A Quiet, But Firm Faith

By Jeff Wilson
Updated: October 5, 2008

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The undisputed strength of manager Ron Washington was brought to light during the final week of the regular season by Texas Rangers president Nolan Ryan, who has decided that Washington will be back for a third season.

The Rangers never quit, not after they started 7-16 and not after they saw their playoff chances ruined by a 2-11 stretch in August. There were enough rookies and young players on the roster who didn’t understand adversity, but Washington kept them going.

The second-year skipper said his strengths are his energy and attitude. A lifetime in baseball has taught him how to roll with the punches and not get too high during the good times.

Washington saw himself improve in other areas in 2008, but heads to the off-season knowing he isn’t a finished product. He said he will work this winter, too, along with his players, to make the Rangers better in 2009.

“I always believe that your preparation can be better,” said Washington, who has a 154-170 record after last Sunday’s season ending game at Angel Stadium. “That’s the one thing I want to figure out, how to prepare better with my coaching staff to make sure we’re all thinking the same.”

He believes his communication with the staff improved, and he said he allowed them more freedom to do their jobs and made them more accountable.

Washington wants his staff to react quickly and correctly when situations develop during a game, whether it be a pitching change, using a pinch-hitter or adjusting the positioning of the outfielders.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will start to micromanage in 2009. While he said he was always ahead of the game, he felt handicapped in some games because of an overworked bullpen and a group of pinch-hitters that was largely inexperienced.

The Rangers’ bullpen has logged the most innings in baseball this season, and Frank Catalanotto was often the only reserve who could help off the bench.

“When you talk about [being proactive], that usually has to do with pitching changes. The rest of the game has to do with gut,” Washington said. “If we can get better pitching-wise, then being proactive would be easy. I’m already ahead, but sometimes the best you have is already in the ballgame. Once you pull that out, everything else is downhill.”

General manager Jon Daniels, like Ryan, saw the adversity Washington faced. The Rangers used 55 players and 19 rookies, both club records, as injuries created a revolving door to the clubhouse.

“Ron had a lot thrown at him this year,” Daniels said. “All the injuries, the young players he was asked to break in, the personal stuff he had to deal with at the beginning of the season, if you haven’t gone through it, it’s not easy.

“For him to have stayed the course and kept the guys focused throughout the year, a lot of that is because they took on the personality of the manager.”

The Rangers were a better team in Washington’s second season (79-83), and he expects them — and himself — to be better in his third.

“The record doesn’t show it, but it is [better]. And it’s time to move forward,” Washington said. “We’ve got some deficiencies that we have to correct. The Ws and the Ls will take care of themselves. I do believe that losing record is going to change. I’ll get on the winning side of that.”