|A.J. Preller was instrumental in the Rangers bringing in Alexi Ogando. (Getty Images)|
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- On the North Side of Chicago, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has spent all month trying to recreate the Red Sox front office at Wrigley Field.
I get that.
Theo Epstein oversaw the collapse of 2011, and in fact made moves (and non-moves) that led to it. But he also won two World Series with a franchise where collapses were much more common than championships.
Here's what I don't get: Why isn't some owner somewhere else trying harder to recreate the Rangers front office?
Why aren't Thad Levine and A.J. Preller being asked to interview for every general manager job that comes open?
That's nothing against the two guys who have interviewed so far with the Orioles -- Diamondbacks assistant Jerry DiPoto and Blue Jays assistant Tony LaCava. Both are extremely well respected in the game, and either would be a fine choice.
That's nothing against the list of candidates the Angels are apparently considering. White Sox assistant Rick Hahn is one of the game's rising stars, and the same goes for Damon Oppenheimer of the Yankees. And if the Angels could somehow convince Andrew Friedman to leave Tampa Bay, they'd be crazy not to hire him.
But if there was any front office in baseball I'd be trying to recreate right now, it's the one that has taken the Rangers to back-to-back World Series.
I'd be looking hard to Levine, who has been Jon Daniels' assistant since Daniels took over as the Rangers GM (and kick-started their growth into a championship team). I'd be looking hard at Preller, who Rangers special assistant Don Welke compares to Hall of Famer Pat Gillick -- and to Daniels.
"There are a lot of similarities," said Welke, who worked closely with Gillick for two decades in Toronto, Baltimore and Philadelphia. "They're not really ego guys. They're team guys. Pat's focus was scouting and player development, and that's A.J."
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Welke has similarly strong and positive things to say about Levine, and others in the Rangers organization say that Levine is so good at communication and leadership that "anyone in the game would want to go work for him."
The Rangers front office is so close-knit that they all seem to want Levine and Preller to get a team of their own to run -- and all seem to regret that a chance like that would mean breaking up the group they have now.
Levine and Preller understand that the chance will have to come elsewhere, since Daniels is just 34 years old.
And Daniels isn't going anywhere. If the New York native didn't want to bolt for the Mets last year, when his contract is up, he's certainly not leaving here anytime soon.
"The successor plan doesn't seem as popular here," joked Levine, who is six years older than his boss.
Levine admits he would like to be a GM, but he said he also dreams of doing that for a while and then somehow reassembling the front office the Rangers have now.
"Ten years further on, I hope we're all back together," Levine said.
The comfort Levine and Preller feel in Texas means they probably wouldn't accept just any job. Neither will say it, but others in the Rangers leadership group believe the Orioles job isn't a good enough one for either of them to take, because of the difficulty of working for Peter Angelos and with Buck Showalter. Some believe the Angels job isn't attractive enough, either.
Somewhere out there, though, there's a team that should and could be emulating the Rangers. There's a team that should look at what has happened here, where a team that never won big is now as big as anyone in the game, where a team that went through bankruptcy and had a lower 2010 payroll than the Rays has done something that Epstein's Red Sox never managed -- make it to the World Series in consecutive Octobers.
Daniels is the architect, and club president Nolan Ryan adds direction and ideas. But all the Rangers people will tell you that this is a group effort, and all believe that Levine or Preller could create a similarly successful group elsewhere if given the chance.
"I'm biased, but I'd put our people against anyone," Daniels said. "I want to keep our guys, but they deserve the chance."
Daniels calls Levine "a tremendous communicator with a very good feel for the game, and the breadth and depth of an organization.
He calls Preller, his Cornell fraternity brother, "as good of a baseball mind as there is in the game -- and that's not hyperbole, it's the truth."
"They'd both be very good [general managers]," Welke said. "I think both should be mentioned more than they are, because they've both been major components of what's happened here.
"There's a good thing going here."
There sure is. That's obvious.
You'd think that owners around the game would notice it.