ARLINGTON -- Eleven years ago, the Rangers held another big press conference at the Ballpark in Arlington to introduce a superstar into their organization. That was Alex Rodriguez, and the Rangers had just signed him to the largest contract in team sports history. That didn't turn out too well. Rodriguez, after signing his 10-year, $252 million contract, spent just three frustrating season with the Rangers. He put up spectacular offensive numbers but the Rangers still finished in last place three straight times before Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees. On Friday night, the Rangers held another mega-press conference to introduce Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish. General manager Jon Daniels said the circumstances surrounding Darvish are completely different than when the Rangers signed Rodriguez in 2000.
"Yu fits into this club better as far as a player," Daniels said. "Yu is just one of a number of young power-arm starters that we have who have had some success and are looking to get better. With Alex, the team was getting older and wasn't lined up as well as this team is now." The Rangers finished in last place the year before Rodriguez arrived. Darvish is joining a team that has been to two straight World Series. Rodriguez, anointed by owner Tom Hicks, was expected to be a team leader and face of the franchise. Darvish is just expected to be one of five starters along with Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz. That's why the Rangers are expecting Darvish to make a seamless transition into their ballclub. "We added a quality young pitcher to add to the young pitchers that we already have," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We just look forward to him getting to Spring Training, getting acclimated to how we do things and move forward." Darvish's new teammates are also looking forward to seeing him in Spring Training. Outfielder Josh Hamilton was at the Ballpark on Friday night to greet him and pose for photos after the press conference. Hamilton had a big smile as he put his arm around Darvish. "I think it's pretty cool ... I think it's awesome," Hamilton said. "It's a great opportunity for him, a great opportunity for the Rangers, our fans and our organization. I haven't seen him pitch in person, but I have seen him on video and he looks pretty dominating. "I think he'll enjoy pitching in Texas. I think he'll love being here. He'll fit right into the clubhouse, we'll make sure of that." Darvish held his first press conference on Friday night at the Ballpark. He will return to Japan and hold another press conference there. He will continue his offseason throwing program and said he'll report to Spring Training on time with other pitchers and catchers. They report on Feb. 22, and the first workout is Feb. 23. "The name of the game is pitching and we picked up a quality pitcher," Washington said. "It's special, we brought a special pitcher into the Texas Rangers fold. We haven't forgotten what it takes to succeed. I'm looking forward to getting to Spring Training. I have been enjoying myself this winter, but I'm looking forward to getting there."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.