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At 37, Texas's Tom Grieve is the youngest G.M. in the major leagues. In the offseason, when he made deals for DH Cliff Johnson, 37, infielder Toby Harrah, 36, and pitcher Burt Hooton, 35, people accused him of succumbing to peer pressure. Desperation measures for a desperate team, it seemed.
It only made matters worse that Harrah had been Grieve's teammate for six years on the Rangers and that they have remained close friends. "Contrary to what people think, that's not why he's here," says Grieve. "We're not good Samaritans."
Texas made a great many personnel changes, opening its coffers to pick up Harrah, Johnson, Hooton, catcher Don Slaught and pitchers Dave Rozema and Greg Harris. "These guys weren't in great demand," Grieve concedes.
None of the new players has a contract for longer than two years, but Grieve insists they're not stopgaps. The reason for this acquisition madness is that Grieve wants to field a respectable team until his minor league system can provide help. Former first-round draft choices like NCAA Player of the Year Oddibe McDowell and shortstop Jeff Kunkel will eventually ease into the lineup. "We really want to build a team with young players," says Grieve, "but we can't say to the fans, 'Just hang in there!' until they're ready."
But hang in there is what Texans will have to do in '85. They can expect power-hitting offense through the seventh man in the order, but they'll see a questionable middle infield, a shallow and soft-throwing starting rotation, a bullpen that saved a league-low 21 games last year and a team that can't run. "We're so slow, we need doubles to score," says rightfielder Larry Parrish.
Harrah will be the second baseman even though he has played only 29 games at that position. He may also be a little old to learn new tricks. "Mr. Universe is older than I am, and he's got the best body in the world," says Harrah, who sprained his ankle the first week in camp.
Hooton, Rozema and Harris allow Dave Stewart to return to the bullpen, which desperately needs a full-time stopper. "Last year when I had to call the bullpen, it was just horrifying," says manager Doug Rader. But Stewart isn't optimistic: "I can only do as bad as everyone else has done."
"Our best pitchers are pitching elsewhere," says Parrish, stringing together a list of starters—Mike Smithson, Ron Darling, Rick Honeycutt, Walt Terrell, Jim Clancy, John Butcher and Len Barker—and a reliever named Dave Righetti. In 1984 those eight won 86 games and saved 31—for other teams.
The Rangers will try to counter with seven players who have hit 18 or more home runs in a year, six who have driven in 80 or more runs and 13 who have seen postseason play. Sounds impressive, but study the fine print. "I admit they're past their prime, but they're still better than what we had," says Grieve.
"I'll still think they were good decisions, even if they don't work out."