Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A sympathetic view of John Hart 

From the Dallas Observer, a lengthy, sympathetic piece on John Hart suggesting he's been unfairly criticized by the Dallas media and sports fans.

As with a lot of Hart supporters, the writer is basically criticizing the critics, rather than defending Hart (although he seems to think Hart deserves praise for not trading away Melvin's young players who are now the core of the team).


The above is John Gonzalez's story from a year ago, a few tidbits to chew on:

'"Make no mistake about it," general manager John Hart began frankly, "we're getting a good player, a good kid, but he's not Alex Rodriguez."

What he didn't say, at least not blatantly, is that you're stuck now. Those of you who still count yourselves among the number of disaffected Rangers fans will be held hostage by a team that might be worse than it was last year but won't be as entertaining. No A-Rod, no Raffy, no Gonzo, no Carl "I'll punch you in the head so you better shut up" Everett. No fun.

"I sure enjoyed watching Alex play--the fans did, too," Hicks said following the trade. The great thing about that news conference was that the Rangers also announced the re-signing of third baseman Hank Blalock. It was classic redirection, the same stuff used and loved by Jerry Jones. What big trade? Who's talking about that? Don't you know we've signed William Hung of American Idol fame to sing our national anthem? Get your f-ing priorities in order. "I think we'll all look back fondly and say we had three years watching him."

Yeah, 'cause that makes up for the constant losing and abandoned hope. Makes you warm inside, too."'


'Alfonso Soriano, whom the Rangers affectionately call Sori, will play second base. If he sticks around. There have been rumors circulating that Texas was looking to deal him to the Mets.

"That's absurd," Hart says, almost spitting. "It's a fabrication. I'm not responding to this. It's beyond belief what's out there."

Right, because trading the team's best player couldn't happen. Not on this team. Not after the GM huffs and puffs and swears it won't.'


Oh this is the best part,

'Hicks is the worst offender. Following the A-Rod trade, someone asked the owner if ticket holders--chiefly those who bought in after the "he's not going anywhere" comment by Hicks--would be given a refund. "There won't be any refunds," Hicks said, sounding like Paul Dooley in Breaking Away. "Of course not." It would have been less offensive for him to roll around in a pile of hundreds while screaming, "**** you, suckers!"

The real stink of it is, at the same news conference, Hicks promised the fans that he'd "put money back into the payroll." Hmm, not yet. Not really. (Various team figureheads keep promising me it takes time. Whatever.) They threw a five-year, $15.2 million deal at Blalock, as well they should, but that's been about it. They had a chance to lock down Young, a solid second baseman last year and an exemplary person, but they didn't. Instead, they signed him to a one-year deal worth $450,000--barely more than the $300,000 league minimum. Now that was partly the result of baseball's bureaucracy and semi-complicated rules that you have to have players signed by certain dates, but they easily could have tendered Young a better deal if they so wished.

If you're winning, or even sniffing improvement, that can be a slippery way to conduct your affairs. But when you're dreadful, it's best not to insult your fan base with shameful bait-and-switch strategy or outright lies. (Even if you're cutting payroll to make the team more attractive for a sale, as some have suggested.) They ought to be careful with their words, or at least conscious of the way they handle themselves, because it reflects on the team, and the team doesn't need its image to grow any darker.'


'The worst case: The other day, on the practice field behind the clubhouse, Grant asked Showalter about Rafael Palmeiro. The former Ranger is now playing for the Orioles, and he had many things to say about his old club and manager, none of which were nice. Showalter refused to comment and walked away in a huff. Later, according to someone close to the organization, the manager pulled Grant aside and brought him into a coaches' meeting, ostensibly to smooth things over. Grant asked the same question. Showalter answered it. But this time, it was GM John Hart who jumped all over Grant, attacking him in front of the captive audience and "motherf***ker"-ing him. Whatever the backstory there (Grant wouldn't talk about it, and the Rangers, through Elkin, declined comment), and regardless of the DMN's shortcomings--and there are a lot--it's just bad business to make an enemy of the area's most powerful media outlet. (Unless you work for the Dallas Observer, where it's considered a job well done.) The daily paper is not only how most fans get their Rangers news, but it also sets the agenda for what the radio talk shows discuss on most days. More simply: Handling the situation that way was asking for trouble.

If these were individual, isolated incidents, it wouldn't be so bad. But taken on the whole, it speaks to something bigger. Either the Rangers are oblivious to their missteps (which I doubt) and how they poorly portray the organization, or, more likely, they simply don't think they can screw up enough to keep you away from the park.'


And considering Gonzalez's new article talks about saving money for the future, here's what he said a year ago:

' The best move the Rangers have made on the marketing/relations front was allowing a group of 15 loyal fans to attend a scrimmage earlier this week. Security wasn't thrilled about the idea because of a lack of park attendants and insurance concerns, but the Rangers made it happen anyway. The group--led by Cal and Shirley Kost, whom everyone calls "the Cookie Lady" because she bakes for the Rangers--was thrilled. They just wanted to watch their boys; it made their day.

That bit of benevolence was manufactured by Showalter. (He may not like some reporters at times, but he loves the Cookie Lady.) Good thing, too. I doubt the owner would have gone for it. Had it been brought to Hicks' attention, the hunch here is that he might have turned old Cal and Shirley upside down and shaken the loose change out of them.

Refund? Refund!'

The story falls flat on it's face when Sandy Alomar, Jr. is the first person quoted. I know nothing of writing a newspaper article, but I know you need some kind of hook on the front page. The prime beneficiary ain't one.

So did Gonz get to kiss the ring by the end of it?
Dude, One Sentence: He signed Ho Park to a five year deal and he still has a job.
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