This evening the Baseball Writers Association of America awarded Jeff Banister as the top manager in the AL in 2015. This selection should come as no surprise when looking at the circumstances surrounding the Rangers preseason and how the team fared in 2014.
After an injury riddled 2014 campaign that saw the Rangers set a new record for players used in a season and only 67 wins after winning 90+ each of the four seasons prior, Banister’s Rangers entered the season with minimal expectations. Ron Washington had left and Banister inherited shambles of a roster that looked far removed from winning back to back AL pennants.
Then before the season started things got even worse. It was announced that Yu Darvish would miss the season due to Tommy John surgery, leaving a shaky pitching staff in an even more uncertain position. In addition to Darvish, Derek Holland also missed significant time this season due to injury. Despite all that was going against his club, Banister helmed the second biggest turnaround in the majors this season, jumping 21 wins from 2014 to finish 88-74 and win the AL West. Only the Cubs +24 had a better win differential in the majors.
The Rangers started slowly, winning just seven of their first 21 games. In May things started to turn around a little bit and they would get over .500 for the first time, but still went into the All-Star Break with a losing record at 42-46. The Houston Astros were firmly in first place at the time and seemed poised to run away with the division. But at the trade deadline, Texas picked up Cole Hamels from Philadelphia. After his first few starts were a bit shaky, he regained his All-Star form for the rest of the season and helped spearhead the Rangers 46-28 record after the break. But Banister pushed the right buttons with Hamels and Josh Hamilton, two in-season acquisitions that bolstered this young team.
Watch: Banister accepting the award