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Jon Daniels has ruined the Rangers

October 22, 2010 was one of the greatest days of my life bar none.

I can still picture Nelson Cruz’s home run landing two rows below me in Section 53 – the moment it hit that this team was going to win the pennant for the first time ever. I can see Neftali Feliz’s curve ball drop barely over the inside edge, and the split second that I thought “They won’t call that a strike” – only to see the umpire ring up A-Rod and cause me to leap into my friend’s arms in jubilation.

It was just four years ago that the Rangers did what some thought would never happen when they reached the World Series. Then did it again the following year. Just three years ago, they were two-time American League Champions.

That is why this season is the most frustrating of any I’ve witnessed, even the darkest days of the Tom Hicks regime. It’s fast becoming the worst season in Rangers history, with the chance of things improving looking less likely.

People are quick to claim this as just an off-year dismantled by injuries. But injuries didn’t stop the A’s from climbing to the postseason in 2012. It didn’t stop the Yankees from winning a pennant and the World Series in 1949.

Even before everyone started heading to the disabled list, it should have been clear this team was not built to contend; we just didn’t see it. Now it is clear, and one man is the reason beyond anyone else.

Jon Daniels has to take responsibility for what this team has become. He destroyed the greatest Rangers team ever and left it a shell of its former self.

Josh Hamilton. Michael Young. Ian Kinsler. Nellie Cruz. People can come up with any reason as to why they say the Rangers are better off without them, but the truth is you just can’t dump that much star power and production so fast and expect this train to have kept going. The likes of Alex Rios, Leonys Martin, Jurickson Profar and Shin-Soo Choo have simply not done enough to prove they can replace any of those predecessors. While two of the three departed are headed to the All-Star Game, the Rangers are looking at a year without one 100-RBI man – inexcusable.

People want to say they had to let them go; that besides the supposed attitudes, they offered Josh and Nellie fair deals and the two asked for too much. But wasn’t money supposed to no longer be an issue with that huge TV contract coming? No, this was ego on JD’s part, pure and simple.

He may have drafted or otherwise acquired many of those players that won those pennants, but he had to share the credit with Nolan Ryan. Now that he has all the power, he must cast away the players with the air of Nolan still on them so he can leave his mark – whether it’s a good or bad one.

That would be bad enough, but it also becomes more and more clear that JD really does not know how to communicate with his players. The Rangers told the media when Derek Holland’s first rehab start would be without even telling Derek; he had to hear of it on his regular interview session on 105.3 The Fan.

That, in a nutshell, should sum up the way the organization treats its big league players. JD is turning the Rangers into a soulless organization, one that doesn’t see its players as people, just stats they can remove and replace like a fantasy team.

There is just a sense that the players feel there’s no one above them outside of Ron Washington that really has their back, and that’s more toxic than any supposed attitude Josh or Ian had. Whether it’s barging into Wash’s office to try and dictate what the lineup should be or trading away a respected veteran just to keep Wash from playing him, Daniels does one thing after another to make those in the clubhouse not respect him.

When I look at the way JD has operated the Rangers the last couple of years, especially as Nolan was de-powered and eventually deposed, two people come to mind.

The first is George Weiss. The New York Yankees general manager in the 1950s ran the club with an iron fist. He docked salaries for the pettiest of reasons, was quick to trade any player to Kansas City for someone he was sure would be better and basically treated them like cattle.

That method worked in the “reserve clause” era of baseball, when teams could bind players to their organization for life and force them to take whatever they offered. It can’t work today in this era of free agency, where the players have the power. You can’t throw one offer on the table and say “take it or leave it,” as JD clearly did with Josh and Nellie. You’ll always lose because they will get it elsewhere, or in Nellie’s case, accept less elsewhere just on the principle of having been disrespected.

The other person that JD is reminding me of – Jerry Jones. The ego, the knee-jerk decisions, the desire to have it be all about him – it’s all there. The only difference is that at least one could believe Jerry sees his players as people. Yeah, I just said there’s one thing Jerry actually does BETTER than another GM in this area.

Some say that’s JD’s advantage; he doesn’t get emotionally attached and offer bad contracts that come to weigh down the club. But giving Miles Austin a big deal after one breakout year and regretting it doesn’t mean it’s better to just cast off players who consistently proved themselves for years and are still in their prime just because they MIGHT taper off and that new whiz kid you got in Frisco MIGHT become a star.

It has to be about him. It has to be clear that this is his club assembled all by his-self, results be damned.

But without someone in the office to keep him in check, someone who knows that sports are about more than hard numbers, he’s going out of control. About the only thing left is him using this season as an excuse to fire Wash.

We can only hope that won’t happen. Because as bad as JD has made things, there is still a small chance the future can be salvaged. And how that can happen, I’ll discuss next time.


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