The last time the Rangers were in the market for a manager one of the leading candidates was a Texan who played collegiately at UTA and had great success managing teams in Japan. Instead of hiring the safe choice, Trey Hillman, the Rangers hired a long-shot named Ron Washington. Hillman got a shot at managing in 2008 with Kansas City but did not have anywhere near the success that Wash had here.
It is against that backdrop that we consider the latest hire by Jon Daniels. The Rangers will announce today that they have hired Jeff Bannister to be the 18th full-time manager in club history. Like Hillman he is a Texan, like Wash he is not the safe choice.
I used this space a few weeks ago to suggest that the Rangers did not need to go outside of the organization to find a new manager. I still believe that to be true, there were three great candidates in the organization. Foremost among them was Tim Bogar, who lead the team to a 14-8 record during his 22-game September audition. I actually feel bad for Bogar, but all you can do is what you can do, and he did everything in his power to secure the position. This is actually where it gets a bit scary because Bogar will be a manager someday, and if history is any indicator he will be a very good one.
The reality is that Bogar did not do anything wrong, so that means Bannister must have done a lot of things right. We know this; he has spent the last 4 years sitting beside Clint Hurdle. The Rangers front office leaders have tremendous respect for Hurdle. JD and Thad Levine both spent time in the Rockies organization where Hurdle cut his managerial teeth. Then he came here and cast a huge shadow over the 2010 Rangers as the Rangers hitting coach. Is Bannister a Clint Hurdle starter kit? I’m not sure because I haven’t met him yet, but the smart money says he is.
Hurdle’s greatest attribute is personality. When he walks in a room you notice. Bannister shares that quality too, he’s a big man with a big personality. Some of the things that Hurdle has implemented in Pittsburgh could become staples in the Rangers organization too. Things like a player council that will be encouraged to bring complaints to the manager during monthly meetings. Or asking the assistant coaches to offer regular praise and criticism of the job the manager is doing. Hurdle also has an intimate working knowledge of the Pirates minor league system. Finally, Hurdle has married the old school approach with modern day analytics as well as any manager in the game.
In short, Bannister must have blown them away in the interview process because entering the search Bogar had a distinct advantage. Only time will tell if JD has made the right choice this time. But know this, no one wants Bannister to succeed more than Jon Daniels.