Texas Rangers 06-07 Offseason & Spring Training news and notes
Posted 04 October 2006 - 08:21 AM
Posted 04 October 2006 - 08:25 AM
The night is nearly over and a new day is ready to dawn over The Ballpark. What that new day brings, we'll have a good idea of about late May or June, but at least we have something to look forward to now.
Posted 04 October 2006 - 01:17 PM
Posted 04 October 2006 - 06:08 PM
By KAT O’BRIEN and JIM REEVES
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITERS
ARLINGTON –- Rangers general manager Jon Daniels called his decision to fire manager Buck Showalter Tuesday night "very tough," but a decision that he believes gives the Rangers the best chance to win in the future.
"It was a difficult decision to come to, a difficult message to deliver, and an even more difficult message for him to receive, I’m sure," Daniels said in a Wednesday afternoon news conference at Ameriquest Field.
Showalter was fired over dinner with Daniels and Rangers owner Tom Hicks at Hicks’ home. He arrived for an annual post-season meeting, and was told that he could either resign or be fired. He did not resign. Showalter had managed the Rangers for four seasons, with a 319-329 record and no playoff berths to show for it.
Showalter said in a phone interview: "I understand the –- like Tom said or J.D. said -– shelf life of managers. Maybe I had a little longer shelf life than some. I’m very honored by the opportunity that I had here. I never for one minute took that for granted. ... It’s a great place, good people, and they’re going to do well."
Showalter is under contract through 2009, and owed approximately $5.1 million. Yet Daniels, who celebrated his first anniversary as GM Wednesday, said he felt a change was necessary.
"This is a decision about looking forward, about giving our organization a fresh perspective and what I think is a better opportunity to win going forward," Daniels said.
Hicks did not attend the news conference, but said in a phone interview immediately afterward: "It was very difficult. I’ve got personal fondness and affection for Buck as a person and as a manager. I don’t know that anybody’s been a more loyal Texas Ranger, certainly to me and the organization."
About three weeks ago, Daniels said that he had "no plans to change managers." However, he admitted that it was a topic of internal conversation at that time. He said he did not reach a decision until after the season, at which time he made his recommendation to Hicks. The two discussed the situation, and made a joint decision Tuesday.
"His recommendation was the right thing to do," Hicks said. "What was difficult was getting past the personal side. ... It’s just a sad circumstance that developed. I feel relieved that we have made the decision. It’s going to provide a better opportunity for the organization to win, and wins are what it’s all about."
Daniels said he did not query the players about their opinions on Showalter. In the past six weeks, some discontent among the players with Showalter came to attention via reports in the Star-Telegram and elsewhere. Daniels said that was a "minimal" factor.
The Rangers were 80-82 this season. They were tied for first place at the All-Star break, but finished 13 games out.
"We finished about where everybody says we’d finish this year," Showalter said.
The Rangers never had a good starting rotation during Showalter’s tenure. Their starters ranked no higher in earned-run average than 11th out of 14 American League teams, with two 12th-place finishes and one last-place finish.
They also were either last or second-to-last in innings pitched each year. Still, they finished 89-71 in 2004, missing the playoffs by three games and earning Showalter AL Manager of the Year recognition.
Showalter said he does not know what he will do next. He had moved his family to Dallas from Pensacola, Fla. –- including his wife, Angela; his daughter, Allie, a student at SMU; and his son, Nathan, who is in high school. There are several managerial openings around the major leagues -– San Francisco, Washington and the Chicago Cubs.
"My preference is for whatever baseball and life sees fit," Showalter said. "I roll with the punches. That’s not going to define my life. I love watching (baseball), love being around it. One door closes, another one opens."
Before coming to Texas, Showalter’s record in seven years managing the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks was 563-504.
Daniels did not go to into detail in who might be the next Rangers’ manager. He said they would interview both internal and external candidates. Two leading candidates might include Rangers bench coach Don Wakamatsu, and Trey Hillman, the Nippon Ham Fighters (Japan’s Pacific League) manager and former Rangers farm director. Other possibilities include Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, former Rangers first base coach and current Boston Red Sox third base coach DeMarlo Hale and recently fired Florida Marlins manager Joe Girardi.
There is no timeline for a hiring, as Daniels said: "In general, sooner is preferable, but not at the cost of getting the best guy for the job."
Hicks said there might not be a hire until after the World Series.
Rangers infielder-outfielder Mark DeRosa, a free-agent-to-be, said: "All I can judge him on is how he treated me. Obviously when a team’s kind of hovering around .500 and can’t break through, the person who takes the brunt of it is the manager. He treated me great, he gave me an opportunity to play, he took a chance on me when I had a busted knee. ... For my money, you can’t go wrong with Don Wakamatsu or Rudy."
