October 2, 2011
ALDS G2: Jon Daniels' Rangers Strike Back
Anyone can tell you that the players and coaches on the field decide baseball games, but the observant could also tell you that Game 2 of the Rays-Rangers series can serve as a highlight reel for Jon Daniels.
Playoff broadcasts shy away from talking too much about the role of general managers, perhaps because the announcing booth often includes a former player or manager that is more familiar with the way of life on the field than in the front office. Instead, the credit for the roster’s complexion goes to the manager, because he tends to serve as the public face for the management staff. General managers, though, are treated as a part of the game that should not be seen or heard during an October production. Daniels may not have made an appearance during the broadcast, but it was easy to see how he influenced the outcome.
Daniels became the Rangers general manager in October 2005, giving him six years of running the Rangers. Six years is a long time in the world of baseball rosters, so it isn’t a surprise that the team Daniels inherited and the team he assembled have little resemblance (in fact, it appears that only two players who received a plate appearance with the 2005 Rangers are still with the team—Michael Young and Esteban German, although Daniels actually re-acquired German in 2009). Daniels acquired 21 of the 25 players who comprise the Rangers playoff roster through various means. Of course, the role of a general manager isn’t just to decide who he trades for, but who he does and doesn’t trade away. This is a good segue to Game 2 action because Derek Holland started for the Rangers.
After Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies, Daniels trolled the free agent and trade markets for another starting pitcher. Whom he found available was the Rays Matt Garza. Reportedly, Daniels would have parted with Holland and three others in order to secure Garza’s services, but the Rays decided to take another offer, thus leaving Holland with the Rangers. Nearly nine months later, Holland had the chance to show the Rays what they were missing, and at times, he did. His mid-to-upper 90s fastball caused velocity fiends to swoon while his questionable choice of facial hair served as comic relief.
Holland got off to a shaky start as he loaded the bases in the first inning before walking Kelly Shoppach to stake the Rays to an early 1-0 lead. After that, he settled down until the fourth inning when he fielded a Casey Kotchman chopper. On the 20-80 scale, Kotchman has 10 speed, but Holland didn’t seem to notice as he sent a throw sailing beyond his first baseman. The next batter, Matt Joyce, connected on a high fastball and gave the Rays a 3-0 lead. All and all, Holland went five innings, allowed one earned run (three total), struck out two, walked two, and left with the victory because of what Daniels’ other acquisitions were able to do shortly after.
The bottom of the fourth played like a who’s who of Daniels acquisitions and non-moves. Elvis Andrus started the rally by taking a pitch to his body. Then came Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, each added singles, before Adrian Beltre took a pitch to his legs and plated a run. Mike Napoli would score two more with a single, then back-to-back strikeouts by Nelson Cruz and David Murphy would add a run too, as the pitch bounced away from the catcher on Murphy’s strikeout. Mitch Moreland would then score one more with a groundout. The Rangers would then use Alexi Ogando, Koji Uehara, Darren Oliver, Mike Adams, and Neftali Feliz to close out the game and secure the victory.
That reads like a generic play-by-play summary of the inning for those unfamiliar with Daniels’ work, so here is a cheat sheet to help make sense of it all:
The players deserve credit for making it happen on the field, and the coaching staff deserves credit for keeping those players focused and situated to succeed, but Daniels should get his fair share too. Without him, many of the players wouldn’t be on the roster, and who knows, maybe the Rangers wouldn’t be in the postseason.