Gil LeBreton

Rangers GM Daniels settles for ‘Clint Lite’ as new manager

By Gil LeBreton -

October 16, 2014 09:44 PM

Funny, but I always thought the next manager of the Texas Rangers was going to be Clint Hurdle.

Little did I realize, four years ago, that Hurdle would soon have a tall, Texas-bred Doppelganger.

A sort of Clint Lite.

If that’s what general manager Jon Daniels wanted, fine. In Jeff Banister, Hurdle’s bench coach in Pittsburgh for the past four years, he got his man.

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Daniels said Thursday that a group of 12 — from every corner of the Rangers organization, including past players — helped him to make the decision.

“It was a very collaborative and challenging process,” Daniels said.

Funny, though, how Daniels, whom I thought four years ago would one day hire Hurdle as manager, ended up after all that collaboration with the guy that Hurdle himself recommended for the job.

It wasn’t that interim manager Tim Bogar lost the job during the interview process, Daniels said, but rather Banister showed himself to be “the right fit, the right guy.”

Among the five criteria that Daniels said the club looked at was “organizational partnership.” Banister was described as the kind of guy who can “get everyone involved with how to pull one end of the rope.”

The line, though Daniels didn’t say it, suggested that there have been times in recent seasons when the rope might have been more contrarily tugged.

Both Banister and Daniels, therefore, are going to have to work hard to dispel the notion that the new manager was hired because he displayed a willingness to tell the GM what he wants to hear.

It happens. It even happens, maybe, when the general manager said he was looking for a manager who can “make tough decisions and ask tough questions.”

Banister brings with him a compelling story — a cancer survivor who needed seven leg surgeries while in high school, followed by 10 days of partial paralysis in college after a collision at home plate. Ron Washington, it is worth noting, had a powerful back story as well — career baseball man, Katrina survivor.

Both, coincidentally, were not the favorites to become the Rangers manager when their respective interview processes began.

Maybe JD just likes a good story. But I’ll give Daniels more credit than that.

Instead, the thing that nags me about the whole process — with its interview committee and its “vetting” and where Bogar didn’t quite fit in — is how all of the final candidates seemed to be first-year managers.

Daniels countered Thursday that their initial group of “over 40” candidates did include some names from “the universe of sitting managers.”

Why hire a protégé of Hurdle, I asked Daniels, when the Rangers could have just tried to hire Hurdle?

“First, I wasn’t looking for a protégé of anybody,” he said, somewhat testily.

As for the first-time managers, Daniels answered, “Ultimately, for a variety of reasons, this is the group we felt most comfortable with. Nothing more than that.”

Hurdle, for the record, appears to have found a comfortable home and family situation in Pittsburgh. He’s also taken the Pirates to the playoffs these past two seasons, while the Rangers have sat home.

Other than old friend Hurdle, however, a “sitting manager” — Ron Gardenhire, for example — likely would have brought with him old habits and stubborn viewpoints. Daniels, 37, didn’t need a manager who would go around calling him “Sonny.”

In the end, though, two phrases that Daniels used Thursday to describe Banister stood out in the new manager’s résumé.

“He’s a man of tremendous integrity and physical presence,” Daniels said.

He added, “It’s important for me to say Jeff is very much his own man.”

If that is, indeed, what Daniels and the Rangers wanted, fine.