If there is one thing that the American League Manager of the Year should not worry about, it is being late to the press conference to announce that he has been named Manager of the Year. And yet, Jeff Banister was worried. So much so that he got a speeding ticket on the way to Globe Life Park yesterday. As it turns out he made it to the press conference on time and once he got there, the third Manager of the Year in Rangers history, said all the right things. No surprise there, Jeff Banister usually does.
He did last year when he was being interviewed for the Rangers job by Jon Daniels, Thad Levine, Michael Young and others. The Rangers actually had an heir apparent to Ron Washington last year. Tim Bogar was in his first year as bench coach and all he did was save the Rangers from a 100 loss season. Bogar guided the team to a 14-8 record after the sudden departure of Wash. He was the obvious choice to take the reins. But then along came Banny.
During his interview, the then Pirates bench coach channeled his inner Clint Hurdle. Banny had worked with Clint for four years. He had worked in the Pirates organization for nearly three decades. Jeff knew what a manager of the year looked like, as Hurdle won the National League version with Banny as bench coach in 2013. Still I don’t think Clint could have said it any better than Jeff did yesterday, “It’s an organizational award, I just happen to be the lucky one that sits in the seat and accepts it.”
He also gave lots of credit to the players who did the heavy lifting enroute to the American League West Championship. Still, the hand that this team was dealt, the hand that this rookie manager was dealt, might have caused a weaker man (or a weaker team) to fold. But Banny held his cards in front of his poker face and played on. His hand looked silly when the team started 8-16, but he knew all he needed was one ace to improve his hand. Jon Daniels delivered the ace, AKA Cole Hamels, at the trade deadline and suddenly Banny was all in. So was his team.
The Rangers were as good as any team in baseball after the trade deadline, as Banny got them to believe in themselves. He massaged a bullpen that was remarkably short on experience and took the team to the top of the AL West. As disappointing as game five of the ALDS was, the truth is, any success in the post-season was icing on a cake that almost no one expected. Still Banny wanted more. “There wasn’t a parade in Arlington. So we still have some work to do,” he said.
Maybe next year there will be a parade. If there is, Banny will be waving from the backseat of a convertible. Good thing, if he was driving he might get a ticket.