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Power Struggle Leaves Fuson Blowing In The Wind
By Gerry Fraley
DALLAS--A power struggle in the Rangers' front office ended with John Hart entrenched as general manager and Grady Fuson, assistant general manager for scouting and player development, headed out of the organization.
Owner Tom Hicks continued his habit of changing directions on a whim and asked Hart to return as general manager for 2005. Under the plan hatched when Hart was hired in November 2001, Fuson was to take over as GM after this season.
Hicks had seemed willing to stick with that approach until manager Buck Showalter expressed strong support for Hart. Rather than risk alienating the major league staff, particularly Showalter, Hicks decided to stay with Hart.
"The entire major league staff wanted John Hart to stay," Hicks said. "For the Rangers, it's great that John will continue in this role. We want to focus on what's going on on the field, and there are a lot of great things going on. I think the major league staff is comforted to know that John will be here next year."
Fuson said he would remain on the job for a few months before deciding his next step. Hart said Fuson is welcome to remain, but he would not have the same amount of autonomy, making it highly unlikely that Fuson will return. Hicks had acknowledged there has been tension between Fuson and the rest of the management group.
The concept was doomed from the start. Hicks made adding Fuson a condition to Hart coming on as general manager, which caused an immediate split in the organization.
"I'm still in charge of scouting and player development," Fuson said. "We'll look at things at the end of the year. For the next few months, I'll continue what I'm doing."
For 2 1/2 years, Hicks has praised Fuson and his staffs in scouting and player development. If Fuson departs, it is likely that many of those people (such as scouting director Ron Hopkins) will leave with him, forcing the Rangers to rebuild in both areas.
"We have a good group there," Hart said. "I think it will be a lot of the status quo. There are a lot of people loyal to the Rangers."
Hart said there probably would be adjustments in front office if Fuson departs. The organization would likely divide his job.
If the Rangers stay in house, coordinator of player development Bob Miscik would be the leading candidate as farm director, while assistant Russ Ardolina or crosschecker Doug Harris could take over the scouting operation.
Fuson has been in charge of three drafts since joining the Rangers.
His first draft, in 2002, was marked by the surprise selection of South Carolina shortstop Drew Meyer in the first round and no picks in the next four rounds because of free-agent compensation. Meyer has been a disappointment.
In the next two drafts, Fuson used the first-round pick on high-school lefthander John Danks and college righthander Thomas Diamond. Righthander John Hudgins, a third-round pick in 2003 out of Stanford, could be the first Fuson draft choice to reach the majors. He has advanced to Double-A Frisco.
Early in his tenure, Fuson engineered a six-player deal with Oakland that sent first baseman Carlos Pena to the Athletics. Lefthander Mario Ramos, the key to the deal for the Rangers, flopped, but Gerald Laird has emerged as a front-line catcher.