The Shlabotnik Non-Stars: Steve Buechele, 3B
Honoring the Rangers/Senators version of Joe Shlabotnik, the guy nobody but Charlie Brown would root for in the comic strip Peanuts.
The Rangers have been blessed with quality third basemen throughout the years- Buddy Bell manned the hot corner for years, and we’ve also seen the likes of Dean Palmer, Jim Fregosi, Hank Blalock, Bill Madlock, Chris Davis (for a year) and, for the past two seasons, Michael Young. For me, though, one of the reasons I loved watching the Rangers in the late 80’s was Steve Buechele.
Buechele was a home-grown product, drafted by the Rangers in 1982 in the 5th round after a college career at Stanford. Boo’s journey through the minors was pretty rapid, as he joined the parent club for 69 games in 1985 after the Rangers traded Buddy Bell to Cleveland, hitting a meager .219 with 6 homers and 21 RBI.
Buechele was never a hitting machine, compiling a career .245 average over an eleven year major league career but oh, what a defensive third baseman he was.
The most errors Boo ever had in one season as a Ranger was 16 and he was well above the league average in fielding percentage every year he played for the Rangers. Back in the 80’s Rangers fans felt the same about Boo as they do today about Elvis Andrus. Knowing that one corner of the infield was as close to an automatic out as you’re going to get was a good feeling to have.
Throughout his glory days in Arlington, Buechele was never lower than fourth in the AL in fielding percentage and in 1991, his last year in his first go-round with the Rangers, he led the American League in fielding percentage.
Again, Steve’s bat was never more than mediocre throughout his career, which is one reason why the Rangers never could quite get over the hump during the Bobby Valentine years. Boo’s best average with the Rangers came, again, in 1991, when he was hitting .262 with career highs of 22 home runs and 85 RBI in just 121 games.
The Rangers thought they were selling high on Buechele when they sent him to the Pittsburgh Pirates at the end of August, 1991 in exchange for two pitchers: Kurt Miller and Hector Fajardo. Miller, though, never made it to the Rangers, while Fajardo pitched in 28 games over a four-season Rangers career in which he went 5-9 with a 6.79 ERA.
For Boo, going to the National League didn’t improve his stats much. In two years with the Pirates he hit .248 and in four seasons with the Cubs, he did marginally better at .256 due in part to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.
Following his release from the Chicago Cubs in July of 1995, the Rangers resigned Buechele as a free agent, hoping they could get him to reclaim some of the magic he enjoyed in his first go-round. Sadly, Boo’s days were numbered. In nine games, he hit a meager .125 and the Rangers released him 19 days after they signed him, thus ending his major league career.
Buechele’s days with the Rangers haven’t ended, though. In 2009 he rejoined the Rangers by taking over the managerial reins at High Class A Bakersfield, leading the Blaze to a 75-65 record and a playoff berth in his first season. This year, Buechele is managing the Rangers AA Frisco Rough Riders. As of this writing, Boo’s Rough Riders are 27-19 in the Texas League’s South Division, in first place with a four game lead on the Astros’ Corpus Christi Hooks.