Commentary

Washington will remain even-keeled

Don't expect Rangers manager to change, regardless of his contract situation

Updated: February 14, 2014, 10:51 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

Ron WashingtonAl Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesTexas Rangers manager Ron Washington enters 2014 in the last year of his contract.

Like anyone else, Ron Washington would prefer to sign a long-term deal with the Texas Rangers. He also understands we don't always get what we want -- at least we don't get it exactly when we want it.

Just so you know, Washington, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Clint Hurdle, Atlanta Braves' Fredi Gonzalez and Milwaukee Brewers' Ron Roenicke are the only managers entering the final year of their respective contracts.

Washington isn't the kind of dude to stress over a contract. Besides, he understands a contract extension isn't going to prevent general manager Jon Daniels, who has consistently declined to talk about the manager's contract this offseason, from firing him if this team and its $125 million payroll flops again in September.

[+] EnlargeWashington
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesRon Washington is not the kind of manager who is scared to be fired and one who won't compromise his philosophical approach to the game.

The manager is also astute enough to know that an extended losing streak is going to bring questions about his job security, if he doesn't get an extension during spring training. Hey, that's life in the big leagues.

Lame-duck status might affect another manager, making him tentative in the dugout. It might make another manager change his philosophical approach or, ultimately, lose the clubhouse.

That won't happen to Washington.

First, Washington isn't scared to be fired. Scared managers make bad decisions because they manage not to lose instead of staying aggressive and managing to win.

When Washington took this job, he knew he was going to be fired eventually. Every manager does, aside from the few, like former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, who have a bunch of titles on their résumé and leave on their own terms.

So it has never been about if Washington gets fired. It's always when. But it's not something the manager focuses on because he has survived a cocaine dalliance, losing consecutive World Series, all of Josh Hamilton's troubles and a couple of September debacles.

And he's still standing.

Whenever Washington does get fired, his résumé should entitle him to another opportunity to manage. At worst, he'll return to being one of the game's most-respected third-base coaches.

The Rangers will continue to run the bases aggressively, which drives some people crazy. That, however, is the stamp Washington has put on this team. When he arrived, the Rangers were one of the worst in the league at going from first to third.

Now, they're among the best. Yes, they still make too many mistakes on the bases, but that's more about the players staying alert and using good judgment than an indictment on the approach.

These Rangers will continue to take bases aggressively, hoping to force their opponents into making mistakes.

Another manager's respect in the clubhouse might be compromised by his lame-duck status, but Washington's won't because he demands guys play the game the right way.

Those who don't usually feel his verbal wrath. Washington stays out of the clubhouse, but his office is always open to players as long as those who enter are prepared to hear the truth.

Ask Matt Harrison, and he'll tell you how Washington's truth made him a better pitcher. Ask Derek Holland, and he'll tell you how Washington has made him better.

Ask Elvis Andrus, Jurickson Profar and Leonys Martin, and they'll all tell you how their slender, energetic 155-pound manager has positively affected their careers. They will play hard for Washington because they respect him, and he won't accept less.

Still, the game is about winning. In the past four seasons, the Rangers have won 370 games -- more than any other AL team.

They have a couple of AL West titles, three playoff appearances and two trips to the World Series, but they have no championship jewelry.

If we're honest, Washington doesn't have a contract extension because the Rangers still haven't won enough games in September and October.

They've flopped each of the past two Septembers when teams are supposed to play their best baseball. Instead, they've played their worst.

Daniels, who has consistently praised Washington this offseason, is about winning titles. So are owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson. It's why the ownership group spent $110 million to acquire Yu Darvish a couple of years ago and $130 million on outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and acquired first baseman Prince Fielder and the $138 million left on his contract in a trade for Ian Kinsler.

You figure ownership will continue to invest heavily in the club since there's no salary cap, they have a lucrative, long-term television contract with Fox, and they just sold the naming rights to the ballpark.

Despite all of that, the small-budget Oakland Athletics, the two-time defending AL West champs, remain the team to beat.

If the Rangers win the AL West -- baseball's best division even with the Houston Astros in it --  then Texas will be poised to make another World Series run. Then, Washington will get his coveted contract extension and a huge raise.

Anything less, and we shouldn't be shocked if Daniels opts to change managers.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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