Rangers GM makes some bold moves

Now, pres­sure is on Texas to make the play­offs again

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTSBRIEFING -

Jon Daniels has done the im­pos­si­ble. Some­how, he’s man­aged to get the bank­rupt Rangers ex­actly what they needed — an ace and a de­fen­sive-minded catcher — to win the AL West for the first time in more than a decade.

Now, it’s up to vet­er­ans Michael Young, Josh Hamil­ton, Vladimir Guer­rero, Ian Kinsler, Dar­ren Oliver and Cliff Lee, among oth­ers, to get the job done.

The play­ers shouldn’t ex­pect any more help, es­pe­cially with an own­er­ship sit­u­a­tion that be­comes murkier ev­ery day.

Un­der­stand, the Rangers re­mains flawed — as is ev­ery club that doesn’t wear navy blue pin­stripes — a fact driven home when they some­how be­came the first home team to be swept in a four-game se­ries by the raggedy Bal­ti­more Ori­oles in 15 years.

But the Rangers have a 4½-game lead in the AL West, the biggest in base­ball. Yet they still have 14 games left against the An­gels.

The beauty of Daniels’ moves is that Bengie Molina and Lee add two guys with play­off ex­pe­ri­ence to a club that has never won a post­sea­son se­ries and has just one post­sea­son win.

Molina and Lee have been to the World Se­ries as has Guer­rero, the AL MVP in 2004. Oliver has also been a play­off reg­u­lar the past few sea­sons.

Still, the most dif­fi­cult as­pect of this jour­ney for the Rangers will be han­dling the ex­pec­ta­tions that ac­com­pany the ar­rival of Lee. For the first time in for­ever, the Rangers are truly the hunted.

By adding Lee, es­pe­cially three weeks be­fore the trade dead­line, Daniels served no­tice that the Rangers ex­pect and in­tend to win. They’re not cow­er­ing in the corner, hop­ing to reach the play­offs.

They’re a con­tender. For real. Any­thing less than a play­off berth rep­re­sents fail­ure.

Daniels has put to­gether a team ca­pa­ble of chang­ing the Rangers’ shoddy play­off his­tory.

He’s put to­gether a team that wins with power, and man­ager Ron Washington be­lieves in cre­at­ing runs with bunts, hit-and-runs and dou­ble steals, which gives this team an abil­ity to manu- fac­ture runs, some­thing it didn’t do well in the past.

Daniels is no longer the GM who didn’t move quickly enough on the Josh Beck­ett deal years ago. Or the guy who didn’t get enough for Al­fonso So­ri­ano. Or the guy who dealt Chris Young and Adrian Gon­za­lez to the Padres and John Danks to the White Sox.

These days he’s the GM re­spon­si­ble for ac­quir­ing five of the fran­chise-record six play­ers rep­re­sent­ing the Rangers in the All-Star game.

He’s the guy who moved quickly and de­ci­sively, even though he had to trade a ter­rific prospect in Justin Smoak to get the most cov­eted player on the trade mar­ket.

Daniels and his le­gion of scouts have used high-qual­ity draft­ing and shrewd trades to build one of base­ball’s best farm sys­tems, which al­lowed them to have the or­ga­ni­za­tional depth to make the trade for Lee.

It’s a gutsy move whether it works or not. You can’t be scared and suc­ceed as a GM in pro sports. The best ones learn from their mis­takes.

Daniels has, which is why the Rangers are rel­e­vant again na­tion­ally for the first time in more than a decade.

Tony Gu­tier­rez AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rangers start­ing pitcher Colby Lewis talks with new acquired catcher Bengie Molina ear­lier this month.

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