As the Major League Baseball season begins to wind down with the Royals facing either the Giants or Cardinals (who else?) in the World Series, we finally have a concrete answer as to who will manage the Texas Rangers in 2015, and hopefully, beyond. And it's not the name you're expecting.
As recently as this morning, if you had asked me who would be named manager, I'd have told you that there wasn't a doubt in my mind that it would be Tim Bogar. As a matter of fact, I told a friend just that mere days ago. So when news broke that the Rangers had branched out and will hire Jeff Banister as manager, I was a bit surprised.
I'll be honest. Until today, I hadn't done any research on Banister. I'd seen his name as one of the finalists in the managerial search, but since I had assumed it would be Bogar, I never really gave it a second thought. Upon looking, however, it looks like maybe, just maybe, the Rangers have hired someone that will finally come a bit closer to bridging the gap between the front office philosophy and the game management.
Banister has served as Clint Hurdle's bench coach in Pittsburgh for the last four seasons. Hurdle, of course, was the hitting coach in Texas in 2010, and his time here left an impression, seemingly, on everyone in the organization. So yeah, his recommendation apparently holds some weight, and if Banister ends up being as successful as a manager as Hurdle has been, the Rangers will be just fine.
With all of that said, my only concern with the Banister hire relates back to Tim Bogar. It looks to be more likely than not at this point that Mike Maddux will be back in 2015. With the hiring of Banister, however, that leaves a question mark with Bogar. Where does this leave him? Furthermore, after the Rangers played their best stretch of baseball in the 2014 season under Bogar's guidance, with a plethora of replacement players, no less, I think there has to be at least a little bit of concern about the type of message this sends to the players in the clubhouse. No, I don't think the players are going to not play for Bannister, but I do wonder if there will be some who think, "Is winning not enough?"
It's a small concern, but it's one I do have. Whether it's justified or not is another matter, but there it is.
No formal announcement has been made as of yet, but with your normal beat writers reporting it, that would seem to be a mere formality at this point. Now the front office can refocus its efforts on patching the starting rotation. That, I think, may prove to be a bigger challenge than replacing the winningest manager in franchise history.