The Texas Rangers have hired Jeff Banister as their new manager, according to multiple reports, and an announcement should be made in the near future by the organization making this official.
Banister has a fascinating story, one that Tyler Kepner wrote about a week ago for the New York Times. He battled cancer as a teenager, was paralyzed for ten days due to a home plate collision as a junior college catcher, ended up getting drafted by the Pirates, legged out an infield single in his lone major league at bat, and has spent his entire career with Pittsburgh, with the last four coming as Clint Hurdle's bench coach.
Banister also featured in a recent Grantland piece about the Pirates' use of sabermetrics of late. I think the Grantland story is something Rangers fans need to read, because I think it lays out the blueprint for what the Rangers front office would like to see happen with Banister in charge.
In Kevin Sherrington's column this morning, he talked about the front office's main issues with Ron Washington being his in-game decision-making and his reluctance to embrace the use of young players at the major league level, there seemingly sometimes being a disconnect between what the front office wanted to see implemented, both strategically and from a player personnel standpoint, and what Wash was doing. One of the things that the Grantland piece emphasizes is the way that the Pirates front office and on-field personnel work together. When you hear Jon Daniels talking about wanting a "partnership" with the manager, you definitely think what he has in mind is something like what is described as going on in Pittsburgh.
As I've mentioned before, I don't think it is a coincidence that the eight men who were interviewed for the Rangers job had no big league managerial experience (other than Tim Bogar's September stint here as interim manager), because I think it is clear the front office wants someone who will come into the position willing to do things the front office's way, someone who is a clean slate, open to buying in to the way the front office wants to run things.
There's been some criticism from certain quarters that Jon Daniels wants to manage the team himself, wants to dictate to the manager what lineups to use and the like. And I don't think there's any question that Daniels -- and the other top folks in the front office -- want there to, at a minimum, to be more acceptance to incorporating the front office's, shall we say, suggestions in regards to lineup, strategy and the like, than there has been from the last two managers.
Of course, it only makes sense that the front office and the on-field personnel be on the same page in regards to organizational philosophy and the like. But what the Rangers front office appears to be implementing, in regards to a more "top-down" model of on-field decision-making, appears to be the way the game is going. There is so much more data available now, so much more information, that front offices are looking more for managers who are willing to take direction. It is no longer the model of, the front office decides who joins the organization, and the manager decides who makes the team and how to use the guys on hand. And there's no question the front office seemed to be looking for someone comfortable with the folks in the front office having more say, and providing more direction, than has been the norm in years past.
One other thing that comes to mind...during Jon Daniels' tenure as g.m., the Rangers have rarely played it safe. Be it trading their top pitching prospect, John Danks, for another team's top young pitcher, or dealing for a troubled but talented player like Josh Hamilton, or bidding over $50 million for a Japanese pitcher, or committing nine figures to Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo this past offseason, this organization has shown a high tolerance for risk.
And the Banister hire reflects that. The safe thing, the easy thing, would have been to hire Tim Bogar. He was already here, he's a highly regarded bench coach seen as a future manager, he won games and earned respect after taking over for Ron Washington. No one would have said anything bad about the decision to hire Bogar. And Bogar probably would have been a good hire.
But the Rangers didn't choose the easy path. And Banister will now have the opportunity to show that this was a risk worth taking.
- Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers manager: Rangers to hire Banister, per Ken Rosenthal
- Texas Rangers rumors: Tim Bogar, Kevin Cash and Jeff Banister finalists for manager job
- Poll -- Which of the final three candidates should be the Rangers' next manager?
- Texas Rangers reportedly granted permission to interview Chili Davis
- Andrew Friedman leaving Tampa Bay for the Dodgers