The Astros have the reputation to live down to. But, remember, the Rangers had the bigger ditch to crawl out of.
And because he’s a rookie with an uncanny combination of savvy analytics, keen gut and unwavering optimism, Jeff Banister should be your 2015 American League Manager of the Year.
Yes, over Houston’s A.J. Hinch. Yes, over Minnesota’s Paul Molitor and the Yankees’ Joe Girardi and over everybody else you can throw at the award.
To appreciate where Banister has the Rangers, you have to remember where they were when he took over. They – not the Astros, mind you – had the worst record in the AL last season at 67-95. Then in Spring Training he lost star 2nd baseman Jurickson Profar and pitching ace Yu Darvish to season-ending injuries. Then Opening Day starter Derek Holland was abruptly lost for months and closer Neftali Feliz flamed out and was released.
The Rangers started 8-16 and it seemed as though Las Vegas’ pre-season win projection of 77 was a tad high. Some of us wrote off the Rangers while we were writing off our tax returns.
But somehow Banister never wavered. I guess you grow stubborn when cancer almost takes your leg and you break your neck in a home-plate collision.
“Never Ever Quit” became his motto as much as “That The Way Baseball Go” belonged to former manager Ron Washington. There were T-shirts. There was belief. And then there was an epic comeback.
The Rangers were 42-46 at the All-Star break and had the minimum representation in the game with Prince Fielder. But Holland came back. Shawn Tolleson became a reliable closer. Shin-Soo Choo started hitting. Fielder accepted his DH role. Adrian Beltre returned to being Adrian Beltre. And the Rangers traded for ace Cole Hamels.
Result? They went 46-28 in the second half, rallying from nine games behind the Astros in August to win the AL West on the season’s final Sunday.
Houston, evidenced by its Wild-Card win over the Yankees, has enjoyed a remarkable season. But not as surprising as the Rangers.
Banister has led the Rangers from worse depths … and to greater heights.
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.