In hindsight, Rangers manager Ron Washington should be thankful he works in the same market as Wade Phillips since the Cowboys head coach was the only reason for Washington’s perceived pass from the media.
In fact, bitter Rangers fans blasting the Rangers skipper on various blogs have been the primary source of the criticism leveled at Wash; most of which have been unfair at best and ridiculous at worst.
The same can be said for Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels, but through it all rational bloggers have defended the duo from the outset, including myself on many occasions.
In the past those defenses were centered around the notion the talent at the major league level was so bad it couldn’t be blamed on the manager.
Any baseball fan, no matter how moronic, could see Daniels and his team doing a steady job at changing the Rangers for the better as early as 2007, yet the fan rants continued to pour in.
Going into the 2010 season there are still whispers from cynical fans saying the same old line, Daniels and Washington aren’t the guys to lead the Rangers to a parade down Ballpark Way; but the tone is changing.
By all accounts the Rangers are positioned to contend in a very tough division this season provided the prospects Daniels has brought into the system take the next step; which of course is all up to Washington and the coaching staff.
The Rangers have circled 2010 as the season to return to the playoffs since trading Mark Teixiera at the deadline in 2007. With their surprising success last year, at least to some people anyway, the Rangers have done little to change those expectations.
Minority owner in waiting Nolan Ryan has even gone public with his expectations saying the Rangers should win the AL West and he’d be disappointed if they don’t.
Anyone else take that as a shot across the bow from the Hall-of-Famer? Maybe the team and front office should get together their first night of camp and watch video of the game Robin Ventura charged Ryan for added motivation.
With only a few spots on the active roster up for grabs, perhaps the fewest in club history, the Rangers are in position to win putting Washington and Daniels square in the spotlight.
Washington no longer has a lack of talent at the big league level so it’s imperative for the Rangers to get off to a good start, especially with a former manager in Clint Hurdle already on the big league staff.
Washington has been criticized for his in-game management skills since day one, but he has improved in that area each year since he was handed the keys. Considering that makes up half his job description I expect the front office to watch his decisions closely if the Rangers stumble out of the gate.
However, the other half of his job description involves the players and his impact on the clubhouse. There is no question the players believe in Wash and play hard for him every night which probably saved his job after the Rangers struggled last April.
On the flip side, if the Rangers start out hot and are leading the West going into the middle of the season the Rangers should lock up Washington for more than a year. The Rangers closed well in 2008, contended until mid-September in 2009 and with a good start to 2010 will justify a multi-year contract.
Keep in mind, as the Rangers have improved over the past few seasons Daniels and Washington have been the ones responsible for developing the Rangers into the contenders they are today.
Both came to the team before Nolan Ryan, both have stuck to the plan over the years despite criticism from fans and media alike and both will rise or fall as the plan enters completion.
Rebuilding is over, now it’s time for the Rangers to contend for a World Championship. With new ownership coming into the fold, Daniels and Washington must be successful in making the team on paper a reality on the field or they will find themselves out of a job.
Considering their success in building this team, only the cynical and irrational fans would bet against them finishing what they started at this point.