BY: Richard W. Humphrey
To the surprise of many, the Rangers named Jeff Banister, not Tim Bogar, to be their new manager. Bogar led the team to a 14-8 record after taking the helm as interim manager when Ron Washington resigned. He was considered a strong favorite to land the job. GM Jon Daniels said later that Bogar did not lose the job. Banister simply overwhelmed them in the interview process and won the job. Banister was introduced at a Friday morning press conference at Globe Life Park. Three players attended the press conference – Derek Holland, Elvis Andrus and Sin-Shoo Choo.
Daniels described the selection process in more detail. He said they screened approximately 40 people to come up with a list of eight candidates to interview. Those included internal candidates Bogar, Mike Maddux, and Steve Buechele; as well as candidates from other organizations – Banister, Tory Lovullo, Kevin Cash, Joe McEwing and Alex Cora. After the initial interviews, the Rangers pared the list to three finalists – Banister, Bogar and Cash. Daniels said that 12 team officials were involved in the interview process. It also included seeing Banister at his home in the Houston area prior to making the decision.
The clue that Bogar was no longer the leader of the pack came on Wednesday when it was tweeted that the coaches were free to interview with other organizations. If Bogar was going to be named manager, he likely would have retained a number of the current coaches. The tweet surely signified that the manager would be someone else, someone that had flexibility in naming his coaching staff.
Banister is 50. He was born in Oklahoma, but grew up in Texas, graduating from LaMarque High School. He has shown a lot of gumption dealing with health issues from an early age. He was diagnosed with cancer in high school and was advised to have his leg amputated. He refused and beat the cancer after seven operations. In junior college, he was involved in a home plate collision that paralyzed him for 10 days; and was told by the doctors that he would never be able to play competitively again. He beat the odds on that one too, coming back to play well enough to earn a scholarship to the University of Houston, where he played well enough to get drafteed by Pittsburgh in the 25th round of the 1986 June Amateur draft.
His professional playing career spanned seven years and included five days in the Major Leagues in which he never took the field and batted once. He beat out an infield single in that at bat to finish with a 1.000 batting average for his Major League career. When the playing career ended, he coached and manageed in the minor leagues until taking over as bench coach of the Pirates during the 2010 season.
Banister came highly recomended by Clint Hurdle, who was the Rangers’ hitting coach in 2010. Hurdle also had a previous association with Jon Daniels early this century in the Colorado Rockies organization. Quite candidly, Hurdle was so impressive in his stint here as hitting coach that he likely would have been tabbed as the Rangers’ manager had he contracturally been available, but he is signed through 2017 with the Pirates.
At the press conference, Banister was asked about his coaching staff, but gave little indication of what the staff will look like. He said that he had spoken with Bogar, who is signed through next season, pitching coach Mike Maddux, and hitting coach Dave Magadan. Third base coach Gary Pettis accepted a position on A. J. Hinch’s coaching staff in Houston. Banister gave no other indication as to his thinking on the coaching staff.
At this point in time, the Rangers are in the mode of bringing young players to the Major Leagues and re-building the winning culture. Banister is viewed as someone that can do both. Certainly at small market Pittsburgh, he has Worked to develop young players. Pittsburgh has made the playoffs the past two seasons as a Wild Card team after failing to play .500 in a season for 20 consecutive years. The Rangers talk boldly about being back in contention next season, and they might; but the real course of the team is the bringing the plethora of top prospects the minor league system is producing to the Major Leagues in the coming seasons; players such as Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, Luke Jackson and Alex Gonzalez, just to name four.
It is generally believed that Ron Washington would have been the manager of the Rangers next year had he not resigned. Daniels has said as much. Washington was getting a pass on the team’s 2014 record because of injuries. The real question though was always that in view of the direction of the team, was Washington the right man to manage the team going forward? Now that he is gone, situations and problems have become known, such that it is painfully obvious that Washington was not the right man. Thankfully for the Rangers and their fans, Washington resigned. Hopefully, Banister is the man the Rangers need to manage the team going forward.