The Big Five with … Rangers president/owner Nolan Ryan

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 ARLINGTON, Texas — In the place where they do everything bigger, there is nobody bigger than Nolan Ryan. So for the first World Series home game in Texas Rangers history, who better to take on The Big Five?

Is there anybody you played either with or against who you think compares to Josh Hamilton?

“Not played with. That period of time he put together before he got hurt (in May) was as impressive a stretch as I ever saw from a hitter. And not just hitting, but the way he played the outfield, played the entire game. Watching him day-in, day-out you realize how special he is. You just don’t see many players like that. The first time I saw Josh and appreciated how talented he was, he reminded me of Cesar Cedeno, and how talented he was. But Josh has more power than Cesar did.”

What does this World Series appearance do for the future of the Rangers franchise?

“I was watching Jay Leno the other night, and he was talking about the World Series and the Texas Rangers, and I thought, ‘gosh that sounds strange.’  I think this puts us on the map with a lot of people. One thing I’ve seen is how much Texas Rangers memorabilia people around the country are wearing. Our fans didn’t even wear it to the ballpark when I came here in 2008.”

Is there a feeling that the team has arrrived?

“You can never have a comfort level. You have to be very flexible, and always anticipate the worst thing that can happen. We hustled all year for catching, all year for a utilityman, and we’re always looking for pitching. So we’re not going to take the attitude that just because we got to the World Series, we don’t have to be diligent about what we’re going to do. We need to be even more aggressive to fill any hole we think we may have.”

Your only other World Series appearance was as a player with the 1969 New York Mets. What has that long period in between taught you?

“My perspective sitting here today as opposed to a 22-year-old with New York is totally different. That was a very magical year for us. It came together the last six weeks of the season, when the Cubs went into a tailspin and we started getting hot. Did we think we were going to win a world championship? I don’t think anybody on our team thought that. My goal was to be a starter on a championship team. I got close a couple of times, but it never happened. The longer my career goes, the more I realize how hard and unique it is to get there. I’m much more appreciative today than as a 22-year-old.”

Talk about your relationship with general manager Jon Daniels, who is half your age.

“He and I have different perspectives. But I think that’s one reason why we get along. We end up reaching the same conclusion when we’re talking about making changes. He voices his opinion and I voice mine, and they complement each other. I believe experience is a great teacher. With me on our pitchers, I think I see things a lot of people don’t because they didn’t stand on that mound and experience all the different things I did in my career.”

Editor’s note: Tony DeMarco is a contributor to NBCSports.com who has been covering the big leagues since 1987. He’ll interview a guest during each day of the World Series for HardballTalk.com.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.