0

BISHER: Rangers stock up on Braves' mistake

Photo by Mike Phillips 

Photo by Mike Phillips 

It's a subject so old it has grown a beard. Tough to get away from, though, when it comes raking across your television screen, and your mind starts racing again -- what might have been.

And watching the Texas Rangers close out the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round of the American League playoffs, I'm startled when a close friend says, "Ah, the team that John Schuerholz built."

Cruel, perhaps, but loaded with truth. Here were the Rangers feeding on a deal that ransacked the Braves farm system. You remember it. Many a fan remembers it, and their pain flashes across my computer screen time and time again. And the saddest epitaph of it all is, that the Braves have nothing left to show for it, except a sick memory that Mark Teixeira was once here.

The Rangers made it to the World Series a year ago, and when they shut down the Rays Tuesday, they were a nudge closer again. Elvis Andrus was the shortstop still, Matt Harrison was the starter, and once again, Neftali Feliz would close it out. The fourth member the Braves added to the deal, like a butcher's thumb on the grocer's scale, was Jarrod Saltalamacchia -- I never could get that name right -- who might have been the key at the time. He finished this season with the deplorable Red Sox. The Rangers had picked up two prospects in exchange, still feeding off the deal.

While the Braves ponder a perplexity at shortstop, Andrus could have been their solution. Neftali, I was told, would be the brightest star of them all down the road. And he was, leading American League closers for a couple of years.

Never was Harrison even mentioned. He was a throw-in, as they say, and never pitched again until the following season. Now recovered from surgery, he won 14 games this season, and has found his game.

There was another prospect included in the package, a pitcher named Beau Jones. No more than a missing person now.

Teixeira was soon traded to the Angels, mainly for Casey Kotchman, who has been at loose ends -- until he showed up as Tampa Bay's first baseman this season, the best of his career.

What the Braves have left to show for it all -- nobody. Nothing but a sad memory of a deal gone wrong.

At a meeting some time ago, Schuerholz was asked about the worst deal he'd ever made. "When I traded Adam Wainwright to the Cardinals," he said, in which he also threw in Jason Marquis, for one season of J.D. Drew. Tough to face up to the one that staked the Rangers to life in the fast lane.

Furman Bisher is one of the deans of American sports writing. The longtime Atlanta sports journalist is a member of the Georgia and Atlanta Sports Halls of Fame and in addition to his newspaper writing has authored multiple books on major figures like Hank Aaron and Arnold Palmer. He writes periodic columns for the Daily Post.