Posted 04 October 2006 - 06:17 PM
By JIM REEVES
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Buck Showalter knows what everyone’s thinking. History says that when he leaves a team, it immediately wins a championship. Does that mean the Rangers are headed for a World Series title in 2007?
“In New York, I knew they were ready,” Showalter said Wednesday. “At Arizona, I knew they’d been ready for two years. We’d been in the playoffs for both those teams, so we knew we were close.
“Now we’ll test the theory that when Buck leaves, teams win championships. I hope (the Rangers) do. Maybe I’ll get a ring this time.”
Not likely, not if Tom Hicks has to buy it.
Doomed by Hicks’ decision to slash payroll the year he arrived and always lacking for pitching, Showalter’s four-year reign as the Rangers manager ended at Hicks’ house late Tuesday night.
Invited for dinner, Showalter arrived only to learn that he was to be the main course.
“Hey, at least I got a good meal out it,” Showalter joked.
Devastated by the news, Showalter nevertheless insisted that he would take the high road and try to avoid any bitterness over his dismissal.
“I just want the best for the Rangers. I mean that,” Showalter said. “I have a lot of respect for Tom and J.D. (general manager Jon Daniels), and I think the fans and the players deserve a new voice. I understand how it works.
“I’m not going to sit around questioning and all that other stuff. They have a fan in me. I’ll be pulling for them.”
The Rangers scheduled a midafternoon news conference to answer questions about Showalter’s firing.
Showalter said it didn’t take him long Tuesday night to understand that the main entrée was to be barbecued Buck.
“I told (Hicks and Daniels) we’re among friends here,” he said. “You want to go in a different direction. That’s your prerogative and I respect that and I wish the best for you.”
The main criticism aimed at Showalter has been that he didn’t create a positive environment for the players in the clubhouse. It’s not a theory he believes is accurate.
“That stuff ... positive environment? I don’t respond to it,” he said. “A positive environment comes from winning and I didn’t provide that.
“Just look at Minnesota and Oakland (two American League playoff teams). They pitch well and defend well. It’s not nearly as complicated as everyone makes it out to be.”
Showalter said he continues to support the players in every way, despite persistent reports that many of them will be happy to see him go.
He said his final address to the players before the last game of the season was made with the idea that he might not have another chance to talk to them as a group.
“I talked to some guys individually and thanked them for their effort and their support,” he said. “My love for them is unconditional. They didn’t have to love me back.
“I told them, ‘I had a hell of a seat guys, and it was a lot of fun watching. I will dwell on the positive and wish the best for each of you.’ ”
Posted 05 October 2006 - 08:04 AM
Providence Journal (scroll down) (registration required): "The firing of Buck Showalter as the Texas Rangers' manager yesterday may have closed a potential avenue for the Red Sox to deal Manny Ramirez. Showalter, who was dismissed yesterday after four seasons with the Rangers, had told Texas management in recent weeks that he would be interested in dealing for Ramirez, who again has requested a trade."
Kranitz may go with Girardi
Miami Herald (scroll down) (registration required): "The Marlins would like to bring back pitching coach Rick Kranitz. But if Girardi gets a new managing job with another club, there's a chance Kranitz could join him. Girardi, who is a candidate for the Chicago Cubs' vacancy, could also be considered for openings on the Washington Nationals and Texas Rangers."
Girardi: 'I can get along'
Chicago Tribune (registration required): "While the Cubs keep their managerial search under the radar, Joe Girardi tried to dispel the notion he has a difficult time getting along with upper management... It also appears the Cubs could have competition for Girardi from the Washington Nationals, although he does not appear to be an early candidate for the newest opening, in Texas, where Buck Showalter was fired by the Rangers Wednesday with three years and $6 million remaining on his contract."
Posted 05 October 2006 - 08:25 AM
Dollars and sense say it's all Hicks' fault
In My Opinion
ARLINGTON -- Stumbling through another yet sordid chapter in their inglorious history, the Rangers fired the wrong man Tuesday night at Tom Hicks' house.
The guy who hosted the hanging party should have been the one with the noose around his neck, not manager Buck Showalter.
Sure, Showalter had four years to win and didn't do it. That's about the average shelf life of your non-winning manager in major league baseball. Managers don't win, they get fired. It's a fact of baseball life.
The question is why Showalter didn't win, and the answer goes back to the guy who invited his manager over for dinner and then laced his steak with arsenic. Hicks never gave Showalter the resources to win. Period.
Yes, Showalter's personality rubbed some players the wrong way. It would be difficult to prove that by the numbers most of them posted, but the whispers behind the manager's back were a constant. Even though Daniels said he didn't poll the players on whether to keep Showalter around and insisted there won't be a players' committee formed to select the next Rangers' skipper, you know he heard them all.
In fact, if you're looking for one reason why Showalter was fired -- he refused to resign -- it is because of the perception, real or imagined, that he was unable to create a positive, working environment in the clubhouse.
