By Evan Brunell
The offense isn't the concern in Texas -- what is a concern is the pitching sans Cliff Lee. There was a reason Texas was so desperate to trade for Lee: there isn't anyone terribly exciting left in the rotation. There are some quality pitchers and back-of-the-rotation filler, but no legitimate ace.
Derek Holland could be that person. He put on a show in his last spring training start and could be ready to deliver on the potential he displayed before cutting his teeth the last two years in the bigs. Holland's season is especially important in light of No. 1 starter C.J. Wilson's impending free agency. Never mind Neftali Feliz -- Holland's emergence will go a long way toward dictating the Rangers' short- and long-term future.
PLAYER ORACLE -- Gene Woodling to Josh Hamilton
- Gene Woodling played with Brooks Robinson for the 1955 Baltimore Orioles
- Brooks Robinson played with Eddie Murray for the 1977 Baltimore Orioles
- Eddie Murray played with Omar Vizquel for the 1995 Cleveland Indians
- Omar Vizquel played with Josh Hamilton for the 2009 Texas Rangers
In 1987, the Rangers employed a relief pitcher named Steve Howe. Howe wasone of the game's top relievers from 1980 until his final season of 1996, but that's not his claim to fame. Neither is his Rookie of the Year Award after posting a 2.66 ERA in 84 2/3 innings for the Dodgers, saving 17 games.
No, what is Howe's claim to fame is his battle with alcohol and cocaine abuse. In his 17-year career, he was suspended seven times and missed the entire seasons of 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1990. He was the second person ahead of Ferguson Jenkins to be banned for life due to substance abuse in 1992 before successfully appealing the decision. Howe's final excellent season would come in '94, but he hung on all the way to '96 to get a World Series ring.
His tenure in Texas is marked by picking up his contract in July 1987 and agreeing to a two-year, $1.2 million contract after the season. That contract would be short-lived as the Rangers released Howe for using alcohol. It would be four years before he appeared in the majors again.
After retirement, he wrote a book about his struggles and became an evangelistic Christian. Sadly, Howe passed away in 2006 when his pickup truck rolled over in California. His toxicology report revealed methamphetamine.
Where's the pop culture come in in all of this?
In the 1994 movie Naked Gun 33 1/3, the late, great Leslie Nielsen tells Anna Nicole Smith "This is your last chance. And I'm not talking about one of those Major League Baseball Steve Howe kind of last chances."
|More MLB coverage|