I can’t really talk about the culture of winning because I haven’t been on a team that’s been to the playoffs. But at the same time, I was on teams that were on their way. I saw the beginning and I saw right before the teams started to win. I was on the Phillies coming up and got traded in ’05. In ’06, they were one game away, and ’07 was the first trip to the playoffs and that started their dynasty now. I saw the culture change over there. I saw them building within. I saw the young guys — we would have second- and third-rounders who would come in, high school kids who got paid big bucks, and their first year in Spring Training, and if they came in and weren’t in shape, they got rid of them. There was no b.s. involved in that organization as far as teaching and development. If you weren’t their type of player you had to go, it didn’t matter what they paid you.
Of course, nowadays, guys are getting paid more but at the same time, it didn’t happen that way. That culture in Tampa, they don’t mess with their top pick. When they had the first pick overall, they didn’t miss. And they produce. Same thing in Texas. That culture over there completely changed. In 2007, I came in and it seemed like it was a good team but the team really didn’t come together like you wanted, didn’t really have that chemistry. It was a great group of guys but it didn’t come together. Then, there was the influx of Mike Maddux and an influx of Ron Washington and an influx of Nolan Ryan, and they brought in all the right players. That was a huge step they made. From ’07 to ’08 to ’09, from 2007-08, getting beat down by the Angels, then us almost making the playoffs in 2009. But dominating the Angels changed everything in the AL West. You saw that last year in 2010. How the Rangers played, they weren’t scared of anybody.
It starts at the top. That’s automatic. I like what Pat Gillick says: “I’m not here to rebuild, I’m here to remodel.” That’s what he does and that’s what he did in Philly. That’s what Nolan did in Texas. It starts at the top but you have to put every single piece together. Ron Washington comes in and he says, “I need a Ron Washington team.” What did they do? They gave him a Ron Washington team — a team with speed, a team with defense, a team with pitching, a team with timely hitting. Now it seems like all the guys they have there are superstars.
What Pat Gillick did in Philly, he kept bringing in the right players and not just big name players, but players who are big names and they produce at the same time. Changing that culture, it’s not an easy thing to do. You need the right people in place at the top. Then you have to pick the right people all the way down.
It’s different facing the West teams now and when I was with the Rangers. It’s different when you face a team 19 times because they figure you out, then you figure them out and it goes back and forth. It seems like they keep a steady rotation and you’re facing guys over and over again and you pick up on things as a hitter. It’s the same thing with the Angels and Mariners. It’s a division that keeps getting better and better. The AL East is the beast, they’ll always be No. 1. The Central with the Twins and Tigers will be tough. I believe a champion will come out of the West very soon. It looks like the Rangers are doing a good job and they’re not far behind the A’s with the young leadership over there. There’s guys like Mark Ellis, and I call Kurt Suzuki a veteran — it seems like he’s been around for 10 years. They’re just a tough team and it’s shown in the games we’ve played against them.
It’s different facing the West now since I’ve been facing National League pitching. In my mind, sometimes I have to get back to that American League style. For example, Gio Gonzalez has a great fastball but on 2-0, he threw me a changeup. I’ve been getting fastballs on 2-0. It’s a little different and you have to change your mindset. I’ll be happy when we finish these games and I get back to National League style.