The Texas Rangers hired Pittsburgh Pirates bench coach Jeff Banister as their new manager.
Banister got the nod over two other finalists, interim manager Tim Bogar and Cleveland Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash.
General manager Jon Daniels said Thursday night that Banister won over the Rangers during the interview process. Daniels described Banister as the best fit for a team that quickly wants to recreate a winning culture after its most losses since 1985.
“Jeff really impressed us across the board,” Daniels said. “From people that he works with now with the Pirates, the people that used to work there, and players that he’s had recently and some years back, stars as well as role players, and everyone came back with the desire to win, a love for the game, the love for people, the ability to reach people, the ability to connect with a variety of people, an interest in learning more.”
Banister will be formally introduced as Ron Washington’s replacement during a news conference Friday at the Rangers ballpark.
The 50-year-old Banister has been Pittsburgh’s bench coach for manager Clint Hurdle the past four years and in the Pirates organization for 29 seasons.
Hurdle was the Rangers’ hitting coach when they went to their first World Series in 2010.
“The entire Pirates organization is extremely proud of Jeff and happy for him and his family. We believe it will be an excellent fit for him and the Texas Rangers,” Hurdle said in a statement. “He has been an instrumental reason for the success the Pirates organization has had over the course of his tenure with the ballclub.”
Pirates GM Neal Huntington thanked Banister “for his long-standing impact and dedication. His leadership, character, work ethic, knowledge of the game, energy and passion made us better every day he was a Pirate.”
Bogar was the perceived front-runner after leading the Rangers to a 14-8 record to end the regular season following Washington’s sudden resignation Sept. 5 for personal reasons. Bogar was in his first season as Rangers bench coach. He still has a year left on his contract.
Daniels said Bogar was understandably disappointed about not getting the job.
The GM said he would be comfortable with Bogar remaining if everybody felt good about the situation, but said the next step would be for Banister to reach out to the staff. That includes pitching coach Mike Maddux, who was one of the other internal candidates interviewed for the job.
As for anyone joining Bannister from the Pirates, Daniels said that seemed unlikely.
Daniels joined Texas in 2002 and became GM after the 2005 season. A year later, he made his first managerial move, replacing the fired Buck Showalter with Washington and going through the most successful stretch in team history.
Like Banister, Washington was an unexpected finalist, a baseball lifer who won over Daniels and the Rangers during interviews.
After back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and ‘11, the Rangers finished 67-95 this season — their most losses since 1985. They were plagued by injuries, playing most of the season without new slugger Prince Fielder and finishing the year without Yu Darvish and Shin-Soo Choo, among many others.
It was the first time in five seasons that the Rangers played only 162 games. After consecutive American League pennants, they played in the AL wild-card game in 2012 and a wild-card tiebreaker in 2013.
Until Washington unexpectedly resigned, the plan was for him to return in 2015 for his ninth season as Rangers manager.
Texas interviewed eight candidates in their search that Daniels said started without about 40 names.
Maddux and Triple-A manager Steve Buechele sat down with team officials after the season ended. Boston bench coach Torey Lovullo, Chicago White Sox third base coach Joe McEwing and former major leaguer Alex Cora, an executive in the Puerto Rico winter league, also interviewed before the three finalists were announced this week.
Banister, who was born in Oklahoma but went to high school, junior college and college in Texas, was drafted in the 25th round by the Pirates in 1986. The catcher played only one game in the major leagues, getting a pinch-hit single in his only at-bat on July 23, 1991.
Banister, a 1982 graduate of LaMarque High in Texas, overcame bone cancer and a bone/bone marrow infection to play baseball. While at Baytown Junior College in Texas, he was left temporarily paralyzed from the neck down after his vertebrae was crushed in a home-plate collision.
“He’s a winner, he’s a survivor, in every sense of the word,” Daniels said.
His coaching career began as a player-coach with Double-A Carolina in 1993, and his first managerial job was in the New York-Penn League in 1994. He had a 299-330 record in five seasons as a minor league manager, before serving as field coordinator at the big league level for the Pirates from 1999-2002 and then as the club’s minor league field coordinator for eight years after that.