On December 23, 1996, the Rangers, coming off their first-ever taste of playoff baseball, signed veteran infielder (and onetime Rangers product) Jerry Browne, who had retired more than a year earlier, to a minor league contract, and traded journeyman outfielder Rikkert Faneyte, who had spent the season with AAA Oklahoma City (mixing in eight forgettable appearances with Texas), to Cincinnati in exchange for cash or something else that was never reported, and this report is not going to be about the Virgin Islands native who didn’t survive the next spring training with Texas or the Netherlander who never played at any level for the Reds.
On that same date, December 23, 1996, a couple months into an awful San Antonio Spurs season that started with David Robinson sidelined with a back injury, and two weeks after GM Gregg Popovich fired head coach Bob Hill and moved himself to the bench, Robinson broke his foot in a loss to the Miami Heat, in what was San Antonio’s 24th game but just Robinson’s sixth (and last) of the season.
The Spurs, who had been to the playoffs seven straight years and averaged 55 wins over that span, would go 20-62 in that Robinson-less 1996-97 season, finishing with the NBA’s third-worst record and the prized ping-pong ball that landed them the first pick in the 1997 draft lottery, and Tim Duncan.
San Antonio has been a playoff team in every one of the 17 years since.
What if David Robinson’s pre-season back injury in 1996 is Matt Harrison’s back injury and Derek Holland’s knee injury and Geovany Soto’s knee injury and Jurickson Profar’s shoulder injury?
What if David Robinson’s December 23, 1996 foot injury is Martin Perez’s elbow injury and Prince Fielder’s neck injury and Mitch Moreland’s ankle injury and Tanner Scheppers’s elbow injury?
What if the 1989-90 through 1995-96 Spurs are the 2010 through 2013 Rangers, and the 1996-97 Spurs are the 2014 Rangers, and the 1997-98 through 2013-14 Spurs give us all something to look forward to as fans of the Rangers, whose win-loss record — like the 1996-97 Spurs — sits at third-worst in the league (and one game removed from the first pick overall)?
What if the Ranger’ first-round draft pick next summer becomes this franchise’s Tim Duncan, who like Jerry Browne was born in the Virgin Islands? . . . and now talking about international players is making me think about A.J. Preller and how much I hope he’s here engineering the process of executing that first-round selection and not in San Diego overseeing draft picks and trades and free agent activity and organizational philosophy.
I really did plan to write something this morning that didn’t make me baseball-grumpy.
How about this: Shortly after today’s Argentina-Netherlands semi-finals World Cup match (I know who Rikkert Faneyte will be rooting for, assuming he’s still with us), it’s Yu Night.
It’s Yu Night.