Texas Rangers fire Banister after consecutive losing seasons
By STEPHEN HAWKINS, AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Texas Rangers fired manager Jeff Banister on Friday after the team stumbled to its first consecutive losing records in 10 years after winning AL West titles in each of his first two seasons.
Texas announced the move with 10 games left in Banister’s fourth season, with general manager Jon Daniels saying the record was not the reason and that the team needed a “new voice from leadership.”
In a season when the focus turned to the development of their younger players, the Rangers had a 64-88 record heading into the Friday night’s game against Seattle to open the final home series of the year. They had lost four in a row and 11 of 15.
Bench coach Don Wakamatsu will serve as interim manager for the remainder of the season, starting with the three-game series against the Mariners. The Rangers will finish the season on the road next week against the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle.
Daniels said he informed the 54-year-old Banister of the decision earlier Friday. Banister was under contract through next season.
While Daniels reiterated that Banister was the right fit for the position when he was hired, the GM said that has changed nearly four years later.
“We’re in a different spot now, a different spot than when he was hired,” Daniels said.
“This was not an easy decision and comes after a long period of evaluation,” he said. “Once this conclusion was reached, I felt it was appropriate to make the move now.”
Daniels described Banister as emotional when they spoke earlier in the day.
Banister was hired in November 2014 to replace Ron Washington, the manager who led the Rangers to their only World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011 before his abrupt resignation for personal reasons late in the 2014 season. Banister had a 325-313 record in his first managerial job. The Rangers lost to Toronto in the AL Division Series after their AL West titles in both 2015 and 2016.
The Rangers were 88-74 in Banister’s managerial debut in 2015, and matched a team record with an American League-high 95 wins in 2016. They slipped to 78-84 last season, though weren’t eliminated from AL wild-card contention until the final week of the season.
Wakamatsu rejoined the Rangers last November after four seasons as the bench coach in Kansas City. He previously served on the Rangers staff from 2003-07, was a candidate when Washington was hired and is expected to be a candidate again.
“Yeah, I’d like to, absolutely,” said Wakamatsu, who Banister approached last offseason about being his bench coach. “It’s an emotional time for me. … I’m still trying to process a lot of that right now, and focus on the next 10 days and see how we can finish strong.”
The Rangers have seven position players age 25 or younger who have gotten at least 300 at-bats this season.
Texas traded pending free agent pitcher Yu Darvish to the Los Angeles Dodgers midway through the 2017 season, and this year traded Cole Hamels to the Chicago Cubs even though the Rangers had a club option on the left-hander for next season. The Rangers also traded closer Keone Kela at this season’s non-waiver trade deadline, and also dealt away veteran relievers Jake Diekman and Jesse Chavez.
Mike Minor, who was a full-time reliever in Kansas City last year after missing two full seasons because of injury, is the only pitcher who began this season in the Rangers starting rotation and is still in it.
The last time the Rangers had finished consecutive seasons with losing records was 2005-08, before going 87-75 in 2009. They then had their two World Series seasons before losing the AL’s first one-and-done wildcard game in 2012, and losing to Tampa Bay in a wildcard tiebreaker to end the 2013 regular season.
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