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Banister deserves AL MOY award

First-year manager guided club to improbable division title

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers went 67-95 in 2014 and finished in last place in the American League West. Rising from that dismal season, the Rangers were 88-74 under first-year manager Jeff Banister, winning the division title on the last day.

That 21-game improvement to win the division title is the single most compelling reason why Banister should be named the American League Manager of the Year over the other finalists, A.J. Hinch and Paul Molitor, when the award is announced today at 5 p.m. CT on MLB Network. No other team had to come so far to win the division title in '15.

Video: 2015 AL Manager of the Year finalists revealed

That's an impressive accomplishment for somebody who spent 29 years in the Pirates organization as a Minor League manager and instructor and Major League coach before finally getting his first big league managing job. It wasn't easy given all that transpired during Banister's trial by volcanic fire, but he ultimately brought the Rangers back to the playoffs with their sixth division title.

"Jeff has walked the walk," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "He backed up what he said he was going to be about. He's a first-year manager, but he's had a lot of relevant professional and life experiences, so he walked in with a plan. And maybe more importantly, a communication style that people appreciate. Not a lot of sugar coating, but he cares about the guys, and that's evident in what he says and does."

In winning the division title, the Rangers were the fifth team to reach the playoffs after having a league-worst record the previous season. The others were the 1991 Braves, '98 Cubs, 2007 Cubs and '08 Rays.

The Rangers reached the playoffs with a tremendous second half. They were 42-46 at the All-Star break and seemed more likely to have the worst record again than they were to win the division title. The 42-46 record at that point was the fifth worst in the league and the club was six games out of first place.

It only got worse before getting better. The Rangers were nine games out on July 22 and eight games out on Aug. 2. But from that point forward, the Rangers won 37 of their last 58 games and ended up being only the sixth team since division play began in 1969 to finish first after trailing by as much as eight games in August.

They did not reach sole possession of first place until Sept. 15, during a four-game sweep of the Astros in Arlington. The Rangers were 13-6 in head-to-head games against the Astros although they were 36-40 overall against AL West opponents. They were the fifth team to finish in first place despite having a losing record against their own division since 1969.

If Banister wins, he would be the first Manager of the Year selected by the BBWAA for the Rangers since Buck Showalter in 2004. Johnny Oates shared the award with Joe Torre of the Yankees in 1996 and, under other voting formats, Bobby Valentine won in 1986 and Billy Martin in 1974.

The cruel part is Ron Washington never won Manager of the Year even though he led the Rangers to the World Series in 2010-11. But Washington was a victim of the rules just like Ned Yost will be this season despite leading the Royals to their first World Series title in 30 years. Yost wasn't even one of the three finalists.

The Manager of the Year Award is voted on before the postseason begins. It's all about the regular season and in that regard, the Rangers had the biggest turnaround of any team in the American League this season.

They did so under a first-year manager and that is why Banister should be the American League Manager of the Year.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.
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