers Spring Training preview
Showalter ready to school Rangers
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
He'll do it with authority. He'll do it with hard work and new resources. He'll do it the way a disciplined educator reaches his students.
"I'm not going to toot my horn or anything but we are going to be ready to go come Spring Training," Showalter said. "We are going to try to eliminate excuses and the things people worry about other than the game itself."
Yes, Mr. Showalter.
Because of a new Spring Training facility in Arizona, new strength coach Fernando Montes, new trainer Jamie Reed and a new clubhouse in Arlington along with a revamped coaching staff, Showalter believes a majority of the possible excuses for not winning have been eliminated.
Call it the equivalent of getting 30 brand-new computers for a classroom or an upgrade in the school's library.
"Whether or not you have the best team, your chief goal is to have the best parking attendants, the best traveling secretary and the best clubhouse guys," he said. "You try to get an All-Star at each position and that's just not on the baseball field. That's what we are trying to do."
But the biggest difference in 2003 is a change in attitude -- commonly referred to by Rangers owner Tom Hicks as "the winning culture." Things will be different in Arlington this season.
Showalter is making sure of it.
"Playing in the big leagues and playing in Arlington is a privilege, it's not a right," Showalter said. "You'll get a single-digit [jersey] number when you earn it and not when you serve an apprenticeship. Are you good enough to beat the competition? We will do what we can do with the coaching staff to put you in the best position."
He has the resume to back up his words.
Showalter, who managed the Yankees from 1992-95, had the best record in the American League and was named AL Manager of the Year in 1994. In 1995, he led the team to a playoff berth but left the job in New York after the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs by Seattle in the first round to take the job with Arizona.
"What Arizona asked me to do and everything I did was to make the organization as good as possible," he said. "In New York, that was not part of my job description. I am looking forward to managing this team only."
Showalter was the architect of an Arizona team which became the quickest expansion team to make the playoffs (and ultimately, the World Series), building the D-Backs for two years before they took the field in 1998. In just their second season, Arizona won the NL West title with a 100-62 in 1999. In 2000, the team finished in third place with a 85-77 record and Showalter was replaced by Bob Brenly.
"First, it starts with who Buck is and his experience," Rangers general manager John Hart said. "His standards are very high and his work ethic is exceptional. All the personality traits are good and I think there will be expectations overall, accountability and expectations with the players. It does start with the field leader and the expectations down there."
Hart also did his part to eliminate excuses in 2003. Although the team did not agree to terms with long-time Rangers Ivan Rodriguez or Kenny Rogers, Hart traded with Cleveland for catcher Einar Diaz and pitcher Ryan Drese. He solidified the defense up the middle by signing outfielder Doug Glanville and bolstered the bullpen with the signings of Ugueth Urbina, Esteban Yan and Aaron Fultz.
Hart also signed pitchers Ismael Valdes and John Thomson to join Chan Ho Park in the starting rotation and hopes to fill the final two spots in the rotation with young pitchers Joaquin Benoit, Drese, Colby Lewis, Doug Davis or Rob Bell.
"We've done some things we wanted to do this winter and we positioned ourselves to improve the club," Hart said. "From that perspective we feel good about where we are. Obviously we'll have to wait and see how it all comes together. With Buck and what he have done with our staff, I feel very good about it."
Showalter stopped short of saying that Spring Training in 2003 will be unlike any experience the players have ever had but said there will be split squad workouts -- one in the morning and one in the afternoon -- for six or seven days before exhibition games begin. The Rangers skipper holds himself accountable and is determined to return the franchise to the playoffs, but he realizes there is only so much he and his staff can do.
"It's still about the players and what they are willing to buy into, what they hold as precious and what they want to be about," Showalter said. "Do they define a good day as the Rangers winning or them personally having a good day? I understand the individual part of this game, but I also want being a Ranger to mean something. I want there to be a certain credibility to that. It doesn't happen overnight and it's something you have to earn."
Yes, Mr. Showalter.
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- William Nathaniel Showalter, the son of a school principal, is determined to teach the last-place Rangers a lesson in winning.