Has The 2013 Season Been Wash-ed Away?

A few days ago, I wrote an article (“Expand Your Focus”) suggesting that all of us who follow the Rangers keep in mind that no matter what ends up happening this season, we still have many more promising years ahead.  But that being said, just like all of you, I’m certainly still hopeful the Rangers will succeed in 2013…which is why it was so tough to witness what happened last night.
Ranger fans have, for the most part, been split into two camps regarding Ron Washington over the past couple of seasons.  Many believe Wash to be an inferior tactician prone to strategic blunders who is over reliant on his gut instincts.  While quite a few others feel Wash is really more of a master motivator whose positive impact on team morale and clubhouse chemistry is absolutely invaluable and without compare in all of baseball.

For the longest time, I’ve been a card-carrying member of the latter camp, all the while realizing and acknowledging Wash’s tactical in-game shortcomings.  And while the disastrous ending to last night’s game wasn’t enough to lure me over to the other camp, I certainly have a much greater understanding of and appreciation for those who do reside on the dark side.

Granted, very few among us have ever coached baseball at any level – even fewer (if any) in the big leagues.  One of my colleagues here at Shutdown Inning – Jeff Johnson (@houstonhog) – is head varsity baseball coach for a major area high school, so I’ve always given more credence to his take on Wash than most.

But like most of you, regardless of which camp you’re in regarding Wash, I’m just a fan with no personal experience or context in which to frame my opinions.  Like Wash, I tend to follow my (once much more sizable) gut.  And make no mistake about it, last night was an absolute kick to that gut.

One of the primary areas of criticism levied against Wash during his tenure with the Rangers has been his questionable use of the bullpen, in terms of which pitchers he brings in, when he brings them in, and so forth.  In most instances, there can at least be some argument made on his behalf, but any such argument for what took place last night is hard to come by right now.

That’s because Wash decided to let Jason Frasor – a guy who has actually performed very, very well most of the year, after a bit of a shaky start to the season – pitch the 11th inning, having already pitched all of the 9th and 10th.  There are several reasons it’s difficult, if not impossible, to defend Wash for this decision.

First of all, Frasor had NEVER pitched three innings in a game before during his decade-long major league career.  Given the fact that the Rangers had come into this game losing nine of their previous 12, they needed a win in the worst way.  It’s hard to classify any game in July as a flat-out “must win,” but this was as close as it gets.

In addition, three of the Rangers’ best relievers had not yet been used, and should still have been available.  After the game, Wash admitted that Neal Cotts and Joe Nathan were, in fact, available.  But he claimed Tanner Scheppers was not, despite having rested three of the past five days and throwing a total of just 26 pitches the entire week prior.

The only possible defense Wash could have regarding Scheppers is a yet-to-be-disclosed injury, which if that’s the case, makes this an even more dire situation than it already seems.  But even those of us with no coaching experience know it’s sheer lunacy to leave two other healthy, reliable relievers sitting while bringing an aging veteran back out to pitch longer than he ever has in his 10 years of MLB service.

For that reason, I find myself looking longingly this morning at those of you in the anti-Wash camp.  I am not ready to join you just yet, but I’m closer than I’ve ever been before.  The Rangers are facing far too many challenges right now trying to stay within striking distance of the A’s (or even the consolation prize of a Wild Card spot) to also be failed by their skipper.

As a member of the pro-Wash camp, I still support him – for now – as this team’s manager.  But I simply can’t defend his decision making last night.  Like so many of his players, Wash is struggling right now.  The Rangers’ only hope of turning it around and eventually making the playoffs this year is for both the players and their manager to snap out of their slumps.  If they don’t, the 2013 season could very well end up being washed away.

Bob Bland is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Bob.Bland@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @SDIBob.
Bob Bland

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