Thursday, March 4, 2010
Positional outlook: Manager
By Richard Durrett
We might as well take a look at the coaching staff while we're exploring each position on this team. We've gone through the starters and depth players on the roster, so what about the man that manages them?
Ron Washington enters his fourth season as Rangers manager and does so with a club that feels like it has some momentum following an 87-75 record in 2009.
"Ron came with a wealth of baseball background and knowledge, but was a first time big league manager," Rangers president Nolan Ryan said. "He has grown with a team that was developing and he's grown as a manager. I think that since I've been here, I've seen him develop and mature as a manager.
"We feel like this club needs to be competitive and we need to come out and play well and stay in the race all year and play to the level we feel like we’re capable of playing. As a manager, the challenge he has is to try to get the most out of those 25 guys on a day-to-day basis."
Washington will be the first to say that he feels like he's a better manager now than he was three years ago and I think that's true. Washington has a keen eye for people and understands what it takes to motivate players.
I know fans question some of his in-game decisions and strategic calls, but he tries to mix going with his gut with going with the book. Sometimes he makes the wrong calls and sometimes he makes the right calls. And sometimes he makes calls based on the future too (letting a player get a big at-bat in a key situation so he gains some experience).
Washington was general manager Jon Daniels' choice to replace Buck Showalter. And that move was made before Nolan Ryan was named club president. But Washington impressed Ryan enough to get the one-year extension during last season. Washington's contract expires at the end of this season, so the club could take the same approach, waiting to see how things unfold before deciding on Washington's future.
To Washington's credit, he doesn't let his situation impact his job much. His players like playing for him and it was clear they played hard in 2009.
Washington has learned that he has to do what's necessary to keep players healthy. That means telling guys they have to take a day off or shifting them to designated hitter to get them off their feet. He'll be particularly careful with Vladimir Guerrero and Josh Hamilton. And when it comes to making sure guys get mental breaks, Washington will monitor that too. He's already talked about giving young Elvis Andrus chances to step back and watch things every once in a while to rest his body and mind.
If managers are based on their wins and losses, Washington deserves some credit for having a team that has improved each season since his arrival. The Rangers had 75 wins in 2007, 79 wins in 2008, 87 wins in 2009 and will likely need more than 90 in 2010 to win the AL West. Washington was fourth in the AL manager of the year voting in 2009.
Like it was in 2009, the pressure is on Washington and the Rangers to get off to a good start. This is a team with expectations of winning the AL West. They got out to a much better start in 2009 than they did in 2007 and 2008. They'll need to do that again.
The schedule won't be easy. The Rangers play AL West opponent Seattle during the first homestand and head on the road to face the Yankees and Red Sox on the road. But if they get through that stretch OK, it should give them some solid momentum as they settle into the season.
I think Washington has done a good job of helping this young team grow. That should continue in 2010.
Can he help take them to the next level where they see the fruits of that labor in a division title?