Ron Washington, G.O.A.T.
By Eric Reining
In a season mired by multiple excessively long stretches of bad baseball, from a club riddled by injuries and inconsistency — with some occasional brilliance — we as fans were only supposed to arrive at one conclusion once the Rangers made it back into 1st place, that this is the finest managerial performance of Ron Washington‘s tenure with the Texas Rangers.
Even 10 days ago, when Wash eclipsed the mark for most victories in the franchise’s history, the proof was in the ESPN article:
Sunday’s win provides tangible proof of what is already clear: Ron Washington is the greatest manager in Texas Rangers history. […]
But Washington was the greatest Rangers manager before he claimed win No. 582 as the skipper. (Richard Durrett.)
To assume winning games makes one a “good” manager is using the same, tired logic that says if Pitcher X_ has more wins than Pitcher Y_, he is automatically and unequivocally the better pitcher, right?
Since it’s 2013, and since many fans have abandoned the blind presuppositions of their fathers and father’s-fathers, we are better able to rationalize the truth behind what is actually taking place in reality, or that which is being driven down our throats by whatever media source(s) we choose to extract information from.
On Friday night, Rangers fans witnessed another classic example of Ron Washington’s fledgling ability to make critical decisions during the latter stages of a game.
Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th, Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin successfully led off the inning by reaching on a base on balls and hit-by-pitch, respectively. This gave the Rangers men on 1st and 2nd with nobody out, the middle of the order coming up, and a new pitcher on the hill.
In Grave Mistake #1, Ron Washington ordered Elvis Andrus to sacrifice the runners over, which he eventually did on a 2-2 pitch. (What kind of world are we living in where the #2 hitter is looking to please his manager by laying down a bunt with 2 strikes?) It’s flummoxing, but by itself is not reason to castigate Washington, because most — if not all — major league managers would have done the same thing. Right or wrong.
With men on 2nd and 3rd and one out, Ian Kinsler struck out, which was followed by the tactically correct move on the Mariners part to intentionally walk Adrian Beltre. As such, the bases were loaded with 2 outs, and Seattle, again, logically, gave themselves the platoon advantage by summoning Charlie Furbush from the bullpen to face A.J. Pierzynski.
Then I posted this, because I’m arguably a reasonable human being:
During the commercial break, I had time to look this up:
Basically, Furbush — a lefty — is death to opposing hitters of like-handedness. Playing manager from the cozy confines of my backyard, listening intently when the radio call began, I was shocked to learn that Wash didn’t lift Pierzynski in favor of Baker (Grave Mistake #2), whose entire purpose as a Ranger is to do bad things to baseballs against left-handed pitchers. On the season he’s hitting .354/.434/.800 (227 wRC+) vs. southpaws.
In predictable fashion, A.J. blooped out to the 3rd baseman, and that was that.
In one of the final scenes of Tropic Thunder, Tom Cruise’s character looks over to Bill Hader and says “A nutless monkey could do your job.” They both laugh, and Hader gets up to leave.
Then Cruise grabs Hader’s arm, sternly, and repeats: “No, seriously, a nutless monkey could do your job.”
Don’t be disillusioned in thinking Ron Washington is the one who changed the culture in Texas, no matter how many wins or World Series appearances he’s accumulated. We can’t forget his time with the organization has been spent underneath a dominating front office umbrella led by Jon Daniels; he’s the real architect. Washington is his caretaker.
Friday night wasn’t the 1st or 2nd or even 50th time Washington has cost the Rangers a win — nor will it be the last — which isn’t to say the Rangers definitely would have won had he handled the late-game decisions differently, but by doing it the way he did do it, it virtually eliminated Texas’s chances of winning.
Which is kind of the same thing as losing.