It’s the Ray Davis & Jon Daniels Show for Rangers

Posted Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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galloway On the baseball calendar, 2013 ended this week.

The Boston Red Sox won the World Series.

The new season, the 2014 season, officially began Thursday.

And although a long, long way from the frantic joy at Fenway Park, 2014 couldn’t have come soon enough for the new baseball brain-duo in Arlington.

General manager Jon Daniels and his self-appointed front-office billionaire sidekick, Ray Davis, are now on the clock.

Memories of 2013 are not pleasant. Nolan Ryan took the knife in the back, and he’s gone, with Davis already settled comfortably in Ryan’s Ballpark office, ready to get his unknown face out there in front of the team.

Meanwhile, there’s a sticky situation awaiting the GM.

Let the record show 2013 was the season when Daniels could do nothing right.

Even the way the Red Sox got to the World Series, and won the World Series, left a stain on Daniels’ résumé.

Historic Fenway Park was rocking Wednesday night with the “Ko-ji … Ko-ji” chant, and, of course, Koji Uehara answered the call once again, because it had been an October when Koji was the stud of all bullpen studs.

Imagine this: The most celebrated Japanese pitcher in the world for 2013 turned out to be the former Ranger, Koji Uehara. And we all thought, for sure, it would be the current Ranger, Yu Darvish.

Not even close.

Koji departed the Rangers, and left even when still wanted here, after the 2012 season, and signed a meager $4.2 million free-agent contract with the Red Sox, who hoped he could be a serviceable middle reliever.

Koji’s goodbye to Texas, according to various members of the Japanese media, came because as a veteran pitcher in his late 30s, he didn’t want to be a teammate of countryman Darvish. Something about Darvish being a young “diva.”

“Until the very end, I never was aware of anything like that,” Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said Thursday. “When it comes to baseball, there’s always a lot of soap opera stuff going on with the Japanese media.

“But what was involved between Yu and Koji, I don’t know. I do know I wanted Koji with us for this season. He pitched lights out for us over the last two months [of 2012]. Plus, he was a pleasant, enthusiastic guy who was a real good teammate.”

But as any Rangers fan watching the Red Sox in this postseason had to be thinking, “Where was that Koji in 2011?”

In particular, where was that Koji in Game 6, ninth inning, World Series, 2011, St. Louis, Mo.?

The nightmare that never ends:

A deer-eyed Nefty Feliz struggling in an attempt to close it out for a World Championship. The line drive to right field that should have been caught by Nellie Cruz. One strike away. Twice. And never-ending heartbreak to follow.

But the Rangers’ Koji wasn’t even on the 2011 World Series roster, and rightfully so. After the July trade with the Orioles, he had been awful, and was even worse in the postseason. The bullpen wasn’t exactly deep for the Rangers, but everyone on the World Series roster appeared to have more to offer than Koji.

Fast forward to today, however, and the trade for Uehara in 2011 became more than just a failed footnote. In that deal, Daniels gave up Chris Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter, who has become an effective bullpen guy for the O’s.

Davis? Lord help us, we don’t want to revisit Davis’ massive power numbers the past two seasons in Baltimore.

The double whammy on that 2011 deal came when Uehara became a World Series star for the Red Sox.

A year and a half later, the Rangers sit here holding a big bag of nothing from the trade.

Maddux, however, wasn’t totally shocked it happened this season as it did for Koji. Maybe surprised, but not shocked:

“When we got Koji in that [2011] trade, we knew his splitter could be a real good out-pitch, and the splitter makes a decent fast ball [90 mph] better. But he could not keep the ball out of the middle of the plate.

“You work on it, you work on it, but the pitch kept finding the middle of the plate at the wrong time. It was frustrating. We come back the next season, and he’s not really all that effective again, at least until around early August.”

Then: boom.

Maddux: “In the last two months [2012], Koji was our best pitcher. The splitter was doing what his splitter should do. He got a lot of swings and a lot of misses. What we saw this season is what we were seeing then, but even better.”

Even though Uehara wanted gone from here after 2012, he was not exactly a hot commodity on the free-agent market. But the Red Sox, attempting to rebuild a failed 2012 club, signed him in early December.

Because of other injuries, Koji became the fourth choice to be the Boston closer at midseason. Suddenly, history-making numbers started to happen. And that continued in the postseason.

Koji was the series MVP when the Red Sox won the pennant against the Tigers. Against the Cardinals, he made five appearances, working 4 2/3 innings, allowing two hits and no runs.

The Red Sox had Mike Napoli making his run-production contributions. They had Koji closing it all out. Two former Rangers from 2012 suddenly with a ring.

Meanwhile, it’s a new season in Arlington, with a new baseball brain-duo. Daniels was anointed as The Man by Davis a year ago this month. But now Davis has attached himself to Daniels’ hip.

The Ray and Jon Show had better be good. There’s a ton of work to do, with questions galore about the 2014 roster.

If it’s any consolation, however, consider it a blessing the total failure of 2013 is officially over.

Randy Galloway, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @sportsdfw

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