ST. PETERSBURG — Shortly after Jon Daniels surprisingly was fired as Rangers baseball operations president in August, his friend and former assistant general manager Josh Boyd had a question for him.
How soon was Daniels going to join the Rays front office run by Erik Neander, whom he had grown to greatly respect over years as competitors?
“He kind of knew how I felt about both Erik and just the organization in general, and the type of people they are and what they do,” Daniels said.
What Boyd didn’t know was that Neander already was working on it, having reached out to Daniels the day after his dismissal to express interest in bringing him aboard.
Daniels, 45, needed some time, having spent 21 years with Texas, the last 17 in charge. He did some thinking, realizing he would welcome the break from the 24/7/365 business of running a team. He had some cursory conversations with a few other teams about consulting roles. Then, he did what Boyd and others expected, joining the Rays last week as a senior advisor in baseball operations.
What Daniels will do isn’t defined, which is by design.
More than scouting a player or suggesting game strategy, he will provide guidance and counsel to what is a relatively inexperienced upper-management team — Neander; general manager Peter Bendix; vice presidents Will Cousins, Kevin Ibach, Chanda Lawdermilk and Carlos Rodriguez; and others.
“I think most of my time will be more from the staff leadership development standpoint,” Daniels said. “I think I’ll sit in the back of the room during some personnel discussions and, if I have something relevant or if I’m asked a specific question, I’ll weigh in.
“But I don’t have any secret sauce. If I did, the Rangers wouldn’t have had losing seasons the last six years. I feel like I’m here to play like a support role as needed.”
Daniels has the experience of leading a team that won the American League West four times from 2010-16 and made back-to-back World Series appearances.
He also has dealt with myriad more-complicated issues: having a manager (Ron Washington) admit cocaine use; players (Josh Hamilton and Matt Bush) with behavioral issues; a team in bankruptcy, then under new ownership; building a new stadium, two Dominican Republic academies and a performance lab; and having a fan die after falling from the stands during a game.
“The experience that he has, the things that he’s seen, the perspective that he has …. to have that person as a sounding board to offer advice, to offer suggestions, to offer just a different perspective, I’m really excited to see what that looks like,” Bendix said.
The fit was comfortable all around, with the benefit for Daniels of being able to continue to live in the Dallas area, work with charitable foundations and spend more time with his wife and three kids. “I’m gonna be in the carpool line picking up my kids from school, grocery shopping and doing the stuff that my wife has done for all these years,” he said.
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Daniels said he always was impressed by how the Rays found ways to be competitive, how they developed not only players but also staff, and “their willingness to take risks and kind of go against the grain.”
His admiration grew for Neander the more he got to know him: “Outside of people that I’ve worked with previously, I’ve probably developed as close a relationship with him as anybody in the game.
“He’s just easy to talk with. You get a sense that we probably have some similar values in terms of how we treat people, how we handle ourselves, prioritize family and all those sorts of things.”
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