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Jon Daniels is Newsmaker of the Year

12/23/2013 - MLB Texas Rangers
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- When Jon Daniels was named Texas Rangers general manager in 2005, he was a 28-year-old taking over a largely irrelevant franchise.

No more.

These days, seemingly every move the Rangers make -- on and off the field -- generates headlines, the result of playing in two of the past four World Series and having one of the biggest late-season collapses in baseball history in 2012.

Daniels also receives his share of headlines. Some, he likes; others, he doesn't, but professional scrutiny is the price of success.

In the past year, Daniels cobbled together a 91-win team after having the conviction to let Josh Hamilton leave via free agency rather than pay him $25 million per year over five seasons and trading Michael Young, the face of the franchise.

Given all that's transpired this year, no one should be surprised that Daniels is ESPN Dallas' Newsmaker of the Year.

Daniels spent much of the year in a battle with Texas icon Nolan Ryan for control of the franchise, though the general manager won't appreciate that description. The internal organization strife began in March, when Daniels was named president of baseball operations, and it ended in October, when Ryan retired.

Daniels acquired Matt Garza, the best pitcher available at the trade deadline, in hopes of giving the Rangers momentum in their battle with the Oakland A's for the AL West title.

An improbable seven-game win streak to end the season gave the Rangers an opportunity to play the Tampa Bay Rays in a one-game playoff for the AL wild-card game.

"That's the nature of competition -- not so much the internal stuff -- but I'm talking about the nature of team changing and making tough decisions with popular players," Daniels said. "That's our job. There are some challenging aspects to those decisions, but the toughest thing we do is making decisions on hiring and letting people go.

"Those decisions affect people's lives, and it's no different whether you're running a baseball team or a retail store. Are some baseball decisions tougher than others? Yes, but they're still baseball decisions. You don't want to lose sight of that."

Missing the playoffs for the first time since 2009 sent Daniels on a quest to add two hitters and improve a listless offense.

Well, he's handled his business.

Last month, Daniels made a bold move by trading three-time All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler for perennial All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder and the $138 million left on his contract.

It was an old-fashioned player-for-player deal that shocked much of the baseball world. Last week, Daniels signed outfielder and leadoff hitter Shin Soo-Choo to a seven-year, $130 million deal -- the sixth-largest deal for an outfielder in baseball history. In the process, Daniels has retooled a team that came within one strike of winning the World Series.

Only two every-day players -- Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre -- remain from the team that took the field for Game 7 of the 2011 World Series. Derek Holland and Matt Harrison are the only starters left from the World Series rotation.

The safe approach would've been to give long-term deals to players such as Hamilton and Mike Napoli since they played such an integral role in the Rangers' rise to relevancy.

But Daniels has never been about comfort. Change is necessary. It's good.

And that's among the reasons the Rangers have won 90 games each of the past four seasons, have a couple AL West titles and have made the playoffs three of the past four seasons.

But they choked away the World Series in 2011 and the division title in 2012, and they gagged pretty hard last season before forcing the one-game playoff with Tampa Bay.

Daniels is about winning titles. So he, much like his club's fan base, is pleased with the franchise's progress but unsatisfied that the Rangers still don't have a title.

The Rangers remain one of baseball's best teams and one of the clubs in the championship hunt each season when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

The Rangers have sustained their success because Daniels is the anti-Jerry Jones: He refuses to cling to the past. It's always about the next wave of talent and the next deal.

Not every move works. Actually, many fall short of expectation, but no aggressive general manager could ever claim perfection.

Daniels' philosophy is clear.

He establishes a certain value for players on the roster and rarely compromises it to re-sign them. He identifies young talent such as Holland, Harrison and Martin Perez and signs it to long-term deals to create some financial stability. And he believes in scouting and development, so the Rangers can say good-bye to players such as Hamilton, Young, Kinsler, Napoli and Nelson Cruz because they have younger, cheaper options such as Jurickson Profar, Tanner Scheppers and Leonys Martin to play key roles.

"I'm not in this job just to have this job," Daniels said. "Don't get me wrong, this job has given me everything I have and much of what I own, but I just don't want to have the job to have the job.

"I want to win."