How much would a real pitching staff, or a competitive payroll have changed that? Good question, but we'll never know.
Here are a few facts to ponder: Six of the eight playoff teams ranked in the top eight in staff ERA in MLB this season; the Rangers' staff finished tied for 18th.
The eight playoff teams have an average payroll of around $95.1 million. The Rangers came in 18th there, too, at just over $68 million.
I know what Hicks would say, even though I couldn't ask him Wednesday because he didn't think it was important enough to show up at the mid-afternoon news conference announcing Showalter's firing. Hicks would say the Yankees' absurd $195 million payroll skews things.
OK, so let's throw out the highest payroll (the Yanks) and the lowest (the A's) and the average playoff payroll drops to around $85 million, still almost $20 million higher than what Hicks spent this season in the No. 4 media market in the country.
Oh, and Hicks would point out that the A's and Twins, with payrolls slightly lower than the Rangers, somehow consistently make the playoffs. What he doesn't realize is that that's an indictment of the people he has hired to run his team, because they've consistently had their butts kicked in drafting and developing pitching.
"Until we solve the pitching problem, it's not going to matter what we do," Showalter said Wednesday, and he's dead on with that assessment, even if he's no longer a part of the "we."
The problem with the Rangers isn't a managerial problem; it's an organizational problem and it starts at the top with a financially noncommitted owner who puts making money over winning. It was Showalter's misfortune to be managing this team when Hicks slashed the payroll by almost $50 million after the 2003 season.
It remained in the ridiculously low $55 million range for two years before the signing of free-agent pitcher Kevin Millwood bumped it to $68 million this season. Now, if the Rangers had drafted and developed pitching like the A's and Angels have, maybe they could compete in the division with that payroll. But they haven't, and someone has to acknowledge that fact.
"Payroll allows [a team] to cover up mistakes by management," Daniels admitted.
The Rangers don't have that luxury, and Showalter paid for it Tuesday night. Even though the GM insisted the responsibility lies with more than one man, only one was fired.
What really rubbed me the wrong way was Daniels' insisting that the Rangers underachieved this season. Really? What team was he watching?
What I saw was a team that lost its No. 2 starter (Adam Eaton) the day before spring training ended, got almost nothing from its No. 4 starter (Kam Loe), tried to make do with two and sometimes three rookies in the rotation, saw its closer (Francisco Cordero) melt down in April and May and watched Mark Teixeira have the three worst run-production months of his career.
Instead of being fired, Showalter probably deserved a medal.
"I played the cards I was dealt," he said, "and did the best I could with them."
Daniels was clearly disappointed at the Rangers' play after the trade deadline, when deals he made adding Carlos Lee, Matt Stairs and pitcher Kip Wells provided zero spark. But Wells was immediately injured and contributed nothing where the Rangers needed help most.
Now, I know I'm bucking the current here. Last time I checked late Wednesday afternoon, our online poll indicated about 80 percent of respondents agreed with Showalter's firing. But that's frustration talking, which is understandable.
Firing the manager is baseball's answer to the Staples "Easy" button. Unfortunately, it doesn't heal all ills.
"I'm not saying Buck was responsible for all our troubles," Daniels said. "That's a shared responsibility.
"From a baseball and business standpoint, I'm very confident we made the right decision."
Brave words for a first-year GM who, hopefully, understands that he may well have just slipped the target onto his own back the next time the owner goes looking for someone to blame, because Hicks certainly won't blame himself.
Firing the manager here isn't what bothers me. Of the Rangers' 16 full-time managers, I've seen 14 of them get the ax, three alone since Hicks became owner.
The problem is anyone believing that this solves the Rangers' problem. It doesn't. Pitching solves the problem.
It's amazing how positive a clubhouse can be when five decent starters dress in there.
If Hicks doesn't understand that by now, he needs to sell this team.
Fire himself. Find a buyer who actually cares about winning.
I'm not saying he has to fall on his sword. A blood-stained steak knife will do just fine.
Of course, first he'll have to pluck it out of Buck's back.
Posted 05 October 2006 - 08:27 AM
Possible candidates to replace Buck Showalter:
He was fired this week after he led the Marlins to a 78-84 record in his first season. Florida had a $15 million payroll and the youngest team in the league.
Boston's third-base coach was a first-base coach with the Rangers from 2002-05. He managed in the Red Sox's farm system from 1993-99, leading three teams to the playoffs.
The former UTA star guided the Nippon Ham Fighters to an 82-54 record and the championship in Japan's Pacific League this year.
The Rangers hitting instructor is considered the best in the game. He was a finalist for the Mets' managerial position two years ago.
The Rangers bench coach filled in when Buck Showalter was suspended and in the hospital. He managed at the minor league level for four seasons.
