Rangers managerial hires filled with colorful characters
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are not ready to hire a manager as they ponder the qualifications of the eight they have interviewed.
It's a critical hire that needs all the time necessary. The Rangers and the Washington Senators (which the Rangers were before moving to Texas) have been in this position before. Sometimes they got it right, sometimes they didn't, often it was a losing proposition for whomever was hired.
A brief look at the history of Rangers/Senators managerial hires going back to the beginning:
Mickey Vernon (1961-63, 135-227) -- The first manager of the expansion Washington Senators had been a highly popular and well-respected player with the first Senators that moved to Minnesota. He was a coach for the Pirates on their 1960 World Series championship team before being named to run the Senators. But the first expansion draft for the Senators was a disaster and the team was doomed to failure from the beginning.
Gil Hodges (1963-67, 321-444) -- The legendary first baseman from the Boys of Summer Brooklyn Dodgers teams ran the Senators for 4 1/2 years but they were still really bad. He later led the Mets to their miracle World Series title in 1969.
Jim Lemon (1968, 65-96) -- Another popular power-hitting player from the old Senators -- think Nelson Cruz with lots of strikeouts. Lemon was another popular choice to boost sagging fan attendance. It didn't do much good.
Ted Williams (1969-72, 273-364) -- The Splendid Splinter was Manager of the Year in 1969 when he led the Senators to their first winning season at 86-76. Williams knew hitting but had trouble relating to pitchers and he soon lost interest.
Whitey Herzog (1973, 47-91) -- He was the Mets farm director and was supposed to help the Rangers finally build it the right way. But owner Bob Short, who was from Minnesota and an absentee owner, was losing money badly and needed a quick fix.
Billy Martin (1973-75, 137-141) -- Hired with 23 games left in the 1973 season after Herzog was fired, Martin was the ultimate quick fix. After the Rangers lost 105 games in 1973, they went 84-76 in 1974 and almost dethroned the defending World Series champion Athletics. But he clashed with the front office, especially new owner Brad Corbett, and didn't make it through 1975.
Frank Lucchesi (1975-77, 142-149 -- A highly successful Minor League manager, Lucchesi had a long and respected career in the game. Unfortunately he is remembered most for getting punched out by infielder Lenny Randle in Spring Training in 1977.
Eddie Stanky (1977, 1-0) -- He is famous for managing one game and then returning to be head coach at South Alabama. It was more of a footnote than any big loss for the Rangers.
Billy Hunter (1977-78, 146-108) -- A longtime coach under Earl Weaver in Baltimore, he was one of the best choices the Rangers ever made. They were 34-35 when he took over and went 60-33 the rest of the way, almost capturing their first division title. But, after winning 94 games, they slipped to 87-75 the next season and he was fired with one game to go. He is as good of a baseball man as the Rangers ever hired.
Pat Corrales (1978-80, 160-164) -- Another baseball lifer, Corrales managed the Rangers, Indians and Phillies. He later served as a bench coach for Bobby Cox in Atlanta during their long run of success. When he took over, the Rangers were in a state of total confusion because of the many bewildering trades engineered by Corbett as the owner.
Don Zimmer (1981-82, 95-106) -- Zim almost got the Rangers into the playoffs in the strike-split season of 1981. One year later the Rangers were being picked to win the division and Zimmer paid the price when it all fell apart.
Doug Rader (1983-85, 155-200) -- MLB.Com's Phil Rogers dubbed it the Reign of the Tahitian Warlord. Rader had a bright baseball mind but his mercurial personality clashed with too many people, especially players. Incidentally, the Rangers also interviewed Jim Leyland but hired Rader instead.
Bobby Valentine (1985-92, 581-605) -- The Rangers actually tried to lure Weaver out of retirement but had no luck. Valentine was joined at the hip with general manager Tom Grieve and they vowed to build the Rangers the right way through scouting and player development. The Rangers lost 99 games in 1985, then went 87-75 in 1986 as Valentine became the biggest sports figure in the Metroplex. The Grieve-Valentine team did raise the Rangers to respectability but weak ownership, a terrible ballpark and some ill-advised moves that strayed away from their rebuilding plan kept them from finishing the job.
Toby Harrah (1992, 32-44) -- He got a two-month trial but had little chance to keep the job beyond that.
Kevin Kennedy (1993-94, 138-138) -- A highly successful Minor League manager, Kennedy had almost no Major League experience in any capacity. His regime got off to a rocky start in 1993 but he did a terrific job getting the Rangers back into contention in the second half. With a players strike looming, the 1994 team was ripped apart by dissension and Kennedy didn't survive when Doug Melvin replaced Grieve as general manager.
Johnny Oates (1995-2001, 506-476) -- He proved to be the perfect manager for a veteran team ready to win and his best work was getting the most out of Juan Gonzalez. But the Rangers couldn't get past the dynastic Yankees and Oates finally resigned early in 2001 one step ahead of the posse.
Jerry Narron (2001-2002, 134-162) -- He was supposed to oversee a youth movement. Instead the Rangers, saddled with Alex Rodriguez's $252 million contract, tried every shortcut possible. Narron got a lousy deal. Nobody should have been asked to manager the nightmare 2002 Rangers team and that cast of infamous characters.
Buck Showalter (2003-06, 319-329) -- The Rangers went from 71-91 in his first year to 89-73 in 2004. But the Rangers couldn't build on that because of their financial distress and a young clubhouse that decided it knew more than the manager. It took Showalter 3 1/2 years to get another job and now he has done outstanding work with the Orioles.
Ron Washington (2007-2014) -- A great hire. A rough start, a memorable ride and a sad ending. Enough said.