"He is a truly brilliant mind," Rangers owner Tom Hicks said of Daniels. "His youth is an asset to us. He's a truly exceptional talent."
Hart's resignation ended an up-and-down tenure in Texas. He was brought in four years ago to construct a championship team when Texas signed Alex Rodriguez. Hart signed a number of aging stars, including Andres Galarraga and Ken Caminiti, to surround Rodriguez in a bid to win immediately. The strategy backfired, as Texas recorded three consecutive losing seasons.
Only when the Rangers went young and Rodriguez was jettisoned to the New York Yankees two seasons ago did Hart and the team find success. Young, Teixeira, Blalock, Francisco Cordero and Alfonso Soriano, whom the Rangers received in exchange for Rodriguez, flourished. They all became All-Stars and Texas finished the 2004 campaign with its first winning record since 1999.
Because of Texas' success in 2004, Hart signed a two-year extension to stay with the club through '06, but Hart said Tuesday's resignation was a "personal call." He said that even if the Rangers had enjoyed another successful season in 2005 -- Texas finished 79-83 -- he would still have resigned.
"It's not often in this game you have the ability to control your own destiny," said Hart, best known for reviving Cleveland's dormant franchise into a regular postseason player in the mid- to late-1990s. "It's tough to step aside, but I think it's the right decision for the organization and the right decision for me."
THE HART ERA
|John Hart, 57, just concluded his 14th consecutive season as a Major League general manager and his fourth at the helm of the Texas Rangers. That's the second-longest span of any current executive behind Atlanta's John Schuerholtz. |
|Named as the Rangers' GM on Nov. 1, 2001.|
|Signed Buck Showalter as the Rangers' manager on Oct. 11, 2002 and saw Showalter go on to become AL Manager of the Year in 2004.|
|Established a talented young nucleus for the Rangers by signing players such as Michael Young, Hank Blalock and Francisco Cordero to multi-year contracts before and during the 2004 season. |
|Engineered the Alex Rodriguez/Alfonso Soriano deal in February of 2004 and saw the Rangers go from a last-place team in 2003 to a division contender with 89 wins in '04.|
|Moved from GM to a consultant's role on Oct. 4, 2005. |
Hicks dismissed any notion that Hart was forced out. Hicks said he and Hart have had numerous conversations about how long Hart wanted to stay with the club. Hart said he made up his mind Monday to resign.
Daniels, the eighth general manager in club history, has been with the Rangers since 2002, when he was hired as a baseball operations assistant. He was promoted to director of baseball operations in October 2003, and again to assistant GM in July 2004. Hart said he felt confident with Daniels assuming his role.
"Jon is young, but he has the qualities that you look for in a leader," Hart said. "He has the respect of everyone in the organization, the business department, the baseball people, the veteran scouts. He's going to be a great leader."
Said Daniels: "I'm ecstatic about this. This is what I've aspired to be for a long time."
Daniels said he is ready and willing to take on the club's and Hicks' high expectations of reaching the World Series.
"That's the challenge I signed up for," Daniels said. "I wouldn't expect anything less."
To get there, Daniels will have to achieve a task Hart had trouble with: Finding solid pitching. Texas has an offense that can outscore any team in the American League, but pitching has been the team's weakness for some time. Some of Hart's forays into free agency to find pitching help -- most notably Chan Ho Park -- brought little relief.
With the playoffs in full swing, Daniels declined to mention any specific players the Rangers would be pursuing in the offseason, but admitted that adding solid pitching will be a priority.