Could the rash of injuries that's taken hold of the Texas Rangers this spring provide an added layer of job security for manager Ron Washington?
The short answer is yes. Certainly, Washington and the rest of the Rangers are under pressure this season to contend. The club made back-to-back World Series trips in 2010 and 2011, but that's getting smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. The Oakland A's have won the division the last two seasons and the Rangers have played in one postseason game in that span, losing to the Baltimore Orioles in the AL wild-card game in 2012 after a late-season collapse. The Rangers have spent money and resources to acquire talent for this season and with that comes the expectation of postseason play.
But this isn't a case of the manager needing to make the postseason to keep his job. Washington received a contract extension this spring, which should limit the questions about his status as manager should the team experience some hard times. But it was only a one-year extension, meaning that it doesn't guarantee he's the manager in 2015, only that he'll get paid if he's not.
But how can Washington be blamed for all the injuries? The manager heads into the season with Martin Perez or Tanner Scheppers as the two leading candidates to start Opening Day. His ace, Yu Darvish, is getting examined today by a back specialist to see what's going on with what everyone thought was just a stiff neck, and won't be ready for Opening Day. Jurickson Profar, the starting second baseman, is out 10 to 12 weeks. So is starting catcher Geovany Soto, taking from the rotation a backstop who had developed chemistry over the last year and a half with the pitching staff.
Washington's likely closer Neftali Feliz couldn't find his velocity or any consistent command this spring and was optioned to minor league camp on Tuesday. Alexi Ogando, once penciled into the rotation, pitched is way out of it and back to the bullpen. The starting rotation currently has two official members, less than a week before Opening Day, though Robbie Ross' performance on Tuesday has to get him a spot in the rotation, right? Also, starting shortstop Elvis Andrus is dealing with soreness in his shoulder and elbow after not throwing this offseason.
In many respects, Washington is the perfect skipper for the team in this current state. First, he won't panic. It's not in his nature. He won't allow his team to go into the season thinking negatively and will instead get them focused on doing their jobs. He's also a terrific motivator and is good at managing people. He'll need both skills as a team now cobbled together with varying ages and abilities must get together to try to avoid a rough start.
For me, the manager's future was always tied to how the season progressed, not simply the results. If the club doesn't make the playoffs, it's how they don't make it that will determine Washington's long-term future. Now, even before the season begins, the manager is dealing with more injuries than anyone could have imagined. He won't use it as an excuse. That's for sure. But it has to help his job security in that if the Rangers don't go on a great run to win the division or make the postseason, it's likely because they weren't healthy and didn't have the depth. That's not the manager's fault.