Minor matters could mean big jewelry
Rangers' Double-A, Triple-A clubs poised to take titles
OAKLAND -- Who says the Rangers don't have anything at stake this weekend?Over half of the 29 players on Texas' September roster could be adding to their jewelry collection by the end of the weekend. A few of them could clean up twice with a pair of championship rings. "That would be sweet," said catcher Taylor Teagarden, who knows exactly what's at stake. "It would be great," pitcher Matt Harrison said. The Rangers are just about out of the playoff hunt at the Major League level, but the Triple-A Oklahoma RedHawks and the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders are both positioned to win their league championships. The RedHawks split the first two games of their best-of-five Pacific Coast League championship series against the Sacramento River Cats earlier this week, and the final three games are scheduled for Oklahoma starting Friday night. The RoughRiders are in the same position. They split the first two games of the Texas League championship series against Northwest Arkansas, and all remaining games will be played in Frisco. Of the 29 players on the Rangers' active roster right now, 16 were assigned to either Frisco or Oklahoma at some point during the season. Theoretically, all of them could get championship rings if the RoughRiders and RedHawks prevail. Guys like Harrison, Teagarden, Warner Madrigal and Chris Davis could get two rings after having played for both teams this season. "They could be giving out a bunch of rings," pitcher Bill White said. White said as soon as the Rangers' games end, he checks his cell phone to see how the RedHawks did that night. Teagarden said he keeps up with every Rangers farm team through the Newberg Report, a daily online newsletter. "I'm pumped up," said Kameron Loe, who spent most of the season with the RedHawks. "I hope they [the RedHawks] go all the way and win the Triple-A World Series. That would be amazing. They have such a good bunch of guys down there. The chemistry there is great." The remarkable part about it all is both teams keep winning even though the Rangers have called so many players up from both levels. Texas has used 18 rookies this season. "Triple-A is worse than anybody," Teagarden said. "We lost so many pitchers. At one point, we had guys like Doug Mathis, A.J. Murray and even Sidney Ponson. Then you get a guy like Tommy Hunter, who is called up from Class A and dominates. "Even at Frisco, we started off great, and then you get guys like Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland and they're throwing the heck out [of the ball]. Those guys end up being better than the guys that were there before them. It's been a great year for the Rangers' organization." Besides the 16 players who were in the Minors at some point this season, Hank Blalock, Gerald Laird, Kevin Millwood and Joaquin Benoit all played with either Frisco or Oklahoma on medical rehabilitation assignment. Maybe they'll get rings as well. "I'll take one," said Laird, who was 0-for-12 in four games for Oklahoma. "I didn't get a hit, but I'll take a ring." Or not. It's not automatic. The Rangers' front office decides who actually gets a championship ring should one or both teams prevail this weekend. "We will determine it based off of service time with the team," said John Lombardo, the Rangers' director of Minor League operations. "Anyone who provided a significant contribution to this season will be rewarded, with us erring on the side of the player. There's no set formula, and it's certainly possible to get more than one ring." Doesn't sound good for Laird. But the former RedHawks at the Major League level are pulling hard for manager Bobby Jones. He is in his 19th season as a skipper in the Rangers' system, and he has already won a Florida State League championship in Class A and a Texas League championship at Double-A. Winning the PCL title would give him three titles at three different levels. "He's the best," Loe said. "I love playing for that guy. He obviously knows the game really well, and the players love playing for him. He treats everybody with respect. All he asks is for guys to show up on time and play hard. He's an outstanding guy to play for."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.