The Legacy of Wash
After the 2006 season concluded, Buck Showalter was fired from his position as the manager of the Texas Rangers. There were five major candidates considered to take his place.
The frontrunner for the position was Don Wakamatsu. Wakamatsu had served as the bench coach and second in command for the previous four seasons under Showalter. The bench coach is commonly considered the “assistant manager” of the team. When the manager is ejected, the bench coach usually takes over. If the manager is fired during the middle of the season, it is typically the bench coach that is named interim manager. Someone with this type of knowledge and experience with the club is a natural choice to take over when the manager is relieved of his duties.
Also considered for the position was Manny Acta. Acta was the third base coach for the Mets the previous season and would go on to manage the Washington Nationals and currently manages the Cleveland Indians.
Trey Hillman was another candidate. Hillman was then the manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan. He would be hired as the manager of the Royals the following year.
Another finalist for the job was former Rangers catcher, John Russell. Russell would be hired as the manger of the Pirates the following year, and go on to serve as third base coach and bench coach under Buck Showalter in Baltimore.
As you have most likely concluded from the above summaries (and probably already knew as a Rangers fan), none of those guys were chosen to manage the Texas Rangers. The man that was chosen was the long time third base coach for the Oakland A’s, Ron Washington. This came as quite a surprise to many Ranger fans, as Washington was not even interviewed for the A’s managerial vacancy left by the firing of Ken Macha.
The common thought among fans, columnists, and talk radio personalities was that Tom Hicks (who owned the team at the time) was just choosing the candidate that would command the lowest salary.
After all, John Hart had recently been replaced as general manager by Jon Daniels, the incredibly young, incredibly cheap, in house hire. It is entirely possible that Washington was hired just because he could be had at a reasonable price. Whatever the reason was, Ranger fans should look back on that day with great favor. Since he was hired, Wash has the best winning percentage (.527) of any Rangers manager serving for at least two full seasons.
It can be argued that Wash has been provided with the most complete rosters in Rangers history. Sure, the 1996, 1998, and 1999 teams (under the great Johnny Oates) won the AL West, but they were comprised of juiced up bashers and devoid of quality pitching (at least of any depth). That argument is certainly valid, but just as a manager cannot win without players producing, players cannot win without a manager that puts them in a position to win.
Wash makes some controversial moves that often go against “the book”. While many will question these decisions, it is difficult to argue with his results. The Rangers won 75 games in 2007, Washington’s first year at the helm. They have increased their win total every year since. The 2011 club won a team record 96 games and made their second straight World Series appearance.
Based on the performance of the team in the last five seasons, I believe it is safe to say that Ron Washington is the greatest manager in Texas Rangers history. I can only hope that he continues to bring good things in the future and build onto his legacy. Long live Wash.