28 days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training for the Texas Rangers.
Once upon a time, the 1999 draft looks like it might be one of the best drafts in Rangers history. The Rangers used a supplemental first round pick on Colby Lewis, their second rounder on Nick Regilio, their third round pick on Hank Blalock, and their first fourth round pick on Kevin Mench, while using later picks on Aaron Harang and Jason Botts.
The funny thing is, the Rangers should have had more quality picks, but they lost their first rounder for signing Rafael Palmeiro from the Orioles. They got two compensatory picks apiece for the loss of Todd Stottlemyre and Will Clark, but the D-Backs and Orioles signed so many free agents, and lost so many picks, that along with their supplemental first rounders, they only got the D-Backs' fourth round pick for losing Stottlemyre and the Orioles' fifth round pick for losing Clark.
Things didn't work out as well as you would have hoped for that draft class. Harang has had the best career of any of them, but he was traded after the 2000 season for Randy Velarde, in what was a deal that definitely didn't work out for Texas. Regilio had his shoulder end up shredded, Botts didn't hit in the majors, and Blalock...well, we all know about Hank Blalock.
Which leaves us with Colby Lewis and Kevin Mench. Two fan favorites, two guys who have had dramatically different careers. Mench seemed like the perfect player for the Rangers -- a guy with a giant head who weird stuff happened to all the time (remember when he discovered he'd been wearing the wrong size shoes for years?), playing for a weird time that had weird stuff happen to it all the time.
The hope was that Mench would be a slugging right fielder who could hold down a COF spot for years to come. Instead, he got shipped to Milwaukee in the Carlos Lee trade, which ended up bringing the Rangers Nelson Cruz, a guy who ended up being what we'd hoped Mench would become. Mench's best season was in that crazy 2004 campaign, when he put up an 874 OPS in a year where so much unexpected went right for the Rangers.
Mench bounced around for a few years after being dealt to Milwaukee, and ultimately retired, but he's involved with the Rangers alumni activities, and will be at FanFest this weekend signing autographs.
In a lot of ways, Mench epitomizes that weird period for the Rangers in the early- to middle-part of the decade, after ARod was gone, before the rebuild began in earnest with the Mark Teixeira trade.