Rubén, Rubén

The Texas Rangers have been thinking: Can they afford to keep Rubén Sierra, their best player ever?

Only 3 of the 26 major league base-ball teams have failed to win a division title: the Cleveland Indians, the Seattle Mariners, and the Texas Rangers. We will soon find out if the Rangers are likely to shed this unwanted distinction in the near future. To be a contender for the American League West title, the Rangers must sign their best player, Rubén Sierra, to a long-term contract this winter.

Without a doubt, Rubén Sierra is one of the best players the team has ever had. At 26, he is entering his prime productive years. His statistics say that he is in a class with Bobby Bonilla, who recently signed a five-year contract with the New York Mets for a historic $29 million. But if the Rangers do not lock up Sierra’s services this year, he can elect to become a free agent at the end of the 1992 season and can sign with the highest bidder.

The negotiations with Sierra represent a critical juncture in the history of the franchise. The outcome will show whether the organization’s financial constraints, imposed by managing partners Rusty Rose and George W. Bush, the president’s eldest son, will allow the team to compete in the marketplace for the best players in the game. The negotiations will also show whether the Rangers understand the nature of baseball management in the era of free agency, when the way to win a division title is to package two or three superstars with a

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