Evaluating Jon Daniels, GM: A 3-Part Series (Part Two)
By Kenneth Nash
Jon Daniels has spent over a decade as the GM of the Texas Rangers. Many fans say times up for JD and Texas needs to move on. We’re taking a look at his tenure in a three part series to evaluate the Rangers man in charge.
With low expectations for the 2018 Texas Rangers season and not many moves made to fix those expectations, many feel that Jon Daniels time as the GM of the Rangers should be over. In this three part series, we’re looking at his time with Texas and evaluating it in sections. Part two focuses on the peak of Daniels’ career with the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
The 2010 Rangers season marked arguably the peak of the franchise and marked the first of two World Series runs. It also was a peak in Jon Daniels career, where he finished the year as the Baseball America’s Major League Executive of the Year.
Daniels started off the 2010 season offloading salary in the form of Kevin Millwood. Millwood was traded to the Orioles in exchange for reliever, Chris Ray, and starter Ben Snyder. Additionally, Daniels also signed starter Rich Harden as a free agent. Daniels followed the Harden signing by adding Colby Lewis and slugger Vladimir Guerrero. With the team performing above expectations, Daniels made a number of mid-season moves adding catch Bengie Molina from the Giants along with pitchers Cliff Lee and Mark Lowe from the Mariners. JD showed his commitment to pushing this team to the peak trading away a number of prospects in order to make these moves including Blake Beavan and highly rated prospect Justin Smoak.
These moves, paired with a number of smaller moves, showed the Daniels knew he had something with this Rangers squad. The Ron Washington managed team finished the season first in the division with a record of 90-72. They would go on to defeat the New York Yankees in the ALCS to the shock of many making the club’s first ever World Series appearance. Despite falling in 5 games to the Giants, Rangers fans were on board with all aspects of this team and knew the future would be bright.
We have to talk about it. The 2011 season. It still haunts me. It probably haunts you. After winning the American League in 2010, expectations and hopes for the 2011 Texas Rangers were sky high. The team had depth top to bottom. Led by 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton and a rotation led by CJ Wilson, many thought this team had the ability to win it all. No major moves needed. Texas would go 96-66 in the 2011 season. Even better than they had finished the previous year.
With all eyes on the postseason, the buzz in Arlington was unmatched. Texas breezed through the ALDS beating the Rays 3-1 in the series. The reigning AL champs defended their title beating the Tigers in 6 games. Just like that, they were back to the World Series and this year it was theirs. But heartbreak intervened. Disaster took over. The Rangers, just one strike away from a World Series twice, collapsed. In what should have been a game 6 win turned into a series tying loss. But by then it was over. The energy was gone. The Cardinals had the momentum. They would go on to win the Series in 7 games and Rangers fans faced the impossible. Going home empty handed once again.
Every peak has a downward slope. That’s just how it works. This was the Rangers peak. Now it was time for the downward slope.
These two seasons marked the highlights of the Texas Rangers franchise. The team made a miraculous run in 2010 to show the league the talent and depth that Daniels had cultivated. In 2011 the Rangers were feared and for good reason. They made quick work of the regular season. Blew through the ALDS. Fended off Detroit with relative ease in the ALCS. Just one win away from a World Series, Texas could see the pinnacle. But not all stories have those happy endings. Nelson Cruz heard the blame. Neftali Feliz heard the blame. Josh Hamilton heard the blame. The Rangers were now the biggest choke artists in the game. Throughout all of this, JD was worshipped in the DFW area. He had turned a struggling franchise into a league powerhouse essentially in 4 seasons. This culmination showed the Jon Daniels not only knew what he was doing, but he was quite possibly the best. Nobody in Texas disputed that and Daniels assured his place at the forefront of baseball in Arlington for years to come.
Check out Part Three next week when we look at the recent history of JD and the Rangers as well as take a look towards the future.