Hart Attack

Everybody loves a winner? Tell it to Rangers GM John Hart.

"There's never been a Rangers GM that I haven't had a relationship with that I would say was at least good to fair, and that's going back to '72," Galloway continues. "This is the first one that I would say is a bad relationship, and when he was hired I didn't expect that. And I'll say this: The decision not to talk to him is not John Hart's; it's mine. Early on, when things were going bad, I think that's when you judge someone--on what they're doing and then how they conduct themselves. And that first year, things were going really bad, really awful--it was almost a fantasy it was so awful. How can you be so bad that almost every decision you make turns out to be wrong? So I said some of that.

"Now [Cowboys owner] Jerry [Jones] has been so mad at me for the things that I've said that he's stopped talking to me for days, but the lines of communication were never completely cut off. With John, he didn't return my phone calls. So my attitude was bleep him. What do I need that for? With Hart, his incompetence is exceeded only by his arrogance. Any criticism of Hicks, he finds it personal, and Hart has taken that same approach. You know how personal I've been with Hart? I call him the empty golf shirt. That's it. Because I think he's better at golf than he has been at baseball."

Maybe. But there's something to be said for the fact that it looks as though Hart and Hicks have learned from their mistakes by not continuing to overpay as they once did. (The Rangers, with a salary in the mid-$50 million range, rank in the middle of the pack in the majors.) If it's true that Hart encouraged Hicks to take a run at winning a few years ago by building around A-Rod with some quick-fix older players, then at least he eventually realized that strategy wasn't going to work, stripped the club down and started over with his young guns. That idea clearly has been more tenable, because those young guns are straight shooters, not blanks. He may not have brought those players to Texas, but he's left them alone instead of trading his sacred cows for magic beans. Yet you rarely hear anyone trumpet him for that. As he said, he is often damned no matter what he does or doesn't do.

Kenny Rogers, when not talking down to reporters, can 
really field his position.
Peter Scanlon
Kenny Rogers, when not talking down to reporters, can really field his position.
Outfielder Kevin Mench says the Kenny Rogers situation 
isn’t a situation. He’s from Philly—so you have to believe 
him, right?
MLB Photos
Outfielder Kevin Mench says the Kenny Rogers situation isn’t a situation. He’s from Philly—so you have to believe him, right?

"The first year, things didn't work out well," Hart admits. "The organization had to define itself and figure out where it wanted to go. We still had Pudge [Rodriguez] and Raffy [Palmeiro] and Alex and a lot of pieces in place where Tom was committed, and we tried to take a quick run and see if we could maybe jump-start this thing. And when things didn't work out--we certainly didn't make some great signings, but I don't think we had the right dynamic in place at the time. The criticism, at the time, was certainly deserved. It didn't bother me, no; that's part of the game.

"But at some point, I think, it did get a bit personal. In my mind, what I did--and I've been doing this a long time--I considered the sources of where the criticism was coming from and deemed that it was personal to me, to Tom and ultimately it was affecting the Rangers. So I did close a lot of people out--I mean, what do they need to talk to me for? We concentrated on what we needed to do internally. Just because I wasn't overly approachable or accessible to some of the media didn't mean that we weren't doing a ton of stuff internally. We realized that it wasn't going to be a quick fix, either. We knew internally what we wanted to do, and it took a better turn last year.

"But I think the die was cast. I was never gonna be a popular figure in Texas, which was a shame, really. I had a good relationship with the media in Cleveland--I was approachable and accessible. But that's OK. My biggest thing was that it was beginning to affect the Rangers. And I think when we traded Alex, it really reached a crescendo where people were saying that we were going to lose 100 games, and a lot of people who haven't broken a sweat in 30 years thought they had it figured out pretty well. But surprise, surprise. It doesn't bother me. I realize now that there's never going to be a fondness for me."

John Hart has a problem--despite his denial about it being a problem. In specific: Kenny Rogers isn't talking, and he's not talking about why he's not talking. Which is fun, but only if you're a glutton for condescension.

"Nope," the staff's No. 1 pitcher says when asked if he has a minute to talk. He gives this answer frequently now, and over the course of a week repeatedly denied the Dallas Observer's request for an interview. Now, though, he's dressing by his locker, pulling on long blue socks, which has his full attention. He doesn't bother to look up or acknowledge my presence, just stares down at his socks--the ballplayer's way of knocking you down a notch without exerting the effort. "Don't have time."

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