Mac Engel

Daniels’ bad year is over, and now he needs to clean up Rangers’ mess

Anybody with a track record is allowed to have a bad year, and Jon Daniels has both.

If you are going to blow it, at least have the decency to do it with style. The Rangers didn’t just stink, they were once-a-generation bad.

Your kids can always say they saw one of the worst Rangers teams in franchise history. Their .414 winning percentage was this team’s worst since the 1985 Rangers won at a .392 clip.

Your team has not had a good year when the best story is career minor leaguer Guilder Rodriguez finally living out his dream with a few big-league at-bats.

“There are a lot of things to look forward to for next season; we have depth at every level,” interim manager Tim Bogar said a few days before the end of the season. “It’s going to be a whole different lineup next year.”

To which I say, thank God. It had be better be a whole different lineup next year. And rotation. And bullpen. By August, few people would have recognized the names on the stalls in the clubhouse. That can’t happen again anytime soon.

Whether you like him or not or believe he is the chief beneficiary of Nolan Ryan’s “divine touch,” Jon Daniels has been here long enough and done enough to warrant a bad year. That bad year is over.

He made this mess, and it’s on him to clean it up. He is in the final year of a contract, and like anybody in pro sports entering the last season of a deal, he needs to show everybody he can clean it up and make it better.

I am not a sycophantic J.D. believer, nor do I think J.D. is el diablo de beisbol. I do not believe Nolan Ryan is solely responsible for all that was good with the Rangers. Nolan signed off on many of these moves that so many of us question, from Elvis Andrus’ fat contract to the $100 million addition of Yu “I Only Pitch For Contending Teams” Darvish.

The truth, as often is the case, is somewhere in the middle.

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Also the truth is that the team was more of a mess in spring training than so many realized and its deficiencies and vulnerabilities were quickly exposed. The plague that hit this team simply made the season exponentially worse.

No set of bizarre circumstances, however, can rationalize away a sequel to the Great Wreck of ’14.

If J.D. repeats the mistakes of last off-season, when he tried to short cut and Yankee his way through problems, then he has learned nothing and hubris will be his undoing.

Considering how long J.D. has been here — he has been with the club since 2002 — you would think he of all people know that throwing money at a problem creates false expectations and is not a guarantee to fix anything.

There are polar opposite factions that regularly follow this club. One believes ’14 was an aberration, and the talent coming up and returning from the disabled list ensures the Rangers will contend again. The other believes that the holes are so numerous and that the young talent is so far away from Arlington that hitting .500 next season will qualify as a major accomplishment.

Considering how 2014 developed, both factions should be cautiously worried.

This team is awash in ifs right now, some more secure than others.

The good ifs are Shin Soo Choo, Prince Fielder, Leonys Martin, Yu Darvish, Elvis Andrus, etc. The bad ifs are a bullpen that needs help and a rotation that features only two reliable arms.

Co-owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson cannot be OK with .500. This team has the eighth highest payroll in baseball, and no team that lost as many games as the Rangers did in 2014 should feel good about itself, especially the GM who built it.

One of J.D.’s first items of business is the necessity to keep pitching coach Mike Maddux, assuming he does not get the managerial spot and Bogar does. Unless Maddux is named a manager elsewhere, J.D. better not let him leave. If Maddux walks, all it will do is further enhance the visual that the GM is trying to evict anyone who was perceived as a “Nolan guy.”

Mercifully the off-season is here. J.D.’s reprieve is over, and he needs to fix the mess he created.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports.

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