Rangers name John Hart general manager

By Evan Grant
November 2, 2001

ARLINGTON – Figuring that his organization needed broad changes to dance back into contention, Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks did his own little two-step Thursday.

In hopes of righting the Rangers, Hicks paired accomplished general manager John Hart with scouting director Grady Fuson to form a new management partnership for his baseball club.

Hart, who led the Cleveland Indians to two World Series appearances during a 10-year tenure, accepted a three-year, $6 million contract to become the Rangers’ general manager.

Fuson, who ran the Oakland Athletics’ scouting department for the last seven seasons, joins the Rangers as assistant general manager for scouting and player development.

It was a unique final twist to the Rangers’ nearly four-week search for a replacement for Doug Melvin, who was fired on the season’s final day.

Until the start of this week, Hart and Fuson had been candidates for the same job. Hart, 53, is expected to groom Fuson, 44, as his eventual replacement, Hicks said.

The Rangers retained assistant general manager Dan O’Brien, who will handle more administrative duties. Hart said he also expects to retain manager Jerry Narron.

“We were able to marry the great leadership John Hart has shown with Cleveland with Grady’s expertise in scouting and player development,” Hicks said. “Grady has one of the best noses for talent in baseball. We agreed this would make a great team.”

Hicks’ hope is that the moves will allow the Rangers – coming off consecutive last-place finishes in the American League West Division – to become competitive soon and build enough young talent to remain contenders for the long term.

The decisions came together during whirlwind meetings Wednesday. After Fuson’s interview last week, Hicks conceded that Fuson was a long-shot candidate for the GM job.

Hicks was so impressed, however, that he asked Fusonif he would come aboard in another role. On Monday, Hicks broached the subject with Hart, who was open to teaming with Fuson.

On Wednesday, while Hart and Fuson discussed baseball philosophy and got better acquainted, Hicks discussed with O’Brien his adjusted role. Hicks then called to ask Oakland’s permission to discuss the assistant’s position with Fuson.

Athletics officials, who granted Fuson permission to discuss only the Rangers’ GM job, declined to comment Thursday on the possibility of filing a tampering complaint against the Rangers since Fuson accepted a lesser position.

The final details were completed as Hart and Fuson watched the Stars’ game with Hicks on Wednesday night.

“The landscape is littered with train wrecks of teams who tried to rush, at all costs, to get a winner,” said Hart, who helped guide a Cleveland team that lost 105 games in 1991 to six playoff trips in the last seven years. “We want to avoid becoming one of those wrecks. I don’t want to write off anything.

“We would like to give ourselves a chance to win in [2002] and [2003], but we want to keep a sharp eye on the future. We may look for players who will help us now and be part of the future.”

That would follow the model Hart built in Cleveland after taking over a woeful franchise that hadn’t been to the playoffs since 1954. By 1995, the Indians were American League Central champions. They advanced to the World Series, losing to Atlanta in six games. They also reached the World Series in 1997, losing to Florida in seven games.

Hart announced early this season that he would step down from the Cleveland job.

Fuson helped restock an Oakland franchise gutted after winning three AL pennants and one World Series from 1988 to 1992. Because of a smaller market, the A’s were forced to look for cheaper talent.

Fuson oversaw a scouting program that produced starting pitchers Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, and Tim Hudson and position players Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada. Oakland won the AL West in 2000 and won the AL wild card this season.

Although Fuson will take on the additional role of player development director, he is expected to remain primarily an in-the-field talent evaluator. Hart said he plans to “turn [ Fuson] loose and let him run.”

“It’s one thing to get promoted, but you don’t want to wear too many hats,” Fuson said. “I didn’t want to become something I wasn’t. I want to be out there helping Tom Hicks and John Hart and Jerry Narron field a winner. I want to be part of a winner.”