2016 Position Preview – The Staff

The winter between 2014 and 2015 was ready to be a highly interesting one. After longtime manager Ron Washington, who had led the Texas Rangers to their first two World Series appearances in franchise history, stepped away from the game he loved late in 2014, the reigns were handed to his bench coach Tim Bogar. Bogar did admirably in the last 22 games of the season, going 14-8, and many thought the analytically-minded Bogar would end up inheriting the helm of Jon Daniels’ ball club. But along came a square-jawed, soft-steel-eyed man, who brought the analytic mind of the new wave of baseball, the respect for the game and its players that was commanded by the position of a new manager and the willingness to incorporate some unconventional methods to put the best team on the field.

In 2015: Jeff Banister came out of nowhere. A cancer and paralysis survivor, twenty year veteran of Major League coaching experience, Banister had served under former Rangers’ hitting coach Clint Hurdle as they commandeered the Pittsburgh Pirates to consecutive playoff appearances. Still, public sentiment was to go with Bogar, who they knew, instead of Banister. That quickly changed with his first press conference.

Referring to his players consistently as “men” and promising to build trust with his players and get them to play with heightened, but controlled emotion, Banister quickly won over the fans and the clubhouse, prompting several to liken him to the former skipper, Ron Washington. Given the ability to choose his own staff, Banister asked one question of Jon Daniels about his personnel: Who was ready to take the next step and make an impression on the big league club? Returning to the club were heralded pitching coach Mike Maddux, bullpen coach Andy Hawkins and hitting coaches Dave Magadan and Bobby Jones. Banister’s decisions on the rest of his staff included bringing up former Texas Rangers third baseman and six-year Minor League manager Steve Buechele to be his bench coach, former Rangers catcher and catching instructor Hector Ortiz as his first base coach, and Jayce Tingler to be the newly-created Major League field coordinator, designed to be a secondary bench coach of sorts, analyzing defensive possibilities and coaching outfield and baserunning. From outside the organization, Banister brought on former Pirates and Nationals coach Tony Beasley.

The results couldn’t be seen in the first month and a half. The team went 7-14 in April, and as Banister told the fans at the Winter Caravan, his wife started to question whether the “For Sale” sign should go back up in front of their new house.

That wasn’t Banister’s message, though. His message was #NeverEverQuit.

The slogan, which had started off as a nice idea for a marketing campaign, began to take hold of the club. Banister’s team responded in kind, going 19-11 in May and 14-13 in June. He and his coaches were able to get the best out of players that nobody expected anything from – Wandy RodriguezChi-Chi GonzalezDeLino DeShields, even Tommy Field for his short time with the team. Despite a losing record in July, Jon Daniels saw enough in his team to make the major acquisitions that took the team from scrappy and unlikely to fierce and competitive.

A large driving force in that was the voice of the team’s manager – Jeff Banister: the man who never asks his players to be more than they are, just to step up when the situation called for it and be themselves.

The result? The Texas Rangers are now defending American League West Champions, and Jeff Banister was named the American League Manager of the Year.

In 2016: A few surprising coaching decisions were made for 2016. Mike Maddux, the Rangers’ long-time pitching coach looked to be all on-board to return for 2016. Maddux, however, did want to see what other opportunities were outside of Texas; as time came near for a decision to be made on his position, Maddux was still unwilling to commit to anything with Texas at that moment. The Rangers made the decision to free him up a little more and announced that a new pitching coach would be with the organization. Maddux has since taken the pitching coach job with the Washington Nationals.

Bullpen coach Andy Hawkins also left the organization, looking to pursue a higher position. Since then, he has taken the pitching coach position for the Omaha Storm Chasers, the Kansas City Royals’ Triple-A affiliate. Hitting coach Dave Magadan wanted to look for a job closer to his home in Florida. When those positions didn’t materialize, he took the job as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ hitting coach.

For bullpen coach, the Rangers promoted Triple-A pitching coach Brad Holman to the Major League staff. The recipient of the 2013 Player Development Man of the Year, Holman has developed a reputation for working magic with the pitchers that come to him. With so many pitchers going into their first full seasons removed from surgery, Holman’s presence at the Major League level will be invaluable.

With those other two positions open, the Rangers turned to outside help.

15-year Major League pitcher and former Houston Astros special assistant and pitching coach Doug Brocail was offered the job as pitching coach. Here was a man with experience in the Rangers organization, as a pitching coach, and someone that could help enforce the ideals of Jeff Banister’s mentality about pitching – utilizing both sides of the plate, pitching inside when necessary, and attacking the low end of the strike zone.

Joining the club as the team’s hitting coach is former Chicago Cubs special assistant and minor league hitting instructor Anthony Iapoce. Iapoce came with a lot of credential from helping the young Chicago Cubs’ standouts – Kris BryantKyle Schwarber and others – develop into legitimate, Major League hitters. With Bobby Jones moving to the position of Replay Coordinator, Triple-A hitting instructor Justin Mashore will be assisting Iapoce at the Major League level.

As for Banister?

The “Richard Durrett” three questions at this position:

  1. What excites you or worries you about the change in both hitting and pitching coaches? Was it a mistake to let Mike Maddux go?
  2. What are you expecting out of Jeff Banister’s sophomore effort in the Manager’s seat? Does he have another Manager of the Year award in him?
  3. What player or players stand to benefit most from the changes in the coaching staff?

With position previews all wrapped up here at Shutdown Inning, it’s time to focus on the season. Pitchers and Catchers report next week, folks. Time to keep pissing people off.

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

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