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 following AL West titles in each of his first two seasons.
Texas announced the move with 10 games left in Banister’s fourth season, and general manager Jon Daniels said the decision wasn’t based on the record.
“There are times when you’re looking for a new voice, and the new voice for the leadership,” Daniels said. “Jeff did a very good job for us. Ton of passion and energy and care for everybody involved. … We just made a decision that a new voice at this point was needed.”
In a season when the focus turned to the development of their younger players, the Rangers took a 64-88 record 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 on the road next week against the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle.
Banister became the third manager in the majors to be fired this season, along with Mike Matheny of St. Louis and Bryan Price of Cincinnati.
Daniels informed the 54-year-old Banister of the decision earlier Friday. Banister was under contract through next season.
While reiterating that Banister was the right fit when hired, Daniels said that has changed nearly four years later. The GM said it wasn’t an easy decision, and came after a long period of evaluation.
“We’re in a different spot now, a different spot than when he was hired,” Daniels said
Banister released a statement thanking Rangers ownership and Daniels for giving him the opportunity, and thanked his assistant coaches and the players.
“We had some great times here, but it doesn’t last forever,” Banister said. “Certainly I am disappointed that I was not able to finish the job. But this has been the experience of a lifetime.”
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, who had a pinch-hit single in his only big league at-bat for Pittsburgh in 1991, had a 325-313 record in his first managerial job. The Rangers lost to Toronto in the Division Series after his AL West titles.
“I certainly regret that we were not able to make a deeper playoff run for you in 2015 and 2016,” Banister said in a portion of his statement addressed to Rangers fans, thanking them for their support over the years.
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 year, but weren’t eliminated from AL wild-card contention until the final week of the season.
Adrian Beltre, baseball’s active career hits leader (3,159) in his 21st big league season, said he didn’t have any problems communicating with Banister.
“Obviously different players, different coaches have different ways of communicating and expressing what they want to do,” Beltre said. “Whatever happens in this clubhouse is going to stay in here … but I’m pretty sure different players had different opinions.”
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 Daniels hired Washington after the 2006 season 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.”
Seattle went 127-147 with Wakamatsu as its manager in 2009 and until August 2010.
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 wild-card game in 2012, and losing to Tampa Bay in a wild-card tiebreaker to end the 2013 regular season.
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