1:00pm: The Rangers have announced that Banister has been relieved of his duties. Wakamatsu will finish out the season as the interim manager.
12:42pm: The Rangers will not bring manager Jeff Banister back for a fifth season in 2019, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Banister is under contract for next season, but he’ll earn his reported $950K salary while someone else takes the helm for the Rangers, it seems. Grant notes that Banister will not finish out the season, and bench coach Don Wakamatsu will likely serve as the interim skipper.
It’s a jarring fall for Banister, the 2015 American League Manager of the Year. He guided the Rangers to a pair of winning records and a consecutive American League Division Series appearances in 2015-16 — his first two at the helm of a Major League organization. The 2017 Rangers disappointed but hung around in the race until September, ultimately finishing at 78-84. The Rangers have ensured a worse record than that in 2018 with 88 losses already in the books.
Certainly, it’d be unfair to place the entirety of the 2018 team’s failures on Banister’s shoulders. He was scarcely afforded a rotation to work with as the Rangers performed a series of half-measures last offseason, declining to enter a definitive rebuild but also paring back payroll and signing a series of stopgaps for the rotation. Texas came out of the gates strong with a three-year deal for Mike Minor to return to a starting role, but that was paired with low-cost additions of Doug Fister, Matt Moore and Bartolo Colon. Moore, perhaps, could’ve been considered an upside play, but pairing that unit with Minor and the returning Cole Hamels never looked like anywhere near enough to have a realistic shot at contending in 2018.
That said, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Jeff Wilson reported in a detailed column yesterday that Banister’s communication skills with his players had come under fire recently, with pitchers sometimes not knowing when their next start would be while some position players would find themselves in the lineup having previously been assured a day off. Texas also burned through several closers very quickly under Banister’s watch, with Shawn Tolleson flaming out in 2016 after being used on five consecutive days to close out the 2015 regular season. Sam Dyson, another bullpen workhorse under Banister, had dismal 2017 results after a heavy workload in 2016, though he’s since bounced back in San Francisco.
Wakamatsu, Grant further tweets, figures to become a candidate to take over the club on a full-time basis in 2019 and beyond. That said, the Rangers will surely interview candidates from outside the organization as they look for a developmentally-inclined skipper to help them through some degree of a rebuilding process. It’s not clear whether the Rangers will retain any of the current coaching staff, though the fact that Wakamatsu will be considered as a replacement bodes well for his chances of returning in some capacity.