SURPRISE, Ariz. -- There was something fitting about Ron Washington getting his contract extension on a day when he showed, once again, what makes him so special and unique.
Washington started his day on a back field at the Rangers’ complex, teaching Prince Fielder the intricacies of picking balls out of the dirt at first base. He cajoled. He cheered -- “Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.” He took command. And after just 20 minutes, Fielder felt better. It was Fielder asking questions, begging the manager to throw him one more bucket of balls.
"I loved it," Fielder said. "That's what made it a lot of fun, the enthusiasm really, yeah, that made it worthwhile. It really did."
As Adam Rosales said a few days ago: “I’ve learned so much in two days. He makes you feel like a Gold Glover.”
And his players respond to it.
You may not like the number of times Washington sac bunts. You may not always agree with his lineup card. Perhaps you disagree with when he decides to go to the bullpen or how he deploys his bench.
But there’s no arguing that Washington gets the most out of his players. They work hard for him. They fight no matter the score. And he has set the tone and culture for one of the best clubhouses in the majors.
“There’s no pretense,” said Jon Daniels, Rangers president of baseball operations. “There’s no B.S. It’s baseball 24-7. It’s about getting better. It’s about hard work. There are no shortcuts. Those are all things that we believe in as an organization.”
Washington deserved this extension. No one has won more games in franchise history than his 611. No other manager has won a playoff series, let alone taken the club to two consecutive World Series, which Washington did in 2010 and 2011.
He’s had three different bench coaches and a slew of various players and personalities and has found a way to deal with all of it. No, he hasn’t won the ultimate prize. At least not yet.
I know some of you will look at the one-year extension and say that this is merely a way to avoid lame-duck status and questions after any five- or six-game losing streak. And perhaps that’s partially fair. But understand that Washington has worked under two-year contracts his entire tenure in Texas. It’s how it was done after the World Series, too. Even his first contract was two years with two club options.
Washington doesn’t worry about any of that. His job is to manage. He knows the team didn’t reach its goal last season and he’s determined to help get the Rangers there.
If that means working with anyone and everyone -- including a big league veteran like Fielder in the early morning out in the desert -- that’s what he’ll do.
The Rangers have a passionate, determined and respected manager. He may not subscribe to the same theories of strategy as others do, but when it comes to motivation, I’m not sure there’s a better skipper in the game.
“At the end of the day, the players take on the personality of the manager, and Wash shows up to work the same guy every day, with a genuine, positive attitude, optimism,” Daniels said. “He believes that we're going to get it done, whether it's doing a drill the right way or winning the World Series. He believes we're going to get it done and our players take the field with that belief, in large part because of him.”
That’s why he got the extension.