|Rangers architect Jon Daniels was nearly a Red Sox||10.19.11 at 1:50 am ET|
Long gone are the days when Jon Daniels received vexed looks by those who could not believe that he was old enough to be a major league general manager.
Daniels is still the youngest GM in the majors at 34, but he has spent six years in charge of building the Rangers’ organization, and in 2011, for the second straight year, he has steered Texas into the World Series. A combination of tremendously talented homegrown players, savvy trades and occasional dips into free agency have cemented the perception that the Rangers under Daniels have become one of the best organizations in the game.
For that reason, it is fascinating to consider his baseball roots — both where he did and did not get his start.
Daniels went to Cornell and received his degree in Applied Economics and Management. Out of college, he lived in the Boston area while working for Allied Domecq, a company that was dealing with the branding of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins. The undertaking was uninteresting, and so, following the path of college friend A.J. Preller (now the Rangers Senior Director of Player Personnel, who was then an intern with the Phillies), Daniels decided in 2001 to seek an internship in a baseball front office.
He lived in Boston, and so the first place to interview was obvious enough. Daniels submitted his resume to the Red Sox. At that time, the Sox were in the early stages of creating a baseball operations internship program, a task that had been entrusted to then-baseball operations assistant Ben Cherington by then-GM Dan Duquette as a means of injecting young talent into the team’s front office structure.
Daniels’ resume was sufficiently impressive that he was brought in for an interview with Cherington. Earlier this season, the Rangers GM recalled that he left the conversation fearing that he’d done terribly, hoping he hadn’t embarrassed himself too completely.
He had not.
“I remember his quick mind and intelligence and I thought he had a resilience about him,” Cherington recalled.
Daniels was one of the two finalists for the internship, but he did not get the position. Instead, the coveted spot went to Jed Hoyer. Yet Hoyer had been selected for the spot in early-2002, just prior to the transfer of the Red Sox from the Yawkey Trust to the group headed by John Henry and Tom Werner. And with hundreds of millions of dollars and the structure of an organization in limbo, the status of a prospective intern risked slipping through the cracks.
“I was worried that Jed’s position would be held up because of [the transfer]. He was in Boston. I was already in spring training. I kind of told him to lay low and be quiet for a few days. I thought it would work out,” Cherington recalled this spring. “As soon as the transition happened, I was able to talk to [then Assistant GM Theo Epstein]. Theo was really into this. He wanted bright young people around.
“It worked out. Jed stayed. We very quickly realized that he was going to be a huge part of what we were doing.”
Hoyer became one of the key members of the Red Sox’ baseball operations staff from 2002-09, before he left the organization to become GM of the Padres. As for Daniels, Cherington passed his name to Josh Byrnes, an Assistant GM with the Colorado Rockies with whom Cherington had worked a few years earlier in the Indians front office.
Byrnes (who, one year later, would join the Red Sox front office as an Assistant GM when Epstein became the GM) hired Daniels as an intern, and at the end of his internship, Daniels landed a job in the front office of the Rangers. From there, his role steadily grew to the point where he was named the team’s GM in late-2005, a position from which he has built Texas into a franchise that is currently enjoying a perch atop the baseball landscape, roughly 10 years after he gained his first toehold in the baseball industry.
“What I most remember is that we had two finalists for that position and both ended up GM’s well before I did,” said Cherington. “JD has turned the Rangers into one of the best operations in baseball.”
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