Posted 05 October 2006 - 08:30 AM
Successor could come from inside or out, but communication is key
01:07 AM CDT on Thursday, October 5, 2006
By EVAN GRANT / The Dallas Morning News
ARLINGTON – What will the Rangers look for in hiring Buck Showalter's replacement?
A lot of Buck Showalter. And a little more communication.
While Rangers general manager Jon Daniels praised many aspects of Showalter's managerial style, the ability to communicate stood out as the team's No. 1 priority as it starts the search for its fifth manager since moving to Ameriquest Field for 1994.
Several players mentioned the lack of communication as an ongoing problem with the manager. Catcher Gerald Laird said players became confused over roles because of a lack of communication.
"There are a lot of traits we're looking for, and they aren't necessarily mutually exclusive of things Buck does well," Daniels said Wednesday. "In general, we'll look for a communicator who can communicate both good and bad news."
That seemed to be the only part of the manager's profile the Rangers were willing to make public.
Daniels said the next manager didn't necessarily have to have major league playing experience or previous managerial experience. He called the team's ability to "sell" a new manager to the public a secondary factor, if it is one at all.
Daniels did not put a timetable on the search. He said the club will speak to both internal and external candidates. Traditionally, clubs rarely name managerial replacements during the postseason.
The internal candidates are expected to be bench coach Don Wakamatsu and hitting instructor Rudy Jaramillo. Neither has big league managerial experience, but both are well-respected by the players.
In addition, the list could include former Rangers farm director Trey Hillman, who has spent the last four years managing in Japan; former first base coach DeMarlo Hale, currently Boston's third base coach; and Oakland third base coach Ron Washington.
Of that group, Washington, 53, is the only one to have significant major league playing experience. He spent parts of 10 years in the majors with five different clubs.
There are plenty of other available managers with big league experience, such as Lou Piniella and the just-fired duo of Dusty Baker and Joe Girardi. The Rangers, however, are looking for a "fresh perspective," Daniels said in announcing the Showalter firing. It might mean the club will pass on recycling a manager.
Wakamatsu, 43, served as the Rangers' interim manager during the three games that Showalter missed with dehydration in July and for four games while Showalter was suspended in August.
Citing respect for Showalter, Wakamatsu declined to comment Wednesday on the Rangers job. He did confirm his desire to manage in the majors. Wakamatsu spent the last four seasons as Showalter's bench coach and also managed in the Arizona minor league system for three seasons while Showalter was there.
Jaramillo, 56, has been the Rangers' hitting instructor since 1995 and is immensely popular with the club's position players. He was a finalist for the New York Mets job that went to Willie Randolph after the 2004 season.
Daniels said he will recommend the new manager keep all coaches. Hiring an internal candidate would create one coaching vacancy.
And the Rangers will have competition in the managerial marketplace. San Francisco, Washington and the Chicago Cubs also are searching for new managers.
"We want to be thorough yet efficient," Daniels said. "But we are also aware that we are in somewhat of a sweepstakes."
Posted 05 October 2006 - 08:35 AM
JENNIFER FLOYD ENGEL
Little Balls of Hate
If memory serves, a couple of months ago when this Cowboys' season had just begun, much was made about Coach Tuna needing to get busy winning or get busy leaving.
What is noteworthy for this discussion is that this is his fourth year and he's already reached the playoffs with a shaky quarterback, had a 9-7 record a season ago and has a locker room full of players willing to charge through a brick wall for him.
So why exactly are anybody's tightie whities in a wad about Rangers manager Buck Showalter being fired Wednesday?
He has just finished his fourth nonplayoff season in Arlington, with a clubhouse loaded with players who had stopped listening to, playing for and believing in him.
Now I was not among those calling for Buck to be fired. That is not my thing, with a John Hart exception. Decisions such as those are above my pay scale.
But I think the Rangers probably did the right thing.
The "probably" is because there were extenuating circumstances, such as the Rangers' consistent lack of payroll and pitching in his time in Arlington.
What is an absolute is Buck's time with the Rangers has been slightly less than mediocre.
He is also 319-329 as Rangers manager, or just enough to inspire a lot of apathy in Rangers fans.
So I almost choked when I heard somebody argue that Rangers owner Tom Hicks should pay what remains of Buck's contract and allow him to manage elsewhere next season for even more money.
Seriously? Do we really believe Buck should be allowed to double-dip simply because he is nicer than most?
Hey, I like Buck, too. He is a guy who, if I had a weekly poker game or had an inkling how to play poker, gets an invite. He is funny, personable and a great quote.
What he is not is deserving of any more patience than any other manager, coach or general manager.
Not even Coach Tuna.
Posted 05 October 2006 - 08:38 AM
By By, KAT O'BRIEN
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
ARLINGTON - Mark DeRosa thought Buck Showalter might not be back as Rangers manager, whether by his choice or not, after he listened to Showalter address the team before their final game in Seattle on Sunday.
