By Rachel Gross Weinstein
Jon Daniels grew up in Queens, N.Y., attended Hebrew school, Jewish summer camp, had his bar mitzvah and was confirmed. So, when he succeeded John Hart as general manager of the Texas Rangers in 2005 at age 28, he brought all of his past Jewish experiences and values to the table.
Today, eight years later, he thinks of the organization as a family and runs it with his Jewish upbringing in the back of his mind.
“Judaism is an important part of my life, and for me, it has always been about family, togetherness and that community element,” he said. “A lot of what we do now, how we have structured the organization and the types of people we bring in have a lot of parallels of Judaism that are so special to me. It’s not just a business, but I share my values with everyone involved and they are like a family.”
Daniels spoke at the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ business breakfast Jan. 9, which attracted about 150 people. A different speaker comes each month as a way for members of the community to network with one another and learn something. The series is sponsored by Prescott Pailet Benefits.
Daniels began his career in baseball in 2001 when he landed an internship with the Colorado Rockies. He joined the Rangers’ organization in 2002 as an assistant in baseball operations. He was promoted to director of baseball operations in 2003 before becoming general manager.
The Rangers weren’t in contention for much of the 2000s — after winning three American League West Division titles in the 1990s — and Daniels decided changes needed to be made, he said.
“I looked at what we needed to do differently and have now built a culture of having everyone work together and giving everyone a voice,” he said. “The Rangers had been run where everything was separate, where player development was in one area, operations was in another and scouting was in another. We weren’t a family, and there was no discussion with all of the parts. I changed that, and now it’s like a dinner table with a Jewish family — we sit and argue, and everyone has a voice.”
This is what, Daniels believes, has led the Rangers to the playoffs for the past three years. They made it to the World Series in 2010 and 2011, but lost to the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals, respectively. Texas lost to the Baltimore Orioles in the wild card game last year after losing the AL West crown to Oakland on the last day of the regular season.
Getting to the postseason is nice, but winning is always the No. 1 goal, Daniels said. Although Daniels has received some criticism for moves this offseason — Josh Hamilton signed with the Los Angeles Angels, Michael Young was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and the Rangers missed out on free-agent pitcher Zach Greinke, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers — the team did acquire first baseman/designated hitter Lance Berkman and catcher A.J. Pierzynski.
The Rangers have a core group of young players and are still actively pursuing other free agents, Daniels said, but he wouldn’t go into detail except to say he would like to acquire another starting pitcher.
Daniels made one thing clear, though — he is happy with the team right now and believes the Rangers will have another good season.
“I can’t tell you on any given year that this is the year we are going to win the World Series, but we want to commit to our fans that every year going forward, we are going to be in contention and you can count on that,” he said. “We are never going to worry about fans coming to the ballpark and we will be out of it. We are going to be aggressive, have an exciting young players and are going to stay fresh all of the time. We feel we have a great window the next 10 to 15 years, and we don’t want to do anything to slam that on our fingers.
“I like our club going forward.”