How does the old vegetable juice commercial go?
“Wow! I could have had a V8!”?
Maybe the Texas Rangers could have, too.
Wow! They could have had a Joe Maddon.
But we’ll never know, because Jeff Banister was hired as manager of the Rangers one week before Maddon surprisingly left the Tampa Bay Rays.
Perish the notion, however, that you’ll find any buyer’s remorse at this Rangers spring training camp. By all signs, general manager Jon Daniels and his 12-member screening committee got the man they wanted.
Nine days in the desert, hearing Banister’s all-about-that-bass voice, listening to what he has to say, has helped me to understand why they felt the new guy would be the right fit.
Funny, a guy I know once wrote, but I always thought the next manager of the Rangers would be Clint Hurdle. But Hurdle already has a job, and he’s been doing quite well with the Pirates, thank you.
With Hurdle unavailable, I suggested a few months ago that Daniels — allow me to wince here — had settled for Clint Lite.
But there is nothing “lite” about Jeff Banister, I’ve noticed. When Daniels describes him as “a man of tremendous integrity and physical presence,” there is no disputing the latter.
Renaissance manager Maddon would have provided an intriguing contrast, following on the heels of blue-collar Ron Washington. It is hard to imagine, though, Daniels pursuing that partnership, even if the timing had allowed it.
The Rangers are in transition. The back-to-back World Series teams are mostly gone. Half the infield and all of the outfield are new.
You haven’t heard Daniels or the owners use the R-word (rebuilding), because last season’s wave of injuries tore through the roster like a tornado.
With significant players coming back from injuries, the Rangers needed a manager who would buy into a building process that had already begun — not a strong personality who would want to tear it down and put his stamp on it.
As Daniels put it, they needed someone to help “pull the rope.”
Banister, no doubt, will be all over that rope.
After 29 years in the Pirates’ organization, he seems to have a clear idea of the kind of manager he wants to be. To end the idea once and for all, I asked him how he was different from Hurdle.
The question seemed to slightly annoy him.
“I worked in baseball a long time before I worked with Clint,” Banister pointed out. “He has his way of delivering the message, and I have mine.”
More than once these past two weeks, Banister has said that the late Chuck Tanner was a major influence on him.
Tanner, who passed away in 2011, was known as a free-spirited player’s manager who felt — in his own words — that he just needed to keep “one eye and one ear” on the clubhouse. Different players, Tanner said, need to be treated in different ways.
Banister said that same thing last week. But the Rangers aren’t the free-spirited 1979 Pirates. Nor do they seem like the kind of team that will need coddling.
They want to get back to the contender status that they once enjoyed. They want to heal the wounds of 2014.
They, indeed, have a rope to pull. And a big man to help them pull it.
Nothing “lite” about Jeff Banister at all, as it turns out.
Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697