SDI Remastered: Skipper

*Original publish date October 18, 2011

I’m not going to write about an offensive explosion.

I’m not going to write about a lack of innings from the starting pitchers.

I’m certainly not going to write about the bullpen, they spoke for themselves in the ALCS.

What deserves special acknowledgment is the managing job that Ron Washington has done.

This is a guy who was largely maligned when he was awarded Manager of the Texas Rangers in 2007. There seemed to be so many better candidates in the pool when Buck Showalter left. Manny Acta, in my mind, was the best fit. The Rangers also interviewed Don Wakamatsu and Trey Hillman.

None would turn out to be a manager of any team past this year.

The sunflower seed chewin’, old school style, extroverted magician would turn out to be, not only the best fit for the Rangers, but the perfect fit.

His enthusiasm ignited the clubhouse. His managerial style let the players be who they were. His “gut” proved to be right much more often than not.

And every year, quietly, the Rangers got better.

Washington was helped by a front office that backed him 100 percent. New GM Jon Daniels helped him get the pieces he was going to need to win. Nolan Ryan brought him Mike Maddox, combined with Ryan’s own extensive pitching knowledge. The whole ownership stuck by him through a cocaine admission.

Still, the only thing Ron Washington did as a Texas Ranger manager did was win. And win. And win.

Every year to be exact.

Under Ron Washington, the Rangers improved their yearly win total. In 2008 they won 79 games. 2009 they won 87 games. 2010 the victory total equaled 90, sending them into the postseason for the first time since ’99. In the current 2011 year, the Ranger won 96 games and claimed home field for the first series.

What else can be said about the skipper who will undoubtedly go down in history to ever manage the Rangers to date? What exactly goes into managing a clubhouse in the MLB?

Not to draw silly conclusions, but Ron Washington reminds me a bit of Rick Carlisle of the recent World Champion Dallas Mavericks. He knows when to sit back and let his players play. He has the guts to put in David Murphy against a lefty, statistics be damned, much like inserting JJ Barrera in the finals.

Baseball has more statistics than trigonometry. Everything can, and is, broken down unto the lowest common denominator. But don’t let that take you away from the great gut feeling of Wash. He’s a baseball lifer, and he knows what he is doing much more than any of us “experts.”

The guys on this team have gone out and played the game to this point, but don’t dare take anything away from the effect Ron Washington has had on this team. Like a captain fighting through an impossible storm, he led his team back for a second chance at the ultimate goal.

Where will his gut take us next?

I don’t pretend to know, but I’m going to buy a fresh bag of sunflower seeds on Wednesday.  


Mike McGehee is a Shut Down Inning staff writer. You can email him at Mike.McGehee@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @SDIMikeMcGehee
Mike McGehee

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