On Sunday the Texas Rangers lost to the Seattle Mariners 4-3 in another close, low-scoring affair. The Rangers offense has gotten off to a slow start compared to their 2012 season and of course the Twitter coaches have come out in full force. After the game Sunday, I had the premise of this article worked out in my mind and it was going to really come after some of those Twitter experts and their constant attack of Ron Washington’s game decisions. But, that’s not really my personality and at the end of the day I’m not concerned about what people think or say about me or any other topic for that matter. I don’t have all of the answers and I question anyone who thinks they do, but the real issue that resurfaces and creates a lightning rod of controversy is the manager. Ron Washington is attacked unmercifully on Twitter for his ignorance in the areas of bunting, base running, lineups, etc. I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t always see eye to eye on his decision making and I think he has faults just as all managers do, but I believe in the fact this team has been to the post-season three years in a row and has emerged as one of the best teams in baseball since 2009.
The most important thing that gets overlooked and ignored about the managerial position is the human aspect. I know that you can’t measure that and since Bill James cannot compute an algorithm to quantify its importance in baseball, then it is silly to bring up such an irrelevant topic. Now don’t confuse this with anti-stats and a saber-metrics hate rant because I believe in the value of all of those measurables and think they are a vital aspect of the game today. In fact, almost everything I’ve written for this site is stat based argumentation or research. I just believe that the humanizing aspect of managing a group of 25 or more grown men throughout a 162 game season is just as important. When Ron Washington didn’t pinch hit for Craig Gentry or David Murphy in Sunday’s loss it sparked a series of controversy amongst the fans and they promptly questioned Washington’s sanity and intelligence. I understand and know the splits of each player and also realize that based on statistics Washington should have made a switch in at least one of those situations. But, it was April 14th??? When Ron Washington tells a big leaguer like Ian Kinsler that he has the day off unless it is an emergency situation (which I assume is what Kinsler was told) then you honor that if you are Washington. That means the world to those guys who grind it out for 162 games a year and rarely get a day off work. When you get one of those rare days it’s important to get that day if at all possible.
Craig Gentry had a chance to face Stephen Pryor on Sunday in a pivotal moment. The past couple of years Gentry may have been pinch hit for in this situation because his role on this team was much different. This year though, Washington knows that Craig Gentry may end up being a major piece in this puzzle so when he has a chance to show some confidence in the speedy outfielder this early on, a manager must look at the big picture and let him hit. Knowing that your manager has confidence in you and will count on you in key situations is sometimes a turning point in an athlete’s season and or career. I know the matrix chart and trends show that Martin or Kinsler should have hit in that situation, but Washington knew that Gentry needed a shot. Of course, after he struck out looking the Twitter managers came out in full force armed and ready. Had he hit a single up the middle and gotten the RBI, Ron Washington is a genius for leaving him in and nobody says a word. At the end of the day it’s up to the players to perform in key situations and when they know the manager has their back and has confidence in their ability, it creates a culture that is conducive to winning over a long period of time.
Washington has shown signs in the past that he has an issue playing young players over veterans and is often guilty of using “interesting” strategies when managing his bullpen, but the human value and element cannot be overlooked. Baseball is the easiest sport to second-guess each and every move during the course of an entire ballgame. The action is slow enough that it gives the fan a chance to really digest and ponder each and every strategy-based decision. Football often moves too fast or the numerous moving parts confuse the average fan and basketball is more of an athlete versus athlete type situation with little focus placed on the in game strategy of the coach. As a manager myself, I try to use statistics and trends to make as many metric-based decisions as possible, but sometimes you have to look that player in the eye and go with what you see. I’ve made many, many mound visits over the years and almost 95% of the time I know what I want to do on my way out there, but occasionally you get out there and that pitcher says the right thing or gives you that look of determination and guts you always want to see from a competitor. Showing confidence in that pitcher may pay dividends down the road in a similar situation if that young man knows that I have confidence in his abilities to get the job done; even if it means that I went against my chart that says otherwise.
Jeff Johnson is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Jeff.Johnson@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @Houstonhog