Texas Decides To Retain Washington

By Jeff Wilson
Updated: September 26, 2008

ARLINGTON — The season hadn’t been lost, mostly because late April is too early to give up, but the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners had reached the point where a few more lousy weeks would have made for a miserable 2008.

One team saved its season, or most of it. The other team crossed the fail-safe line and continued a downward spiral.

One under-fire manager finished out the schedule and will be back for another run. The other manager on the hot seat was canned.

Ron Washington might not be a better manager than John McLaren, who couldn’t rally the Mariners the way Washington steadied the Rangers.

But Washington was able to make a connection with his players that turned a 7-16 start into a 60-54 record in early August. He never lost the clubhouse, and the Rangers continued to believe they were as good as their manager said they were.

“Think about it: It was out there early in the year that he was going to get fired,” said outfielder Marlon Byrd, who called Washington a player’s manager. “It always starts at the top, the energy at the top. We saw that he had the energy, and it trickles down. He never lost it.”

That’s why Washington is coming back for 2009. The Rangers took on the personality of their manager, which speaks strongly about the job done by the manager.

Nolan Ryan, the team president who suffered through some awful seasons during his quarter-century as a player, said as much when he told the Star-Telegram on Tuesday and said again on Wednesday that he intends to bring Washington and general manager Jon Daniels back for 2009.

“I think Ron has done a good job,” Ryan said. “He kept the ballclub playing for him under bad conditions in April, and he kept them playing hard for him all year. With a young ballclub, the thing you look for is if a team quits on the manager, and this team didn’t do that.”

The Rangers used 55 players this season. Fifty-five. No one was immune to the injury bug, especially pitchers early on. Without the arms that were penciled in as key pieces, the Rangers ultimately didn’t have much of a chance.

They were without Brandon McCarthy until it was too late. Jason Jennings’ arm was never right. Kason Gabbard was done in June.

Those three were supposed to make 90 starts, log 500 innings and win 25 games. Instead, they started 23 games, threw 105 1/3 innings and won three times.

But no one heard Washington complain publicly. Maybe he did privately, but he’s not the type to make excuses where other, more prominent managers have.

“Dealing with everything that he had to deal with this year and being in the position we’re in was phenomenal,” designated hitter Milton Bradley said. “He patched it together and made it go as well as he could.”

Bradley admitted that the Rangers are a much more attractive free-agent suitor because Washington is being retained. While Bradley is hoping to get a nice payday for his first All-Star season, he wants Washington to get some love, too.

“I hope he gets an extension,” Bradley said. “He needs to be rewarded.”

Keeping his job is probably reward enough for Washington, though the Rangers should exercise his contract option for 2010. There’s no one attached to the organization who cherishes coming to the ballpark as much and wants to win more than their manager.

“I love what I do,” Washington said. “We’re going to see if we can move forward going into next year.”