Showalter Is Fired As Rangers Manager

Wednesday, October 4th 2006, 10:56 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ Buck Showalter was out as the manager of the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, ending four seasons in which he was never able to get a team with several young All-Stars above third place in the AL West.

Texas was 80-82 this season, its sixth losing record in seven years since last making the playoffs in 1999. Showalter was 319-329 with the Rangers, his third managerial job, and still had three seasons left on his contract.

Showalter was the AL manager of the year only two years ago, when after AL MVP Alex Rodriguez was traded in the spring the Rangers remained in playoff contention until an 11-inning loss in the 158th game of the season.

Showalter didn't immediately return calls from The Associated Press.

The Rangers were 89-73 in 2004, the fourth-best record in team history and an 18-win improvement over 2003. They finished only three games back in the AL West, but still in third place behind the division-winning Angels and Oakland.

But the Rangers weren't able to build off the momentum of that unexpected playoff chase. They backtracked last year with only 79 victories, and were only one game better than that this season.

Showalter is the fifth manager to lose his job since the end of the regular season, joining Joe Girardi (Florida), Dusty Baker (Chicago Cubs), Frank Robinson (Washington) and Felipe Alou (San Francisco).

Girardi, the potential NL manager of the year and a candidate to replace Baker in Chicago, could also be pursued by the Rangers. Current bench coach Don Wakamatsu could be another candidate.

Showalter's firing came the day after owner Tom Hicks had dinner at his home with Jon Daniels, his 29-year-old general manager, and Showalter for what he said he would be a ``candid conversation'' about what went wrong this season.

Hicks said before the meeting that he wasn't leaning either way and would rely on a recommendation from Daniels, the youngest GM ever in the majors when hired a year ago Wednesday.

Daniels accompanied the team on its final road trip last week, partly to talk to players and determine if discontentment with Showalter in the clubhouse was widespread.

The 50-year-old Showalter, whose contract was extended after the 2005 season, is still owed about $5 million to $6 million from the Rangers. His overall record is 882-833, including four seasons with the New York Yankees (1992-95) and three in Arizona (1998-00).

The season after Showalter's stay ended in New York, the Yankees won three of the next four World Series. That streak was snapped in 2001 by the Diamondbacks, the expansion team Showalter had built.

Texas this season spent more than two months atop the AL West despite never being more than six games above .500, then were out of first place for good a week after the All-Star break. The Rangers had a losing record at home (39-42) for the first time since 1997.

Whoever replaces Showalter will inherit a roster that includes three-time All-Star shortstop Michael Young, switch-hitting slugger and Gold Glove first baseman Mark Teixeira, two-time All-Star third baseman Hank Blalock, closer Akinori Otsuka and Kevin Millwood, the No. 1 starting pitcher with four years left on his contract.

But the Rangers also have nine potential free agents, including Carlos Lee, the two-time All-Star outfielder acquired from Milwaukee before the trade deadline in late July.

Other likely free agents include Gary Matthews Jr., the All-Star center fielder and leadoff hitter who had a breakout season, six-position starter Mark DeRosa, catcher Rod Barajas, and starting pitchers Vicente Padilla and Adam Eaton.

It is unlikely the Rangers will be able to keep all of their potential free agents, unless Hicks is willing to significantly increase this season's $68 million payroll.

Lee was traded only after he turned down a four-year extension worth at least $48 million from the Brewers, and Matthews most likely will at least triple his $2.3 million salary. DeRosa is a free agent for the first time and Padilla is a 15-game winner available in what is expected to be a sparse market for quality starters.