"I kind of got a vibe that it might be coming after that meeting," DeRosa said by phone Wednesday. "He basically said to take advantage of every opportunity that you have to put on a big league uniform."
Other players didn't read as much into Showalter's comments, as it was the final game of the year. But DeRosa thought it was a message, in case Showalter was preparing for his last game managing in a big league uniform.
For several weeks, there had been rumblings of discontent with Showalter from players. And although DeRosa was not one of those with a gripe, he knew some teammates did.
"All I can judge him on is how he treated me," DeRosa said. "Obviously, when a team's kind of hovering around .500 and can't break through, the person who takes the brunt of it is the manager. He treated me great, he gave me an opportunity to play, he took a chance on me when I had a busted knee....But I don't think he would deny this -- he's a control guy. He wants everything under his control, and that rubs some people the wrong way."
That grew increasingly clear in the final months of Showalter's four-year tenure as Rangers manager. Behind the scenes and in the clubhouse, there were players -- both veteran and younger ones -- who hoped a change would be made. A couple of Rangers players who are set to be free agents this off-season even indicated that they would be less inclined to re-sign with the Rangers if Showalter remained the manager.
So Wednesday's announcement that Showalter had been fired did not come as a shock.
"It's not my job to decide who manages the Rangers," shortstop Michael Young said by phone. "My job is to be a good teammate, to play hard and to play to win. That being said, J.D. [general manager Jon Daniels] has always had the best interests of the team in mind. Because of that, we respect his decisions."
Daniels said that the players' feelings played a "minimal" role in his decision.
Catcher Gerald Laird, who reached the major leagues after Showalter was the Rangers manager, said it would be strange to play for somebody new. He said he could see some teammates' contentions that Showalter was not great at communication and could be uptight. However, he said Showalter should not bear all the blame.
"I thought we didn't play up to our standards this year," Laird said. "That could be on the players, on us, and also maybe a little bit on him."
Akinori Otsuka said he was grateful to Showalter for giving him the chance to be a closer. He said he had looked forward to playing for him next year.
As for who comes next, several possible candidates have close ties to the current Rangers team. Don Wakamatsu is the bench coach, Rudy Jaramillo is the hitting coach and DeMarlo Hale was the first base coach before being hired as the Boston Red Sox third-base coach last winter.
"Being a manager of a big league team, I would say the two most important things are to have the respect and trust of your players," Young said. "If you have that, I think everything else is going to work out fine. Because, obviously, if you got this far, you know a little something about baseball and developing players."
Posted 05 October 2006 - 10:32 AM
LINE OF SUCCESSION
Staff Writer Evan Grant sizes up some potential candidates for the Rangers' managerial vacancy:
|Canidate||Pro||Con||Current job, age|
|Don Wakamatsu||Knows the club||Is his career too tied to Showalter's?||Rangers bench coach, 43|
|Rudy Jaramillo||Very popular||Happiest instructing, not strategizing||Rangers hitting instructor, 56|
|Trey Hillman||Ran Rangers farm system||Been away from American baseball||Nipon Ham Fighters manager, 43|
|Ron Washington||Energetic communiator||Little managerial experience||Oakland A's third-base coach, 45|
|DeMarlo Hale||Another good communicator||Wakamatsu knows club better||Boston Red Sox third-base coach, 45|
|Bud Black||Well-respected||Pitching coaches rarely make good managers||Los Angeles Angels pitching coach, 49|
Posted 05 October 2006 - 10:36 AM
02:40 AM CDT on Thursday, October 5, 2006
ARLINGTON – On one of his better days as a baseball owner Wednesday, Tom Hicks was nowhere in sight.
Hicks, whose success as a hockey owner has not been duplicated in his nine years with the Rangers, took a step toward respectability in baseball when he stepped aside to let his general manager do his job.
Jon Daniels fired Buck Showalter. That this was Daniels' doing was made painfully clear by Hicks' absence from the news conference at Ameriquest Field.
When Ken Hitchcock was dismissed, when the late Johnny Oates resigned – Hicks was present and accountable for any and all previous coaching and managerial changes.
"It was a combination of a very busy day in my other business, and I wanted this to be Jon Daniels' press conference," Hicks said by phone. "It's his job."
Hicks joked that he has been able to maintain a lower profile while achieving more success with the Stars. "I'd kind of like to have that same success and the same lower profile with the Rangers, but I haven't been able to do it yet," he said.
But you know Hicks didn't want to dismiss his personal friend. And to paraphrase a certain publicist, Hicks had 5.1 million reasons not to fire Showalter.
Still, if you're a Rangers fan and you want to see this team return to contender status in the American League West, you have to consider this a good thing.
Showalter got the Yankees to the playoffs once in his four years in New York. He got the Diamondbacks into the postseason once during three years at Arizona.
