Mac Engel

Rangers GM has expanded role outside traditional lines

Jon Daniels, left, could risk undercutting the authority of news manager Jeff Banister if he decides to address the team again in the clubhouse.
Jon Daniels, left, could risk undercutting the authority of news manager Jeff Banister if he decides to address the team again in the clubhouse. Star-Telegram

Jon Daniels did indeed address the Texas Rangers in the clubhouse last summer.

Previously, Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway had reported that the Rangers GM addressed the players with a locker room speech shortly after the All-Star break.

I asked Daniels if he, indeed, had done that, to which he said yes. Then I asked him why.

Jon Daniels: “It was the first time in nine years. I just thought it was appropriate at the time. It was something that [then-manager Ron Washington] and I discussed. I don’t want to get into specifics because it was in the clubhouse. He supported it. I just felt it was the right time to do it.”

Me: Would you do it again?

JD: “Uhmmm...if needed. It’s not something that I looked to do. Outside of extenuating circumstances, up until that point the only time I had addressed the players in the clubhouse was for postseason logistics, or when [Rangers fan] Shannon Stone passed. When [Rangers beat writer] Richard Durrett passed.

“Listen, I spoke from the heart. I spoke for what I thought was important for guys to hear, but I don’t want to get into specifics of what I said.”

Me: It struck me as odd, and is the criticizing of that decision — a GM addressing the players in the clubhouse — valid or fair?

JD: “I had never done it. I know a number of my peers that address their team on a regular basis. I don’t. I think, for me, that is the manager’s role. There were some extenuating circumstances that I felt it was appropriate at that time.”

Here is some free advice: There is no need to do it again, so don’t.

Make of this revelation what you will, but at a minimum, it enhances the perception that this is a GM who has expanded his role outside traditional lines. At a minimum, these things can undercut the role and voice of the manager in the clubhouse.

To some, this is another example of JD going beyond what he should be doing as GM — building a roster. To some, this decision will be viewed as a GM who continues to do what a lot of the new breed of GMs are doing these days by taking on more of a role outside of personnel, and into managing the players and the game itself.

To me, JD just needs to be careful, extenuating circumstances or no. If not, just fire Jeff Banister and make yourself the manager. JD didn’t need to address the players in their domain last summer, and there is no need to unintentionally undercut Banister, who needs time and space to establish his own voice.

There is only one GM who can do this in baseball without question from anybody, and Jon Daniels is not that guy.

Oakland is the one place where the GM, Billy Beane, is the face of the franchise, a Hollywood-enhanced personality whose image was fueled not only by success but a work of selective non-fiction (Moneyball).

In a clubhouse such as Oakland, where Beane is the supreme ruler and treats his manager as the conduit of his own voice and as an expendable commodity, the players know the score. Oakland is the one place where the players will listen because they all know the GM is also the de facto manager. He does not fear their contracts.

With the Rangers, this sort of GM-players clubhouse meeting at the very least could create a degree of confusion and resentment among veterans. It does not matter if JD’s points are valid; they don’t want to hear it from a guy who hasn’t played. It may be shortsighted, but it’s the truth.

Daniels’ authority here can’t be questioned; he has the complete support of owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson. The players know that. The power pyramid of the Rangers’ organization is clear: JD sits at the top.

The power pyramid of a clubhouse, however, should not involve the GM. It’s the manager who sits at the top, and there is no reason to upset that balance or equation. There is no risk alienating players loaded with guaranteed contracts.

But it is 2015, and baseball has changed. Owners go on sports talk shows (Boston), and GMs from Beane to Theo Epstein to JD are household names who do more now than their roles ever previously entailed.

JD said he addressed the team once, and he would do it again if needed.

Don’t bother. Let your manager do it.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog