- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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SAN DIEGO -- Jeff Banister spent nearly 30 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization in a variety of roles from the minor league to the big league level.
It all changed this winter when the Texas Rangers hired him as their manager.
So instead of just sitting back waiting to see what happens with minimal input when it comes to the roster, he's got a say in how things are going.
"The very first few days, it was overwhelming," Banister said. "You just don't turn 29 years off. One, I wanted to be able to honor the Pirates organization and everybody within the organization and all the fans they had. They've grown me up. They've helped raise my kids. They've been with me through every wedding anniversary I've ever had. They helped me bury my father, my grandmother and celebrate birthdays. So that was the first thing that I wanted to do is to say thank you.
"Second, it was trying to get to know everybody within the organization and taking the time and finding the proper way to introduce myself. I'm still in that process. I haven't gotten to everybody. Hopefully I will before the end of the year. That's players, front-office development system, anybody connected within the organization. But it's a long process and one that I'm glad I get to do."
Banister has exchanged text messages with every player on the roster and met a good percentage of them. He plans on a face-to-face chat with slugger Prince Fielder this winter and wants another meeting with the coaching staff before spring training.
Managers' roles in the offseason: Some managers take a hands-off approach to the offseason's wheeling and dealing. Others are hands-on. It's a delicate balance you draw, from having an opinion on everything to just letting the front-office people do their jobs.
"I couldn't give you a percentage, but I get asked," Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I get asked, 'What do you think? How does this guy fit? Do you know him? Do you want to talk to him?' I think going over to see [Nick Markakis] a couple weeks ago was the first time I've experienced that to go see a player. That was fun. You felt like you were on a recruiting trip. But it was a nice get to know the player and the family, and it was at his house, so it was a nice comfortable place for him."
Banister has also spoken to some free-agent players for the Rangers, and GM Jon Daniels knows what he's looking for in a player.
My observations: Not sure what the New York Yankees are doing by letting closer David Robertson leave. Money shouldn't be a problem for them. However, maybe the price was too high even for them, given Robertson's skills. Daniels said he would like to add another veteran reliever, and Scott Baker is available. The Rangers offered a minor league deal for Baker, but he declined. Door is still open for a return. The Chicago White Sox made a powerful statement to the rest of the AL by trading for Jeff Samardzija and adding Robertson. Are they favorites in the AL Central? I still like the Kansas City Royals. Jon Lester should just sign with the Boston Red Sox and get it over with.