But in four years here, Showalter's teams did not succeed. One winning season in Year Two earned Buck a Manager of the Year award, but there is a very short shelf life for those things.
Rangers players have long grown weary of Showalter's manipulations and what they perceive as his unwillingness to be up front with them. Summers are long and hot enough in Arlington without dealing with the additional heat that Buck puts on his players.
Hicks acknowledged that the distance between players and the manager factored into Daniels' decision.
"I think there's obviously been enough chatter the last couple of years that there were some issues there," Hicks said.
What worked in New York and Arizona failed here, so it was time to move on. I don't believe for a second that Hicks wanted to make this change, but he deserves credit for allowing it to happen.
The previous general manager, John Hart, talked about a culture change but never did much to make it happen. Daniels doesn't talk about changes, he just makes them.
For better or worse.
This one should, in the long run, be the right move.
"I'm very confident we made the right decision," Daniels said. "But on a personal level, it was a very difficult one."
Who does Daniels turn to?
I don't think it's anyone on Showalter's staff. Attendance fell by more than 130,000 in 2006. It's unlikely the team is going to have the financial means to go out and sign another $60 million pitcher as they did with Kevin Millwood last winter. That means it would help if the manager can sell tickets.
Daniels said the manager's marketability is a secondary concern. Hicks may move that up the GM's priority list.
But higher profile managers such as Lou Piniella and Dusty Baker may not be the types that work well with a team that's always going to be moving young players through the lineup and rotation.
So I expect Daniels to look for someone younger. Maybe Oakland third base coach Ron Washington, highly respected in the game, is the answer.
Maybe he's to the Rangers what Avery Johnson is to the Mavericks.
That might be asking for a little too much.
But Daniels' refusal to accept the status quo has sent Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez, Alfonso Soriano, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix, Francisco Cordero, David Dellucci and now Buck Showalter out the door.
Some of those moves didn't work out so spectacularly for Daniels. Some weren't as bad as they may look on paper because they enabled other moves to be made.
Here's betting that a clubhouse energized by a managerial change brings better results than 80-82 in 2007.
Just consider it a good sign that Hicks, who lives 10 houses away from Showalter, didn't let being a good neighbor get in the way of a good baseball decision.
Posted 05 October 2006 - 10:38 AM
By JIM REEVES
Star-Telegram STAFF Writer
On Sunday, as Buck Showalter addressed his team before the season's final game in Seattle, he knew in the back of his mind that there might be more finality to his words than anyone knew.
He knew his future as Rangers manager was up in the air, despite three more years on his contract. As he often says, "I get it."
Tuesday night, at owner Tom Hicks' house, he got it, all right. He got the ax.
That's why Showalter is glad he told the players what was on his heart.
"I talked to some guys individually and thanked them for their effort and their support," he said. "My love for them is unconditional. They didn't have to love me back.
"I told them, 'I had a hell of a seat, guys, and it was a lot of fun watching. I will dwell on the positive and wish the best for each of you.' "
Showalter said that his firing by Hicks and general manager Jon Daniels was a disappointment, but "I'm not naïve. I knew it was a possibility."
If he's bitter about the decision, he's trying hard to hide it.
"I just want the best for the Rangers. I mean that," Showalter said. "I have a lot of respect for Tom and J.D., [Daniels] and I think the fans and the players deserve a new voice. I understand how it works.
"I'm not going to sit around questioning and all that other stuff. They have a fan in me. I'll be pulling for them."
Daniels made the decision to fire Showalter after working with him for a year and Hicks approved it.
"J.D. deserves his own manager. I got forced on him," Showalter said. "Not that he didn't want me, but he deserves somebody he feels really comfortable with, his own guy."
Showalter said it didn't take him long after he arrived at Hicks' house Tuesday night to understand that the main entrée was to be barbecued Buck.
"I told Hicks and Daniels we're among friends here," he said.
"You want to go in a different direction. That's your prerogative and I respect that and I wish the best for you."
The main criticism aimed at Showalter has been that he didn't create a positive environment for the players in the clubhouse. It's not a theory he believes is accurate.
"That stuff...positive environment? I don't respond to it," he said. "A positive environment comes from winning and I didn't provide that.
"Just look at Minnesota and Oakland [two American League playoff teams]. They pitch well and defend well. It's not nearly as complicated as everyone makes it out to be."
Now the Rangers will test another theory. Twice before Showalter has left managerial posts -- he resigned with the New York Yankees and was fired by the Arizona Diamondbacks -- and both teams won World Series championships the following season.
"In New York, I knew they were ready," Showalter said. "At Arizona, I knew they'd been ready for two years. We'd been in the playoffs with both those teams, so we knew we were close.
"Now we'll test the theory that when Buck leaves, teams win championships. I hope the Rangers do. Maybe I'll get a ring this time."
