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Sure, the Rangers and Mariners are the only teams never to finish in first place. And when you think of Ranger tradition you think of Lenny Randle punching out his manager, Frank Lucchesi. But something is brewing down on the range, and a youth movement is behind it all.
The first, and perhaps boldest, step came in September 1984, when Texas owner Eddie Chiles made Tom Grieve, 36, the game's youngest general manager. Grieve looked around for a scouting director, decided that San Diego's Sandy Johnson, 44, was the best man available and gave him more power and freedom than any scouting director around. In May 1985, Grieve fired manager Doug Rader and replaced him with Bobby Valentine, a Tommy Lasorda disciple who, at 35, was then the youngest manager in the majors.
Valentine and Grieve set out to begin a new tradition. The previous ownership had never comprehended what it took to build a solid franchise. Brad Corbett went for free agents and ignored the farm system, and when his organization developed Dave Righetti, Ron Darling, Walt Terrell and the like, they were shuttled off for Sparky Lyleses and Lee Mazzillis. When Grieve took over as general manager, he knew what hadn't been done right. "I had no revolutionary ideas," he says. "I just knew what successful organizations did. I could look at Toronto or the Mets or Cincinnati and see that they poured their time, money and energy into scouting and development."
Grieve has increased the scouting and development budgets by more than $1 million, enabling Johnson to go out and hire more than a dozen reliable scouts. From San Diego, Johnson got Luis Rosa, one of the most productive Latin American scouts, to try to challenge the Blue Jays and the Dodgers in that part of the world. Johnson raided other organizations for additional scouts, and Valentine—who can outtalk Lasorda—set about making the Rangers "stand for something."
Valentine has shown his willingness to take chances by hiring innovative pitching coach Tom House, who is working on a Ph.D. in psychology. Player-development director Marty Scott hired a brilliant maverick minor league pitching coordinator, Dick Egan. "Everyone here is open to new ideas because there's enthusiasm everywhere," says House.
The Rangers began to make a move last year by winning 87 games and finishing second. This season they are in contention after a bad start and at week's end were only 4� games out. With a rotation of fireballer Bobby Witt, 23, Jose Guzman, 24, and Edwin Correa, 21, built around ageless Charlie Hough, they should be a power for years to come.
They also have a young, talented outfield in Ruben Sierra (a potential superstar at 21), slugger Pete Incaviglia (23) and Oddibe McDowell (24); a 21-year-old second baseman, Jerry Browne; and the foundation of a solid farm system on the A level.
"The one thing the free-agent era has told us is that scouting and player development are the name of the game," says Grieve, "and the money and energy had better go there before anywhere else. When they ask who are the best organizations, they don't look at the blood lines, they look at the talent produced."