Ron Washington abandons ship

Ron Washington story

Ron Washington

The Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington resigned suddenly Friday. It was a surprising decision by the winningest manager in Rangers history, who also happens to be one of the worst managers in baseball.

“Today, I have submitted my resignation from the job I love – managing the Rangers – in order to devote my full attention to addressing an off-the-field personal matter,” Washington said in a statement. “As painful as it is, stepping away from the game is what’s best for me and my family.”

I immediately thought this was a coy way for him to be fired for being a bad manager, and I started thinking up hilarious cocaine jokes. Why else would someone with a history of cocaine abuse quit a premium job and cost himself millions of dollars? Then general manager Jon Daniels chimed in and stated Ron Washington’s resignation was “not drug-related.”

Hmm. Now I feel like a jerk. The guy clearly has some personal thing going on that he needs to deal with.

Or does he? This really just stinks of “you can’t fire me because I quit.” Or maybe “you can’t not re-sign me, because I quit.” Washington was in the final year of his contract and hadn’t been offered a contract extension by the team – a team which is currently very much in last place enduring one of its worst-ever seasons.

Then … also almost immediately after Washington stepped down, the team decided to shut down star pitcher Yu Darvish for the season. This might seem unrelated, but Darvish’s arm soreness was something Washington had actually publicly mocked, suggesting that their best pitcher should essentially walk it off.

Ron Washington was certainly the most successful manager in the Rangers history, but baseball is a weird sport where responsibility and blame are not always so easy to determine. The Cubs’ Steve Bartman fiasco is a great example. He stopped a Cubs player from catching a ball for an out and the Marlins went on to win. But no one ever mentions Dusty Baker’s terrible pitcher abuse in that season and even in that game, let alone the fact that Alex Gonzalez booted a routine ground ball right afterwards that would have stopped Florida’s rally.

It’s hard to say just how much of his 664-611 record Washington should get credit for. General manager Jon Daniels also brought in more talented players than the Rangers had ever assembled. Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, C.J. Wilson, and so on and so on.

Yet, even with all that talent, the Rangers were only 18-16 in Washington’s three postseason appearances. They made the World Series twice, but the first time they were steamrolled by the San Francisco Giants and then St. Louis won an improbable series where Ron Washington’s incompetence was the Cardinals’ secret weapon.

Following that World Series loss, the 2012 season ended with losing the division title despite a four-game lead with just 12 games left. In 2013, they stumbled down the stretch and missed out on the playoffs altogether.

Ron Washington stepping away from the team might be just what the team needs to get back on track. His shortcomings as a manager had really dampened the team’s performance over the last couple years. It’s not like this guy was the worst manager in baseball. He’s just one of the worst. Unfortunately there are about a dozen managers who share that honor. That’s nearly half the league.

By all accounts, Washington is a good guy – cocaine abuse notwithstanding. He always has been a highly regarded coach, and when the Rangers first hired him, it was his ability to develop players that they needed more than any real facility with game management.

Upon being hired, Washington stated, “As a manager, I’m no good if the players don’t get it done. If the players get it done, I’m great.” And that about sums him up.

He was the right hire at the time – though his team did lose five more games than the previous year under Buck Showalter – to help develop the organization’s young players and build a competitive team that could be serious playoff contenders in a place where, like dancing in the Footloose town, that kind of hope had become forbidden.

The problem became, as it so often does, that once the players had finally developed, they needed a leader who could manage the game. By his own admission, he’s not a good tactical manager. Well, that’s just fine if your goal is to “have a winning record” or “make the playoffs.”

If you’re dating a girl (or guy – or both or whatever), after a while you move in together, because you need to find out a lot about each other before you get married. Does she snore? Is she messy? Does she share in the household chores? Is she addicted to meth?

You don’t want to marry a girl who is addicted to meth, do you? No. At a certain point it doesn’t matter how much you like her, things are going to start going downhill and the time will come to step down from the position of co-habitant.

We all have our flaws and no one is perfect at every aspect of the work they do. This article for example isn’t even remotely one of my better pieces of work. That’s okay. Why? Because it’s a one-time thing. I killed it with the Colorado Rockies article last week and before that the Matt Kemp defense thing.

And for the postseason, I’ve got a Game of Thrones Playoff Preview coming up that will make you forget all about this article. See what I mean? For the playoffs, you have to bring your best stuff. And that just wasn’t in Ron Washington’s skill set.

Like all managers, he was a success primarily because he had great teams. But those great teams always seemed to have a handicap: Ron Washington’s “gut calls.” Some of them were good and some of them defied all logic and reasonable baseball sense.

The players say they loved him because he was a players’ manager. Though I think we all love the guy running the show when that show is going well. Players and fans love winning and they hate losing. The previous two years the Rangers came up just short and with diminishing talent on the team, it seemed as though Washington’s flaws as a tactician couldn’t be covered up.

When all the players’ injuries are healed, this team will be, once again, loaded with talent – young and old. They will be ready to compete in what might soon be considered the best division in baseball.

Stepping down from the Texas Rangers just might be the best managerial move Ron Washington has ever made.


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