Posted 07 October 2006 - 06:16 PM
By KAT O'BRIEN and JIM REEVES
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITERS
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels discussed Friday his planned process for hiring a new manager. He said he is still sorting through a lengthy list of candidates but hopes to pare that down to five or six to interview shortly.
"We'll narrow the list down to a more manageable initial group of candidates with preliminary interviews with key people in our leadership group," Daniels said. "I'm not going to be the only one to talk to these guys. We'll narrow that down to two, maybe three finalists and have a second round of interviews and maybe [have them] meet with [owner] Tom [Hicks]. I'm hoping we can do this in a couple of weeks. I don't want to drag this out longer than necessary."
Daniels acknowledged that the process could be stretched out if they are pursuing one or more people involved in the postseason. He also said that he had received quite a few calls, mainly suggesting or on behalf of some established managers.
While experience managing a major league club is nice, Daniels said it "is not a prerequisite."
Daniels described the qualities he wants: "The first will be the ability to cultivate a positive and winning environment; facilitate trust with the players; keep players motivated for 162 games, which is easier said than done; be a spokesman for the organization; the X's and O's of in-game management. Every one of them is important, but the in-game management, the X's and O's, is behind the managing people factor."
Rangers bench coach Don Wakamatsu and Nippon Ham (Japan) Fighters manager Trey Hillman are expected to make the short list of candidates, as is Rangers hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, if he is interested in the position. Oakland A's third base coach Ron Washington and Boston Red Sox third base coach DeMarlo Hale could also be candidates, as well as perhaps an unnamed veteran manager or two.
Center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. is serving as a guest analyst on Baseball Tonight for some playoff games. Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells, of Arlington, and Arizona Diamondbacks center fielder Eric Byrnes are working in the same role.
The Rangers and Habitat for Humanity are constructing two homes for North Texas families in the next week.
Four Rangers minor leaguers are playing for the West Oahu CaneFires in the new Hawaiian Winter League: catcher Emerson Frostad, outfielder John Mayberry Jr., middle infielder Jose Vallejo and third baseman John Whittleman.
Posted 07 October 2006 - 06:18 PM
Posted 07 October 2006 - 06:23 PM
Rocky Mountain News (scroll down): "Lou Piniella is in the driver's seat this fall. His name already has surfaced with the Cubs, Nationals and Rangers, and Piniella has said that, after a year in the TV booth, he's ready to get back in uniform."
Washington may talk with Rangers
San Francisco Chronicle (scroll down): "A's third base coach Ron Washington is expected to be asked to interview for the Rangers' managerial opening. Washington already has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Giants' job."
Ex-Twin Washington has stuff to manage
Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse (registration required): "It's going to take an executive who appreciates a candidate with experience, a deep understanding of the game and an ability to talk straight to players to hire Washington. The Texas rumor with Washington was mentioned to the Twins' Torii Hunter during Thursday's workout at the A's ballpark."
Posted 07 October 2006 - 06:27 PM
Daniels faces decision that will make or break his Rangers future
01:05 AM CDT on Friday, October 6, 2006
ARLINGTON – Soon, Jon Daniels will make the decision that defines his tenure with the Rangers.
Make the right choice, and he'll eventually surpass Tom Grieve's 10-year stint as GM, the longest in franchise history. Pick wrong, and Daniels might not last as long as John Hart.
Daniels, though, is not afraid of the moment.
That's good because it means he won't take the safe, politically correct route and hire some big-name manager just to appease Tom Hicks. Lou Piniella or Dusty Baker won't bring back the 135,000 fans the Rangers lost last season. Winning is the only elixir capable of healing this ailing franchise.
The 29-year-old Daniels was an unconventional hire.
Time will tell whether it was a good move, but you have to like a guy who isn't afraid to fire a manager who lives around the corner from Hicks and considers the owner a friend.
Daniels must make a bold hire.
That type of move is the only way for the Rangers to break the spell of mediocrity that has made them inconsequential of late.
No one obsesses over the Rangers. There's no passion for a team that has one playoff win in 35 years and hasn't been to the postseason since 1999.
If the Rangers disappeared today, would anyone circulate a petition to bring them back? Would anyone sign it?
The right hire will make the Rangers relevant again, just like they were in the late '90s when they won three division titles in four seasons and had the Dallas-Fort Worth area buzzing. Even if you didn't like A-Rod, his presence made the Rangers matter.
Daniels can make that happen again.
Buck Showalter, like all micro-managers, eventually lost his team. So hiring anyone remotely linked to Showalter is a bad move.
That should eliminate Don Wakamatsu, who is well respected but as Showalter's bench coach is too closely connected to the former manager. The players would never really trust or commit to him.
The Rangers need a communicator, a manager who will make sure there is no confusion over roles because he leaves nothing to interpretation. Word is too many times Showalter told players what they wanted to hear instead of what they needed to hear.
