When first-year manager Alex Cora and the Boston Red Sox hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy on Sunday night in Los Angeles after defeating the Dodgers in five games, it should have stung for Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. The 40 year-old is in the middle of his third managerial search of his near thirteen year tenure with Texas. In 2014, before hiring the now-fired Jeff Banister, Daniels interviewed Cora for the Rangers manager position. Obviously Daniels passed on the 39 year-old Cora and went with a man he would go on to fire in less than four years.
The Rangers have had a very long list of candidates for their open manager position in the last four weeks. It makes sense. Jon Daniels cannot afford to leave any stone unturned because a misstep with this hire could be the mistake loses him his job.
The names who have leaked as interviewees have been the likes of current interim manager Don Wakamatsu, former Texas catcher Rod Barajas and newly-hired Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. A new name entered the fray last week when former major league third baseman Eric Chavez was interviewed by the Rangers front office. Similar to a lot of Rangers fans in their mid-twenties, I was introduced to baseball when the Oakland A’s of the early 2000’s were in their “Moneyball” heyday and Miguel Tejada, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and even Chavez were the main faces of that era.
While I hadn’t previously thought of Chavez as a possibility, once I heard his name and thought of his possible fit, I was ready to sign the contract for him.
On December 7th, Eric Chavez will turn 41. With the current World Series winner having a 43 year-old manager in Alex Cora, the back-to-back National League champion Dodgers hiring their current manager Dave Roberts back in 2015 when he was 43, and Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch being just 40 when the Astros hired him in 2014, this seems like the right direction to go with a manager these days.
The typical Major League player in undeniably changing. They’re younger, make more money sooner than ever and probably have a bit more personality and/or entitlement than previous generations of players. They likely don’t love a 50 or 60 something year-old not relating to them about the issues they go through as a big leaguer in 2018.
While Eric Chavez is long-removed from his prime playing days, there are still plenty of players in baseball today who have played against him and are still very aware of what he has done.
Chavez, while never an All Star, won six consecutive American League Gold Gloves at third base from 2001-2006 and finished in the top twenty in American League MVP voting in 2002 and 2003 thanks to two consecutive seasons of over 100+ runs batted in and OPS’s of over .860.
Don’t you think that Jurickson Profar, this team’s likely starting third baseman in 2019, would love to be able to work with a six-time Gold Glover at his position day in and day out to help him develop his defensive game?
I think a message from a player of that magnitude can go a bit further in the dog days of summer more than a message from someone who was a fringe-major leaguer or even just had one major league at-bat like Jeff Banister.
While that’s not totally meant to be a jab at Banister– I appreciated his spirit and toughness, but the “Never Ever Quit” bit could only go so far whenever your team is in last place– I think that younger people these day respond more to people they know well and respect based off their accomplishments. That is a jab at young people these days, professional athlete or not.
Fit with where the team is at the moment
As unpleasant as it is to say, this team is in a rebuild. While most local reporters seemed convinced it could be a decade before this team is contending again, only being a little bit hyberbolic there, I’m a little more optimistic. With the right moves this offseason and some accelerated growth from younger players in 2019, the Rangers could be ready to compete in the American League West when Globe Life Field opens in 2020. Regardless of when they will win 90+ games again, this team needs to grow in all areas. They need to learn how to do things that make them better players. You might as well have a manager who is trying to grow and develop their craft as well. Not an experienced one who might see it as “their way or the highway.”
Chavez managed the Los Angeles Angels’ Triple-A affiliate last season, so he does have a bit of managerial experience on his side, but he would obviously be a far, far from finished product as a manager. His age would likely make it easier for him to communicate with his players and let him know what he’s doing right or wrong.
As the Rangers deal with about as much fan pessimism as I can ever remember, it’s going to be really, really important for them to make some good moves this offseason. That doesn’t mean they have to break the bank for any free agent pursuits or deal a ton of prospects for a star player that might not alter their 2019 results much. They just need to make moves that breath life into a franchise that has been gasping for air since being swept out of the 2016 playoffs in the first round.
Hiring a young, bilingual manager to help navigate this young, developing team through one of its more difficult times would be a good place to start.
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