Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington is entering the final year of his contract. General manager Jon Daniels is on record as saying he prefers to give Washington a contract extension as opposed to firing him. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. Washington has led the team to previously unknown heights, but after two blown first-place leads in the last two years there may be trouble in paradise.
The Rangers were a very different team when Washington took the job prior to the 2007 season. The team had absolutely no track record of success. The three lone playoff teams in club history had a combined 1-6 postseason record, scoring a paltry16 runs in 63 innings. The Rangers were essentially the Tex-Mex Chicago Cubs: the lovable losers of North Texas. In terms of the lineup and pitching staff, the 2007 Rangers — with the possible exception of first baseman Mark Teixeira — consisted of mostly unproven kids and veteran washouts.
First-time manager and long-time coach Washington was the perfect man for the job, being a combination of an unproven kid and veteran washout himself. His rah-rah, energetic attitude motivated the young team, his various malapropisms (e.g., “that’s the way baseball go”) fit into the lovable loser mold and his occasionally head-scratching managerial moves mattered little because that last-place team lost 87 games.
Things are much different now. The 2014 squad is replete with older playoff veterans who are less likely to respond to the claw-and-antlers bit. Whitey Herzog once said that an effective manager can positively impact about 30 games a year; given Washington’s mixed record as a guy who can push the right buttons, the Rangers may be leaving some valuable wins on the table. Most importantly, these guys are no longer lovable losers. The 2014 team has a recent history of success, one of the largest payrolls in the league and a new ownership group that wants to win.
Daniels does not hire and fire managers. If current owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson feel like Washington can still lead the team, Washington stays. The proof is in the pudding. A good start means an extension, a mediocre start means time is running out and a poor start means sayonara.
The Texas Rangers welcome the Philadelphia Phillies to open the 2014 season on March 31.