What to Make of Jeff Banister's Tenure in Texas
By: Layten Praytor
Rangers Fire Manager Jeff Banister
The Texas Rangers made a drastic change Friday afternoon, relieving manager Jeff Banister of his duties after nearly four seasons at the helm of the club. During his time in Arlington, Banister accumulated a record of 529-313 for a winning percentage of .509%, while leading the team to two AL West division titles in 2015 and 2016. He was also named American League Manager of the Year in his first season in 2015. Bench coach Don Wakamatsu will serve as the interim manager for the remainder of the season.
The Rangers, of course, are in the middle of a full scale rebuild that the franchise embarked on last summer when they traded away the likes of Yu Darvish and Jonathan Lucroy then continued that trend this summer when Cole Hamels and Keone Kela were shipped away as well. They have essentially patched together a pitching staff all season due to a lack of ability to develop pitching in their farm system.
However, the position player core of the team is actually quite intriguing going forward with Nomar Mazara, Rougned Odor, Joey Gallo, and company. That trio, along with other names such as Jurickson Profar and Ronald Guzman, have shown much growth and maturity this season while facing the rigors of a major league season. While veteran shortstop Elvis Andrus announced recently he would not opt-out of his current contract, it remains to be seen just how much is left in the tank for team leader and future Hall of Famer, Adrian Beltre.
All this to say, when now former manager Jeff Banister was brought in during the winter of 2014 to replace Ron Washington, he inherited a veteran, but injury-riddled roster coming off of a 95 loss season. Before his tenure in Texas, he had spent his entire 30+ year career in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, where he last served as the bench coach under Clint Hurdle.
Although he led the team to the playoffs during his first two seasons the appearances came with disappointing first round exits at the hands of the Toronto Blue Jays both years. In 2017, the club finished with a record of 78-84 and a fourth place finish in the AL West while realizing that their window had effectively closed as the Houston Astros reign began en route to a World Series title. This season, the Rangers made it clear they would initiate the start of a 2-3 year rebuild plan in line up with the arrival of Globe Life Field in 2020. So far, the club has limped to a record of 64-88 and a current fifth place position.
When Banister was hired, he was renowned for his communication skills and ability to communicate effectively with the players in the clubhouse along with executives in the front office. Ironically, that trait is was apparently led to his dismissal this afternoon. Several remarks have come out recently from players about how Banister’s lack of communication about when starting pitchers would get their next start, or whether or not a position player would get either a day off or consistent playing time. And, since baseball players are extreme creatures of habit you can imagine the unrest feeling of not knowing when to prepare could cause players.
Now, Banister did have positive aspects of the past two seasons. He can take some credit in the handling of the Jurickson Profar saga that loomed essentially over the entirety of his tenure. He had made clear from day one that he felt Profar was a big league player, it was just a matter of finding him a role. This season, Profar has been a revelation hitting 18 home runs and driving 74 runs in 555 plate appearances this season while seeing significant playing time at shortstop and third base due to injuries to Andrus and Beltre along with some starts on the opposite side of the infield.
While Banister spent the majority of his coaching career in Pittsburgh in a player development role, I was always skeptical of whether or not he would properly know how to navigate a big league club during seasons such as the past two in Arlington. Yes, he was a fan favorite. Yes, he is fourth all time on Rangers managerial wins list. However, Jon Daniels and the front office felt that they were ready to take the next step in their rebuild and that Jeff Banister was not the voice to oversee the continuation of that process.