The 2015 Texas Rangers and their fans had very little hope this season. Coming off a 67-win season with no blockbuster free agent deals, there was not a lot of reason for optimism. Then Yu Darvish went down for the year in spring training and pretty much every one around the MLB agreed that the Rangers ship had sailed. They would have to start rebuilding with a new manager and the Championship aspirations spawned from success from 2010-2012 were over. It would not have been unreasonable for the front office to have called it quits and hit the reboot button on the franchise. They had enough young talent like Joey Gallo that they could begin building for later and tell the fans to exhibit the toughest trait in sports, patience. Honestly, after an 8-16 start headed into a series against the up and coming Houston Astros, it felt like that is what was happening. Then Jeff Banister happened.
Jeff Banister was never a great pro. While he did manage to bat 1.000 for his career(1 for 1 in his lone major league game), he was never flashy. He may not be as good as manager as Ron Washington, former Ranger’s skipper, but he is just what the Rangers needed. He was stable and his only focus all year as a 1st time MLB manager was winning games. This is a huge reason why many have him on the short list for AL Manager of the Year candidates. He was the stable voice that turned a team, that did not get permanently above .500 until August 15th, into a divisional champion. He did not do it alone though.
You can also give a lot of credit to Jon Daniels, a pretty well-respected General Manager around the league. Many people were confident he would turn this organization around, eventually. He sure out performed expectations. He made a lot of good moves. Starting with hiring Banister and acquiring Delino DeShields through the Rule 5 draft. He also added Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, Mike Napoli and Sam Dyson via trade. The Cole Hamels trade has even greater value because he was not just an high-level mid-season rental, but a multi-year addition that did not cost the Rangers any truly elite prospects. This is the greatest kind of addition because instead of mortgaging the future, he improved the present and down the road.
Even with those huge changes, the Rangers were not really primed to be contenders. The Mariners were preseason favorites, the Angels had Mike Trout, and the Astros had some of the best young talent in baseball. What really put the Rangers over the hump was Rougned Odor filling the shoes everyone thought Jurickson Profar would be wearing, an MVP effort by Prince Fielder(he would be a candidate, but Josh Donaldson had a monster year), great second-halves from Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus, and consistent play from Adrian Beltre. While Adrian Beltre played through more injury during the ALDS, that was only reaffirmation to Rangers’ fans who took witness all year to Beltre’s resiliency.
Now Jeff Banister, Jon Daniels, and the Rangers’ 46-28 record after the All-Star Break are impressive enough on their own, but if you factor in what the Rangers have been through since 2010. Their rise, fall, and return. They are a championship away from becoming the best story of the decade and their influx of young talent, new-found consistency between the front office and manager, and with Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels set to become the 2-headed monster that Greinke and Kershaw were this season, do not be surprised if they are raising the trophy in the fall of 2016. The Rangers turn around this season was the most surprising story in baseball all year and it should continue to be intriguing in 2016.