Jon Daniels fell on the grenade that many Texas Rangers fans wanted to see him on Friday afternoon.
The 2019 season — the 64-88 record, the rebuilding plan, the trades of good players for shot-in-the-dark prospects — is his fault and responsibility.
Jeff Banister was playing with the hand he was dealt and following the long-range plan. But it was determined the past few weeks and for good Friday morning that Banister was no longer part of the plan.
The 2015 American League Manager of the Year was fired 10 games short of his fourth full season as the Rangers seek a new leader to take them through their rebuild. Banister’s voice was either falling on deaf ears or being received the wrong way by the players who will make or break future Rangers teams.
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A change had to be made, Daniels said, and the next manager, the 19th full-time manager in Rangers history, will be have a different communication style.
“I’m not ready to lay out the blueprint. We are not there yet,” Daniels said. “There is an element to what the voice is and what the message is. There is also an element to the style and how it is received and how it is responded to. All that will be taken into consideration.”
A list of candidates to replace Banister, who had one year remaining on his contract, likely has been compiled. The past two managers Daniels has hired, Ron Washington and Banister, were both in their early 50s. The trend in MLB of late has been to hire young managers who haven’t been far removed from their playing careers.
Daniels said that he isn’t trying to copy what any team has done. While Daniels didn’t lay out many specifics on the qualities the next manager will have, third baseman Adrian Beltre did.
“For me it’s just to make sure that you get players together, find a way to get every player comfortable, communicate well, everybody pull to the same side, and have that ability to find a way to win ballgames,” said Beltre, who is considering retirement after the season. “I know that managers don’t play, but sometimes you need to put the right pieces in the right spot to make that happen and find a way to get the best out of players.”
Sources said Thursday that a rift between the players and the manager, rooted in communication issues, had developed — not just this season but in past campaigns. The players also had become convinced that their interests weren’t Banister’s No. 1 interest.
It was part of another issue: Players felt that Banister didn’t always have their backs and too often had thrown them under the bus publicly.
“Everybody likes different things, and it’s different places we’re all coming from,” outfielder Shin-Soo Choo said. “It’s hard to make everybody happy. I think Banny tried more communication. Some people liked it. Some people didn’t it.”
Banister wasn’t as much of player’s manager as Washington was. The thought across baseball is that a manager’s No. 1 job is to support each player, 1 through 25. Too often, Rangers players since 2015 have felt that Banister has expected the opposite.
Only nine players, and only two of them pitchers, played under Washington, so this isn’t a large group of players pining for the return of the Rangers’ all-time winningest manager.
Daniels said that he did not seek input from any of the current Rangers.
“Through different conversations, you are aware of how different people feel about things,” Daniels said. “But I did not talk to any players directly.”
Daniels named first-year bench coach Don Wakamatsu as interim manager and said that Wakamatsu will be a candidate to replace Banister. Wakamatsu was a finalist for the manager’s job in 2006 and was considered the runner-up to Washington.
Banister was hired after the 2014 season to replace Washington, who resigned abruptly in September. The Rangers won the American League West title in Banister’s first season in 2015, rallying past the Houston Astros and seizing on Banister’s #nevereverquit mantra.
The Rangers repeated as West champs in 2016 and had the league’s best record, but for the second straight season were ousted from the AL Division Series by the Toronto Blue Jays. After winning the first two games in 2015, the Rangers lost their next six ALDS games to the Blue Jays.
The Rangers’ West reign ended last season, though they weren’t eliminated from postseason contention until the final week of the season.
They entered this season with a reduced payroll and a lot needed to go right for them to contend. Things went south quickly, with injuries a contributing factor, and by June the Rangers were fully engaged in a “development” mode, Daniels said.
Banister was on board with the challenge.
“I want to thank Rangers ownership and Jon Daniels for giving me this opportunity,” Banister said in a statement. “We had some great times here, but it doesn’t last forever. I also want to thank the coaches, field staff, and especially the players who made it an honor for me to wear the Rangers uniform.
“And to the fans, I can’t tell you how much I have appreciated your support and kind words over the last four years. I certainly regret that we were not able to make a deeper playoff run for you in 2015 and 2016.
“Certainly I am disappointed that I was not able to finish the job. But this has been the experience of a lifetime. Thank you.”
With the Rangers trying to develop winning players and win the World Series that neither Washington nor Banister could bring home, they want to make sure the message is heard.
That was no longer the case with Banister.