Rangers hire Hart as GM

Thursday, November 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ John Hart, who turned the Cleveland Indians from one of baseball's worst teams into a perennial contender, was hired Thursday as general manager of the struggling Texas Rangers.

Hart takes over a team that has finished in last place for two straight years, even after spending dlrs 252 million on shortstop Alex Rodriguez.

The Rangers also hired Grady Fuson, the Oakland scouting director who had been considered a top candidate for the GM job. Fuson will be assistant GM for scouting and player development.

Hart had announced during the first week of the season that he was leaving as Cleveland's GM on Nov. 1.

Rangers owner Tom Hicks fired GM Doug Melvin on Oct. 7, ending a seven-year run that included the only three division championships in team history.

Hicks also considered Florida Marlins president and general manager Dave Dombrowski. Hicks canceled a second interview that had been scheduled for Thursday. Dombrowski is scheduled to interview Friday for the GM job in Toronto.

Another contender was assistant GM Dan O'Brien. He'll remain in that position, overseeing baseball operations.

``There's a core and a nucleus of quality players that are in place,'' Hart said. ``With the proper leadership, proper tweaking of personnel, I don't think this is a club that's far away from contending.''

The 53-year-old Hart spent 10 seasons with the Indians, who made the playoffs six of the last seven years and reached the World Series in 1995 and 1997. Before Hart came, Cleveland's last postseason appearance was in 1954.

``John has a very successful track record,'' Hicks said. ``Cleveland we think of as a perennial champion. When John joined them they had been a last-place club for many years.''

Melvin oversaw the building of the Texas teams that won the AL West in 1996, '98 and '99 but lost in the playoffs to the New York Yankees each time.

After finishing last in 1999, the Rangers added Rodriguez even though pitching was a bigger need. Rodriguez hit .318 with an AL-leading 52 homers and 133 runs scored, but Texas had a 5.71 earned run average that was the worst in the majors _ for the second straight year.

The Rangers went 73-89 and finished 43 games behind AL West champion Seattle. They avoided their second straight 90-loss season and prevented the Mariners from reaching a record 117th victory with a 4-3 win on the final day.

Hart will determine the status of Rangers manager Jerry Narron, who is signed through the 2003 season. Narron took over when Johnny Oates resigned under pressure May 4 after an 11-17 start.

The Rangers went 62-72 under Narron, the former third-base coach who had never been a manager before.

Hart also will have to decide on how to handle the future of 10-time All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez. Rodriguez hasn't even finished the last two seasons because of injuries, this year because of surgery for tendinitis in his left knee after hitting .308 with 25 homers and 65 runs batted in in 111 games. He could become a free agent after next season.

Rodriguez's agent indicated that he will seek up to dlrs 20 million a year for his client, who has caught almost 1,300 games and turns 30 on Nov. 30.