A lot was made about the fact that the Rangers run differential this season was only a sliver at +8. Eight American League teams were better in that department. Heck, the fourth place Los Angeles Anaheims were’t far behind.
Texas scored just eight more runs than they gave up because, blinding glimpse of the obvious here, they gave up a ton of runs.
Only two American League teams gave up more than the 757 runs the Rangers gave up this season. One finished in last in the West, the other in last in the Central.
Texas was second in walks allowed. They were thirteenth out of fifteen overall in ERA, and fourteenth out of fifteen in bullpen ERA.
So how did they not only win the West, but have the best record in the American League when they had no earthly reason to do any of that with those numbers?
You have to give a lot of credit to Jeff Banister.
For five and a half months, he ran the worst bullpen in baseball out there. Yet he kept winning.
His opening day center fielder was a bust. His opening day right fielder went on the DL four times and missed a total of 114 games. Yet he kept winning.
His DH crashed and burned. Yet he kept winning.
For four months he didn’t have a catcher. Just a few guys who brought catcher’s mitts with them to the game so they qualified. His opening day left fielder had never played outfield. Yet he kept winning.
And he had only two bona fide starting pitchers. First Hamels and Lewis. Then Hamels and Darvish. Yet, he kept winning. This rotation, in fact, had the third most quality starts in the American League.
Banister’s exceptional season started about ten seconds after last season’s dagger-in-the-heart ending, when he took a distraught and failed Elvis Andrus aside, put his arm around him, and told him he believed in him. Andrus responded with his best season ever.
Then he made two major off-season changes. He brought in his guy as a pitching coach, Doug Brocail, and his guy as a hitting coach, Anthony Iapoce.
Brocail replaced the wildly popular and truly only successful pitching coach this franchise has ever had in Mike Maddux.
Iapoce replaced Dave Magadan, a hitting coach so ineffective at the art of hitting, he could turn mob hitmen into pacifists.
Suddenly, Banister had his coaches, no longer the remnants of Ron Washington. And this team responded from the opening bell, winning a gutsy opening day game on just one hit.
A team takes on the personality of the manager, and this one did. They were fighers in every sense. Fighting for the last out. Fighting for victories. Fighting Toronto Blue Jays.
It ended with the second-most wins ever in franchise history. And gave Banister the highest winning percentage of any Rangers manager who has logged two full seasons or more.
Now he is in the post-season, where a manager is made, just as Game 6 defined Ron Washington. This post-season is punctuated with brilliant managers.
Bruce Bochy of the Giants has three rings with San Francisco, and took the perennially horrible San Diego Padres to four of their only five post-season appearances, including their only World Series. The Hall of Fame awaits him.
Terry Francona broke the 86-year curse in Boston by winning the World Series not just once, but twice.
The Cubs’ Joe Maddon is the best manager in baseball, by a long shot. He did the impossible in Tampa Bay, and is trying to accomplish the impossibler with the Cubs.
Buck Showalter in Baltimore is the architect of a lot of teams that went to the World Series. He is among the elite managers in baseball.
Dusty Baker is underrated. He won two division titles and the National League pennant with San Francisco. He took the Cubs to the playoffs. He won two division titles with Cincinnati, which is saying something. And, in his first year at Washington, he rid the franchise of the disappointment stench left over from their former manager Matt Williams.
Jeff Banister hasn’t managed long enough to earn the right to be considered among those post-season managers. Yet. But this is only his second year. He is closing the gap really quickly. And what he does in October can close it even quicker.
What he did this year, though, should earn him a second consecutive American League Manager of the Year award.
Last year it fell into his lap.
This year he earned it.
Game time: 7:08 on TBS