*The following conversation may or may not have taken place between Rangers assistant GM, Thad Levine and Astros owner Jim Crane, over a vacant GM position.
Thad Levine: Hey, Jim. This is Thad, I gotcha here on a conference ca-
Jim Crane: Hey Thad, I knew you would call.
Thad: That’s what I wanted to talk to you about, I saw a report that I was interested in taking your GM job.
Jim: Thad. Did I ever tell you what I was gonna do if Mark and me woulda won the bid for the Rangers?
Thad: No, this is the first time we’ve ever talked.
Jim: Yeah, I was gonna can that twerp, JD, and give you his job.
Thad: (silently looks at JD and shakes his head)
JD: (sitting at the head of the table, stroking the Silver Boot in his lap, laughing)
Jim: (laughs) Yeah I though that was gonna be pretty funny too.
Jim: So you called because you wanna run my Astros.
Thad: That IS what I am calling about.
Jim: Well I just can’t give you the job, you gotta earn it
Jim: Say Thad, did you know our ballpark down here is AC’d?
Thad: Ummm.. Yeah. I knew that. Been there several times.
Jim: Well, when you take the job, I’ll even let you set the temperature as hot, or as cold as you want it, can’t do that in Arlington, can ya? (shoots an imaginary hand-pistol at his computer as he props his feet on his desk)
Thad: I DON’T WANT THE JOB!
Jim: You’re kidding!
Thad: The truth is, I’d rather be the #2 guy for the Rangers than run the show in Houston.
Jim: Wh- what? What do I do now?
Thad: I don’t know Jim, it’s your team, do whatever you want.
Jim: Well, I really prefer (Andrew) Friedman anyways but, if you don’t interview, I’ll have even less leverage.
Thad: (looks at his watch)
Jim: You just gotta interview Thad. Please!
Thad: Absolutely not, Jim, I gotta g–
Jim: Can this be your interview, then? Can I just tell everybody that I just interviewed you and it went well?
Thad: (ends call, laughs hysterically with JD, as they share a drink from the Silver Boot)
Jim: Thad… Thad…. Are ya there?
Jim: (slams the phone down)
*Ok so they probably didn’t talk to each other that way, but you could imagine what it would be like if they did, right?
Mike Maddux spurned the Cubs to return to Texas and brought his Cy Young award-winning brother, Greg, with him. I’m not sure if Thad has a Hall-of-Fame caliber brother to bring back to Arlington, but I’m not holding my breath.
Other teams around the league are trying to emulate what the Rangers have built; thus they will go after the Rangers top personnel. Fear not. The players on the field are the cornerstones of the franchise, not Levine, A.J. Preller or even Jon Daniels. If you hire away a building’s architect, the building will remain standing.
Furthermore, Levine and Preller should have been offered larger roles with other organizations years ago. The Rangers are fortunate to still have them. You would have to assume the Rangers have been grooming replacements, also for multiple seasons. Fear not, the Rangers have more than one or two quality executives to lean on for baseball decisions. The bus driver is still the same (JD) the passengers just may transfer to other buses.
The on-field roster is also without immunity when the vultures come to try to pick away at the pack leader. The Rangers haven’t been over the $100 payroll threshold since the A-Rod days. Inversely of that period, the Rangers will cross that payroll line this season to field a complete team instead of “A-Rod and 24 kids”.
This is the most difficult task for front offices. Building a team is hard to do; keeping it together is much harder. The salaries and ages rise as players skills diminish. JD has to pick the right guys to keep and cut lose, and trade and trade for. Each move is magnified and has ripple effects.
For example, many fans want Prince Fielder. If you add him, his contract (and weight) you have a lot to balance going forward. You would likely have to say your good-byes to Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton and/or Nelson Cruz. Do you still want Fielder if those are the casualties? You cannot look at each deal in a vacuum, free agent contracts involve much more than just money.
You cannot keep everyone, nor should you. Look at the Philadelphia Phillies, they looked much like the Rangers, back-to-back World Series appearances. They signed Cliff Lee, acquired Roy Halladay, resigned Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. They kept their core, but they have already aged quickly. They kept everybody and now their stuck with everybody.
The Rangers are not set up for years to come, no one is. The rosters are constructed game-by-game and year-by-year. The window shuts on your fingers at the tear of an ACL or throwing shoulder and is thrown open again with the arrival of top prospects and players realizing their potential. Year-by-year.
JD has proven he can make spaghetti, and make a fine batch at that. Let’s see what he can make when the ingredients change on him. This is where JD will truly earn his keep as the Rangers’ chef.. er GM.