- Dallas Morning News Rangers' beat writer Evan Grant addressed this very issue with a reader in his blog. It the last question in his Q&A and is worth the read. Check it out here.
At 4 p.m. on Saturday, the 2-0 Rangers will begin play against the Rays in The Ballpark in Arlington.
By 7:30, the team and the city could be celebrating its first postseason series win and will be gearing up for the ALCS against the Yankees.
Yet for all the drama and excitement that surrounds this team, there seems to be a lack of respect for one of the team’s biggest difference makers over the course of the past four years.
Since Wash’s hiring, he has been criticized constantly regarding his managerial style. It doesn’t matter that the Rangers have improved every year that he has been at the helm. It doesn’t matter that his team respects, listens and follows him and has added his personality to their play and became AL West Champs for the first time in 11 years. It doesn’t matter that the team loves playing for him and gives 100% every time they step on the field.
The man owns the clubhouse. He has the ear of team leader Michael Young, who credits Wash for everything that has taken place during his tenure. His players love him and all he has done since he’s been here is put his team in position to win.
But to some, that simply is not enough and never will be.
If politics have taught us anything it is people will dislike, and in some cases hate, people just because. And whenever there is unbridled hate and distrust, some will just pile on no matter how wrong, ignorant or just plain stupid their rationale is.
Case-in-point is the President of the United States is different than what this country is use to and people are afraid and distrustful of the government as a result. For some, their fears could be quelled if some of their questions and concerns were answered honestly and candidly. Instead there are those in our country who thrive on fear and dishonesty and will stop at nothing to exploit those fears for their own gains. And soon those tepid fears morph into realities and to many, they have to do something in order to “stop the threat”, whatever it may be, that is destroying the country. That’s just the way it is.
But too often, people feel powerless and they resort to attacking and demonizing what’s close to them. They take out their frustrations on those who they can reach out and touch, the person that reminds them most of the person they hate or fear. And that, for the moment is what satisfies them.
And that seems to be that case against Ron Washington.
Since the Rangers moved to Arlington in 1972, there have been only four postseason appearances by the club. And of those four, three were led by Manager Johnny Oates and all ended in ALDS futility at the hands of the Yankees.
One win in 10 games and Oates has been revered in this town as if he were Connie Mack or Joe Torre leading the team to championship after championship when clearly that is not the case.
Even though he had all the talent in the world on his squads, including MVPs Juan Gonzalez and Ivan Rodriguez, Oates still couldn’t win anything. He was released at the conclusion of the ’01 season after the Rangers failed to finish above .500 and after getting swept by the Yankees in what would become the teams’ final playoff appearance for a while.
Regardless of the talent Oates possessed around him, he was inexplicably free from blame if you were to compare him to what Wash goes through now. The teams of the ‘90s were all about power and scoring runs. There was no adjustment and when they couldn’t hit, it was game over. Pitching was never a focus or a priority and the team generally acquired unwanted free agents or made late season trades, which was the case with the ’96 team and John Burkett.
That has been the history of this franchise and every Rangers’ fan knows it. For years, almost in unison we’ve all deplored the dismissive attitude the club has taken towards pitching. We’ve seen Kenny Rogers, Kevin Brown and others flourish when they leave Texas and play for franchises that actually care about winning and not just the entertainment factor of shooting the ball over the fences.
The fans and the media have called for the team to get serious about winning, develop their own players and play good fundamental baseball.
Buck Showalter was brought in to do just that, but he was more of a taskmaster than a true leader and players didn’t care for his style. And it showed when the team never finished above third in a division with only four teams.
Then along came a man with a plan to turn everything around, from the ground up, and turn the club into a winner. He knew it would take time, but if the organization could believe and actually stick with a plan, he knew he could change the culture of losing and make the club winners. He knew what to do. He had been in Oakland and had seen the talent that could be harvested and put on the field if an organization had a top-down plan in place and stuck with it.
And that’s what Wash and John Daniels did.
For every dramatic walk-off home run that Cruz hits, it’s chalked up to talent on Cruz’s part, not the fact that in at least one of those situations, Wash used him as a pinch hitter giving him the opportunity.
And for every pitching change, even if it were three in the same inning that ultimately resulted in a win, somehow Maddox gets the credit and if it goes bad, Wash gets the blame.
When the team bunts, sometimes incessantly, Wash gets criticized because they are not going up to the plate and hacking away, when in fact that’s the exact thing everyone has been complaining about for years.
And through all the criticism leveled at the man, all he does is win. And he’s doing it the way we as fans have always envisioned it; through fundamental baseball played with reckless abandon. Yet for the life of me I cannot understand why the man doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.
I’ve heard the excuse that the AL West is down this year and there was no way the Rangers could lose. And when they did win, it went from there was no way they could lose, to “well, anyone could have coached this team and won because the Angels were so bad.”
But if you look at the standings from the previous trips to the postseason, shouldn’t you say the same for Oates? In ’96 and ‘98, the Angels finished fourth, while in ’98 they finished second. Did that make Oates less of a manager? No.
On the flip side, what do we make of the teams that always finished ahead of us? We revere Angels’ skipper Mike Scosia for winning the West all the time, but do we add the caveat, the West is so bad, he has to win?
No we don’t. And the only thing I can surmise is people don’t like Washington because of who they think he is, not who he is.
The reasons vary from his less than perfect grasp of the English language to his admitted drug use. But the biggest reason I think he’s lambasted is because he is different from what people are use to. And the only thing that will satisfy them is to go back to what they had. But if you look at the win-loss records of both men through their first four years, they are remarkably similar.
Through Oates first four years, his record was 329-321 (+28); Washington’s is 331-317(+14). Now one could point to the fact that Oates took the Rangers to the playoffs twice during that time, but the record was an underwhelming 1-6. Wash already has two wins and his team has all the confidence in the world heading back to Arlington.
Also under Oates, it was later determined that Arlington was ground zero for steroids during the ‘90s. During Wash’s tenure, Hamilton fell off the wagon, pictures were posted on Deadspin.com and Wash received some criticism for Hamilton’s failure because it was argued that a manager should know what goes on in the clubhouse.
But by that rationale, doesn’t that make Oates more complicit in illegal activities than Wash? What Oates’ Rangers did tarnished a decade of the games’ history, yet his name never comes up in any discussion. He is still revered as if there are three Commissioner’s Trophies sitting in an undisclosed location in the ballpark.
So what more do fans want? Do they want to go back to the way things were and half-heartedly believe we can win next year as so many of us have throughout the years? Or can we finally accept that we have someone who has finally, after 40 plus years, righted the ship and has us sailing in the right direction?
I would really like to say the latter, but until the ignorant thoughts of a fickle fandom changes their outlook, I’ll just wait and see.
In the mean time, you can choose Oates and tell me why and I’ll take Washington and he’ll keep showing us how come.