Daniels hopes to dispel youth stereotypes
by Alan Schwarz
October 25, 2005
Yes, at 28 he's the youngest general manager in major league history. Sure,
he's the latest in a string of Ivy League-educated GMs. But as soon as the hubbub
about his early-October promotion to Rangers GM dies down, Jon Daniels will be
judged like all other club decision-makers: whether he can do the job. I spoke
with Daniels during the Texas organization meetings about meshing with
established general managers, improving the Rangers and his humble baseball roots
that involed crashing in Denver basements.
ALAN SCHWARZ: What is the difference between calling other general
managers when you're a GM yourself, instead of still being an assistant GM?
JON DANIELS: I think it's just a matter of building relationships, and
some are going to come faster than others. Some guys have been more open in our
initial conversations--we've jumped right into any possible fits the two teams
have, offseason priorities, etc. Some have been a little less substantive in what
we've discussed, but my guess, and I anticipate as our relationships develop as
people you do business with, that will expand.
AS: Is there any sort of strategic marketing that you try to do
starting out, so that they get to know you in the way you would like to be known?
And how much scouting are you doing, to get to know them?
JD: I don't think there is really any marketing. I think if you do that
it would come across as transparent and fake. General managers, especially the
veteran general managers, are quality reads of people and good judges of
character. I obviously don't have a lengthy track record, but I do feel pretty
confident that my reputation among people who know me will stand up.
AS: What are the disadvantages of being only 28, and what are the
advantages of being only 28?
JD: For me the biggest disadvantage to date, or the issue to date, has
been that my age has been the story. I'll be happy as soon as the story is off of
my age and the novelty of it and back on the offseason moves to improve the
club--the story is back on our players.
I don't have the library of history-making decisions that somebody who has
more experience does. But I do think that has been overblown in certain
scenarios. You can be an assistant GM or a farm director or a scouting director
or an executive at any level for 20 years--but until you actually have to be the
one to push the button, make the call, sign the free agent, make the trade, make
the multimillion-dollar recommendation to ownership, it's always your first time
doing that. I've heard that from a number of GMs.
Another disadvantage for me is the perception that, at 28 years old, I've got
my computer and pocket protector ready to go and I'm going to make all of my
decisions without consulting with people who have been through the wars before.
That couldn't be further from the truth. I believe in gathering as much
information as possible and making the best decision I can. That includes medical
information, makeup, character, statistical analysis, and equally if not more
important, talking to our scouts, getting a read on what their recommendations
are. The perception is something that I'm trying not to pay too much attention
to, but that's something that I imagine will continue.
AS: Are there any advantages to being only 28?
JD: Not just myself, I think that there is an energy level, a
creativity, maybe a little bit of a . . . I don't want to come across as cocky,
because that's not me, but maybe a little bit of a fearlessness as far as taking
AS: There is this silly perception that you, Theo Epstein and Paul
DePodesta are all the same person. What are the main differences among you
JD: Well, there is one enormous difference--Theo has now been to the
postseason three times in a row and won a world championship, and Paul won a
division title in his first season as general manager. I haven't accomplished
AS: I'm talking about personality and philosophy.
JD: I have a relationship where I can call them, but I wouldn't say I
know them extremely well. I probably know their public personas better than the
AS: Getting back to your club, what do the Rangers need right now?
JD: Our bullpen is a focus. That was probably the biggest difference
from the quality run we made in 2004 and this past year. I think our bullpen ERA
went from about 3.40 to 4.80.
I am not the first general manager for the Rangers to identify starting
pitching as a focus area. We have made progress--I think a lot of that
improvement is going to come internally with Chris Young, Kameron Loe, Juan
Dominguez, and others that in our minds have gotten over the hump a little bit.
But we need to add to it and we are going to be without Kenny Rogers next year.
That's 200 quality innings that we're going to have to replace in addition to
wanting to get better.
AS: What is the developing dynamic between Ian Kinsler and Alfonso
Soriano? How do you assess your options, given they both play second base and one
could make about $10 million or more in arbitration?
JD: First of all, on Ian, he's a guy we hold in very high regard. He is
advanced for his age and he has played well so far. The flipside is that he plays
the same position where we've got a perennial all-star and guy who has been
extremely productive, 30-30 this year in addition to all of the other attributes
he brings. There has been some speculation, since day one, that we're looking to
deal him. I look up two years later and here he is in our lineup. It's depth.
There is nothing to say that both guys can't be here for this year and
AS: Should I interpret that as a possible position switch for
JD: I wouldn't necessarily read into that. Alfonso is our second
baseman and we don't have plans to move him off of there.
AS: Your first job in baseball in 2001 was as an intern in Colorado,
where you examined in detail how Coors Field affects offense and pitching. Does
that experience help you in figuring out how the Rangers' home park plays into
JD: There are a lot of similarities. But if you get too focused on
building specifically for your park, you can get away from trying to identify the
most talented players out there. There are two ways to guarantee that the ball
stays in the park--a strikeout or a ground ball. So we have tried to focus and
look over some tendencies and trends we acquire, but at the end of it, talent
plays up and overcomes.
AS: During that Rockies internship, did you really make just $275 a
week--and sleep in a basement?
JD: Yeah, it was $1,200 a month. Fortunately I knew somebody out
there--there were four roommates, they had a house and it had an unfinished
basement. I bought a mattress and some plywood, I built a bed frame and it was
fine. There was a concrete slab floor, there were exposed studs on the walls and
I bought a clothes rack to hang my clothes and hung it in front of the
water-heater. It wasn't that bad. It wasn't like I walked 20 miles barefoot to
AS: This winter's free agent market appears a little light. Will trades
be more vital than usual?
JD: Sure, it's a supply and demand situation. When we look at how to
improve our team, it might be a market that is more reliant on trades than in the
AS: Is it more fun to devise trades, or is it more nerve-wracking
having to give up talent to get it?
JD: I'll let you know when I actually make a deal.
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