Not many major league skippers with a pair of World Series appearances would look forward to the anticipated prospect parade at Globe Life Park during the second half of this season. But Texas Rangers‘ manager Ron Washington is different. An old-school baseball guy with a passion for teaching, Washington’s positive approach to the game will benefit the talented greenhorns who will get on-the-job training in actual big league games.
The Rangers were expected to be in the thick of the AL West race before injuries at an historic rate left the roster in shambles. Now, with the losses piling up, the winningest manager in franchise history is embarking on another rebuild job. But unlike in 2007, when Texas was starting from scratch, Washington and his coaching staff are grooming players who might contribute next year on a potential playoff squad.
With veteran hitters Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo expected to headline the 2015 batting order, the Rangers should continue to be one of league’s best offensive teams. Texas will also recoup a wealth of talent from the DL next season, and are also headed towards a top-five draft pick. But if Texas GM Jon Daniels is to pull off a fast turnaround, he needs his 62-year-old skipper to work his magic.
Washington is an old-fashioned coach who believes players should consistently hone their skills and trust their fundamentals. He once butted heads with star slugger Mark Teixeira over the fact that the first baseman was making too many one-pitch outs against middle relievers. But of all the criticisms that has been thrown towards the sometimes unorthodox Rangers’ field general, a gift and passion for teaching baseball is not one of them.
Just the third African American to lead a team into a World Series, Washington was a highly-regarded infield coach and the Oakland Athletics‘ third base coach when Daniels tabbed him to lead the Rangers prior to the 2007 season. Heck, six-time Gold Glover Eric Chavez credited Washington for his defensive success and even gave him one of his Gold Gloves trophies.
Texas needs to find out if players like 26-year-old Cuban speedster Leonys Martin — who has only 70 minor league games under his belt — and middle infielder Rougned Odor can gain enough experience over the rest of the season to become productive players next year. Fortunately, the Rangers have a championship-caliber manager who enjoys having a fungo and ball bucket in his hands.