The prototypical Major League Baseball ace is consistent, reliable and capable of giving his team a lift every time he takes the mound. He either has overpowering stuff, à la Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez, or the intensity, focus and command to take very good stuff to another level. That means you, Roy Halladay.
The Texas Rangers have two pitchers who fit the description. Unfortunately, club president Nolan Ryan is 65 years old and special assistant Greg Maddux is 45. They would be challenged to cover first base at this point, never mind take the mound and give manager Ron Washington a quality start.
So here's the salient question in Surprise: Do the Rangers have a new staff leader in residence who was born more recently than the Lyndon Baines Johnson administration? We'll find out soon enough.
As the Rangers pursue a third straight World Series appearance, pitching remains a focal point and a source of pride for the organization. Two years ago, Texas' staff ranked second in the American League in innings pitched and fourth in ERA. Last year the Rangers sliced the staff ERA from 3.93 to 3.79, fifth-best in the league. Despite playing half their games in a charitable offensive park, they've shed their reputation as an organization that bashes first and asks questions later.