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Turmoil in Texas

Rangers owner grows impatient with slumping club

Posted: Wednesday June 13, 2007 11:55AM; Updated: Wednesday June 13, 2007 1:07PM
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Hiring Ron Washington, above, is the latest of GM Jon Daniels' moves that have been second-guessed in Texas.
Hiring Ron Washington, above, is the latest of GM Jon Daniels' moves that have been second-guessed in Texas.
Chad Coleman/WireImage.com
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In the race for baseball's most disappointing team, the Texas Rangers have to be right up there. Their 23-41 record has shocked a lot of folks, including their owner, Tom Hicks, who is said by associates to be extremely disappointed.

In baseball circles there are already rumblings that first-year manager Ron Washington, who had an early run-in with star first baseman Mark Teixeira, doesn't have the job security he had at the start of his managerial career -- which happened to be only 64 games ago. There are also rumblings that their smart young general manager, Jon Daniels, who's had three notable trades work against him, has something to prove to Hicks, maybe even by the end of the year.

Hicks is one owner who's tried hard and at times spent lavishly to win, and it isn't happening again this year. Nothing has gone great so far, but nothing has gone worse than the cumulative ERA of the Rangers' starting pitchers (nearly 7.00). The hitting is getting better, but Texas has committed 52 errors, which is more than any team except the Devil Rays and Marlins. Speaking of Hicks' disappointment, Daniels says, "I think it would be surprising if he was happy ... He's a very patient man. He's optimistic by nature. But of course, he's frustrated by the way we're playing."

Daniels, who has had the job for less than two years, also mentioned that he and Hicks "communicate regularly." When asked if he has any concerns about his job security, the 29-year-old GM responded, "I don't think about it very much. I'm aware of what's gone on. I'm my own harshest critic."

That may be true, but it's a strong statement, considering some of the things that have been written and said about Daniels lately. He came into the job with a target on his back, being that at 28 he landed a post that 95 percent of baseball front-office people don't achieve in a lifetime. There's a lot of jealousy over a rise like that.

I have to admit to having a soft spot for Daniels. I remember him and A.J. Preller, now the Rangers' manager of pro and international scouting, walking around the winter meetings in 1999, looking for low-level jobs as recent Cornell grads (Preller got one with MLB, and Daniels started out as junior executive with the company that runs Dunkin' Donuts, but within a couple years he got the lowest of low-level jobs with the Rockies).

Daniels is extremely bright and as hard-working as they come, and I believe he will someday be an excellent general manager. How soon that will be is what Hicks will have to judge. At the moment Daniels is taking heat for three trades that haven't worked, the one that sent Chris Young, Adrian Gonzalez (at the time a minor leaguer but now a star) and Terrmel Sledge to San Diego for Akinori Otsuka, Adam Eaton and minor-league catcher Billy Killian, the one that netted them star free-agent-to-be Carlos Lee but sent closer Francisco Cordero to Milwaukee and the one that sent Alfonso Soriano to Washington for the disappointing Brad Wilkerson and Sledge (that move was widely praised, including by me).

Daniels may also start taking heat for Washington if things don't get better. "Obviously, I hired him, and I believed in him. And I continue to believe in him as strongly as before," Daniels says. "He's an outstanding person and a very good baseball man. He's a first-year manager, so he's learning on the job, and that's to be expected." If Washington has failings, Daniels said they have not stood out.

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