SEATTLE -- Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks yesterday eliminated the possibility for distractions and embarrassing questions during the postseason by assuring that manager Johnny Oates will return for the 1999 season.
Hicks, who indicated previously that Oates' status would be determined after the season, informed the manager of his decision yesterday morning before the Rangers' 5-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners.
Club president Tom Schieffer and general manager Doug Melvin recommended their manager be retained after the Rangers captured their second American League West title during Oates' four-year tenure Friday night.
"This has been Doug's recommendation and Tom's ever since I've been involved," Hicks said, "but I thought it was important for this franchise that we achieve what we felt was a reasonable goal of winning the AL West once we made those deals at the trade deadline.
"It doesn't mean they wouldn't have been back if they hadn't won it, but I would have wanted some answers as to why."
Hicks' invitation for Oates' return did not include a contract extension, Schieffer said. Oates already has a contract signed through next season.
"I don't think we've gotten to that point," Schieffer said. "Johnny is under contract for 1999. I think what Tom was trying to do was put to rest all the stories and speculation."
The Rangers became the division's team to beat after Melvin acquired right-hander Todd Stottlemyre, shortstop Royce Clayton and third baseman Todd Zeile on July 31. Yet, the AL West title remained in doubt until the Rangers completed their three-game sweep of the second-place Anaheim Angels last week in Anaheim, Calif. Hicks remained noncommittal regarding Oates' future and offered hints of reservations.
Hicks' decision also means that Oates' employment status will not be the subject of national scrutiny during the playoffs and thereby become a distraction for the Rangers.
"I pay no attention to it," Oates said. "I've got a job to do. I don't play that game."
Pub Date: 9/27/98