Oswalt seems like perfect fit with Rangers
Right-hander should benefit from club's winning environment
The Rangers will be a perfect fit for Roy Oswalt. They've got one of the closest and best clubhouses in all of baseball. As Michael Young said, "If you can't fit in here, you've got a problem."
That's important, too.
"Absolutely, it's important," Young said. "It would be hard to be a successful team without a unified clubhouse. I don't think you'll find that to be the case very often."
The Rangers also have a manager, Ron Washington, who is both respected and liked. Washington's players know he has their back and that he will ask only the basics -- be on time, play hard and care about the team.
Oswalt would be playing in front of packed house almost every game. So far, the Rangers are averaging 43,818 at home, with 89 percent of the seats at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington sold.
Finally, there's the little matter of winning. The Rangers are cruising along with a 31-18 record, tops in the American League. They're leading the Majors in runs and are No. 1 in the AL in ERA.
No general manager has done a better job accumulating talent than Jon Daniels, so if the Rangers have a need at the Trade Deadline, he has the young players to make it happen.
The Rangers agreed with free-agent right-hander Oswalt on a Minor League contract to help offset the loss of pitcher Neftali Feliz. The Rangers officially announced the one-year, $5 million deal on Tuesday.
Oswalt will slide right into a very good rotation, replacing Feliz, who is sidelined with a sore right elbow. Feliz may one day be a front-of-the-rotation starter, but he hasn't pitched even 70 innings the last two seasons, and the Rangers are geared to win now. They've got a 6 1/2-game lead in the AL West, so Oswalt has the luxury at preparing himself at his own pace.
To review, the Rangers have a great clubhouse, terrific leadership, rabid fans, a good team and the need for a starting pitcher. In short, they're the kind of team players dream of playing for.
Also, Oswalt's home in Weir, Mississippi, is a mere 524 miles from Arlington. The Braves and Cardinals are slightly closer, and in the past, Oswalt has expressed an interested in playing in both those places.
However, the Rangers have something the Braves and Cardinals don't -- team president Nolan Ryan.
They've got a history, a long one. Back in 2000, when he operated the Astros' Double-A affiliate in Round Rock, Oswalt was summoned from Class A ball to make an emergency start.
In those days, the Astros were extremely cautious in promoting young players, and Oswalt made the start at Round Rock with the understanding he'd go right back to Class A ball.
That night, he was dazzling, and after the game, Nolan's son, Reid, approached his father with some surprising news.
"They're still sending him back down," Reid said.
"I'll have to make a phone call," he said.
It's believed he called Astros owner Drayton McLane and offered his own assessment of 23-year-old Roy Oswalt. Ryan didn't believe Oswalt should be going back to down to Class A ball and that, in fact, he probably was ready for the Major Leagues.
Oswalt was in the Majors a year later and on his way to building one of the best resumes of his generation. He has never forgotten that Ryan went to bat for him. Ryan has never forgotten Oswalt, either.
He respects that Oswalt is a quiet country boy and probably sees a little of himself in him. That Oswalt would join the Rangers for what might be the final chapter of his Major League career feels right.
Other teams could also offer Oswalt the chance to win, a factor that's monumentally important. This baseball season is still blurry, with a dozen or more teams seemingly with a chance to win the World Series.
The Phillies, Angels, Cardinals, Yankees and a bunch of others appear to be good enough to win. So Oswalt is getting no guarantee from the Rangers.
But Texas has been baseball's best team since Day 1 of this season, and appears to be on its way to a third straight division championship. Having won back-to-back pennants, the Rangers are under some pressure to finish the deal, and those expectations can be smothering once the postseason begins.
Still, the Rangers have passed every test in 2012.
It would be tough to argue that any team is better, or that any team has a better chance to get Oswalt a ring.
If it's only money, Oswalt possibly could have gotten more elsewhere. But money probably wasn't the deciding factor. The Rangers are as close to a perfect situation as there is in baseball.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.