They need an enthusiastic manager who creates a positive energy that makes players want to arrive at the ballpark soon after they wake up because it's a fun place to be. They need a manager who will ensure Michael Young, Mark Teixeira and Kevin Millwood – the team's core – respect him.
Then everyone else will fall in line.
Too many Rangers, especially the high-profile players, stopped believing in Showalter. When a player such as Young offers no kind words for the outgoing manager, it speaks volumes.
"It's not my job to decide who manages the team," Young said Wednesday. "My only responsibility is to be a good teammate and play to win."
When your best players don't support the manager, it's only a matter of time before he gets fired. When Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, among others, complained privately about Chan Gailey, Jerry Jones fired him despite an 18-14 record and consecutive trips to the playoffs.
A winning background, perhaps a championship, provides the manager with credibility. Whenever Bill Parcells and Avery Johnson implore their teams to do something, the players do it, in part, because they know their coach understands what it takes to win a championship.
Parcells won two Super Bowls as a coach; Johnson won a title as a player.
These Rangers underachieved.
No one figured the Rangers would win 100 games, but Daniels expected better than 80-82. He should have. Eight-five wins wasn't unrealistic.
Every team has injuries, and a $68.2 million payroll is enough to field a winner. Minnesota ($63.4 million) and Oakland ($62.2 million) each made the playoffs with smaller payrolls.
The Rangers finished 13 games behind Oakland. Even if they weren't good enough to beat the Athletics, they should've been in the hunt until the final couple weeks of the season. Instead, they faded in August and spent September pondering what might have been.
Six GMs and managers in the last decade is indicative of a franchise without stability.
Daniels must provide it with this hire or the cycle of mediocrity will continue with no end in sight.
Posted 07 October 2006 - 06:30 PM
By KAT O'BRIEN
STAR-TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER
The day after announcing manager Buck Showalter's firing, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels began searching for Showalter's replacement Thursday. It could be several weeks before he settles on his guy, contrary to reports in Japan.
Some Japanese newspapers had banner headlines saying Trey Hillman, a former Rangers farm director who manages the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan's Pacific League, had an under-the-table agreement to manage the Rangers. Hillman spent Thursday denying the report. He said he has not spoken to the Rangers about the job.
"At this point in time, my primary focus is on what my responsibilities are here with this club," Hillman said. "This is the first time this team has finished first in the last 25 years, and only the second time in franchise history. But certainly, once this is done, if I'm approached, I would certainly welcome an opportunity to be a candidate."
The Fighters are preparing for the playoffs, which begin Saturday.
Daniels has not named any candidates. The Rangers wanted to consider Hillman four years ago when Showalter was hired, but Hillman had already agreed to manage in Japan.
"I'm in my fourth year over here, and I think we've accomplished some nice things," said Hillman, who is from Arlington. "If there's interest [from the Rangers], I'd certainly listen, but if there's not, no harm, no foul. We've started talking about another contract here. I think I'll be managing somewhere."
Rangers bench coach Don Wakamatsu also is expected to be a candidate, Rangers owner Tom Hicks said. Wakamatsu said Wednesday that Daniels had called him, but that they needed to speak more before he commented at length.
"It's a great opportunity -- the minor leagues, the players, the front office," he said.
Rudy Jaramillo is another possibility, if he wants to leave his longtime position as the Rangers' hitting coach. Jaramillo said Thursday he had only briefly spoken to Daniels. Said Jaramillo: "I'm not going to know what to say until I talk to them."
Daniels said finding a good communicator is key in hiring a new manager. He wants to find someone who is good at developing young players such as Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler and Wes Littleton, but also one comfortable with veterans.
"I read speculation of [hiring] a players' manager," Daniels said. "I think that label is thrown around too much. I don't think that's anything tangible."
Daniels said he would recommend Showalter as a manager if asked by another club. However, he also said that teams have different needs at different stages.
Four members of the Rangers' staff are under contract through 2007: Wakamatsu, Jaramillo, pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Dom Chiti. Daniels said he would recommend that third base coach Steve Smith and first base coach Bobby Jones be retained, but that the new manager would be free to decide.
The Rangers held a celebration of life in memory of Judy Johns, the club's longtime director of baseball administration, who passed away Sept. 23. Four Rangers general managers spoke at Thursday's event: Jon Daniels and former GMs Dan O'Brien, Tom Grieve and Doug Melvin.
The Rangers reached agreement with Class A Clinton to keep it as their affiliate in the Midwest League through 2008.
Staff writer Jim Reeves contributed to this report.
Posted 09 October 2006 - 07:04 AM
New York Daily News: "With one year and $7 million remaining on his contract, it is also possible Torre could step aside and take another position within the organization as opposed to being fired outright. If he becomes available, according to a source, the Rangers are expected to be very interested in trying to lure him to Texas to fill the vacancy created by Buck Showalter's dismissal."
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