T.R.’s Memoirs: How Jon Daniels came to lead Rangers’ most successful era (Part 3)
(AP photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Editor’s note: T.R. Sullivan covered the Texas Rangers over 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.com and is sharing his “memoirs” with this newsletter.
In this six-part installment, Sullivan covers Jon Daniels 17 years as Rangers general manager. In Part 3, the Rangers’ march toward the World Series took some disturbing turns along the way.
The Rangers started off the 2008 season badly. They lost nine of their first 16 games, then lost seven in a row. They were 7-16 on Friday, April 25, when they opened a three-game series against the Twins at the Ballpark.
That afternoon, Daniels, team president Nolan Ryan and owner Tom Hicks met for lunch in Dallas. The No. 1 topic of conversation was manager Ron Washington.
Hicks was not happy and he made that clear in a text message exchange with me that night. The manager was clearly in trouble. Daniels still supported him but Ryan was the unknown. There was no doubt Ryan wasn’t sold on Washington as a Major League manager at this point, but he wasn’t too eager to make a change so early in his regime.
“I think the expectation from ownership is we need to turn this around,” Daniels said. “That’s on me, that’s on Ron and the coaching staff. We’ve got to address it. We’ve got to get better.”
The Rangers won two out of three from the Twins that weekend. On Monday, Hicks and I talked by text message again.
“You feel better?” I asked.
“No,” Hicks said. “Do you?”
Daniels? He was tired of all the speculation.
“Just let the man do his job,” Daniels said.
Washington wasn’t the only one in trouble during the 2008 season. Daniels was, too. One trade put him on the “hot seat” with the owner and the fans.
On Dec. 23, 2006, Daniels traded John Danks and two other pitchers to the White Sox for right-hander Brandon McCarthy. Danks had been the Rangers top draft pick in 2003 had yet to reach the big leagues. McCarthy, 23, had two years of big-league experience and the Rangers saw him as a front-end starter.
Two years later, in 2008, Danks was a 12-game winner on a division championship team and McCarthy was damaged goods, battling shoulder problems.
“We have made some mistakes, and that was clearly the biggest one we made,” Hicks told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“That wasn’t JD. Our staff made the judgment that Danks was two years away and they were absolutely wrong. The comforting thing is we have a new leader, and if Nolan had been there, we would have never done [the Danks deal]. And we will never trade a No. 1 pick, a left-handed pitcher again.”
The Rangers recovered from their terrible start to go 79-83 in 2008. That left them with eight losing seasons in their last nine years. Daniels and Washington survived, but there was no doubt who was in charge of the organization.
The guy who was on his way out was Hicks. The Rangers were headed for bankruptcy.
Oh … and that vow of never trading a No. 1 pick again? That didn’t last long either.