Monday, January 30, 2012
Ron Washington extension an easy call
By Jean-Jacques Taylor ESPNDallas.com
Ron Washington is the most successful manager in Texas Rangers history because he's not afraid to admit he screwed up.
And it doesn't matter whether we're talking with his cocaine dalliance a couple of years ago or having closer Neftali Feliz intentionally walk the first batter he faced in a playoff game last fall.
We're all human. We all make mistakes. There's nothing wrong with admitting it.
It indicates strength, not weakness. Coaches should hold themselves to the same standard of public accountability as their players.
The Rangers love playing for Ron Washington, and he's led them to the World Series the past two seasons.
Remember when Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle accepted responsibility for failing to make defensive adjustments against the Portland Trail Blazers' Brandon Roy in the first round of the NBA playoffs last season?
He didn't have to do it, but his players appreciated it, and they respected his gesture. Their bond grew tighter despite blowing a huge third-quarter lead, and they eventually won a title.
We also remember how Cowboys coach Jason Garrett refused to acknowledge mistakes he made, whether it revolved around his play-calling philosophy or time management, during this past season.
Later, Garrett admitted he learned from each of those situations.
It's Washington's humanity that makes the players on the Rangers' roster bust their butts for him every inning of every game. That's the most important quality a manager can possess, because his primary task is to get his players to maximize their abilities.
"There's no perfection in this game. I'm not trying to prove to people how smart I am," Washington said. "We don't know everything. There's so many decisions to be made. You can't be 100 percent all of the time.
"I'm not a perfect person. I've never been ashamed to say that, but that doesn't take away from what I know or who I am. That's the way I've always been. Now that I'm a manager I'm not going to change."
Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan and the Rangers' ownership group have had to make several difficult decisions since the season ended: Sign C.J. Wilson or let him go? Post a $51.7 million bid just for the right to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish? Offer Prince Fielder a huge deal?
Giving Washington a two-year extension is the easiest decision the team's front office has made this offseason.
Daniels actually told Washington before the playoffs began that he would get an extension in the offseason as soon as the club finished the heavy lifting of putting the roster together.
Washington has improved the Rangers' win total each of his first four seasons, and he has led them to the World Series the past two seasons.
"I've gained a lot of experience in this game from a lot of people and I try to use those experiences to get better," Washington said. "I'm no different than a player. That's what we expect from players, and I expect it from myself."
Washington's impact on the club is easy to see.
The Rangers used to approach the game like a beer-league softball team, swinging for the fences every at-bat. Now, they can win with pitching, defense and speed.
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And they can still mash with the best teams in the American League. The difference is Washington's Rangers can win a variety of ways.
While much of the credit for the Rangers' success goes to Ryan and Daniels, as it should, it's wrong to act as though Washington is just along for the ride.
Not after he has beaten Joe Girardi, Jim Leyland and Joe Maddon, last season's manager of the year, twice in the postseason.
Admittedly, Washington manages with his gut. He'll give up an out and even a game if it means giving a player a chance to succeed in a situation he has often failed.
Of course, doing so opens Washington up to criticism. Some of it is deserved; some of it isn't.
Say what you will about any move Washington made in the World Series, including starting Matt Harrison in Game 7. Bottom line: Washington gave the ball to his closer in the ninth inning of Game 6 with a two-run lead.
"Our guys love playing for this man. You see that every day," Daniels said. "The way our guys bounce back from adversity. The way they play hard for him all of the time.
"What you see is what you get. There's no pretense. There's no B.S. It's about winning, and he cares about people."
And it's among the reasons the Rangers extended his contract.
Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.