Ron Washington’s record with Rangers speaks for itself

Posted Saturday, May. 25, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton As long as the baseball gods remain willing, at some point in this season, likely right around the All-Star break, Ron Washington will clap his hands approvingly, turn and give Jackie Moore a now-familiar victory hug and quietly become the winningest manager in Texas Rangers history.

He will credit his players. He will thank his coaches. In his own unfettered syntax, Washington likely will express his gratitude to Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels and the owner who brought him to Texas, Tom Hicks.

That’s the way baseball go, if I may borrow Wash’s most endearing philosophy.

You pay your dues. You stay loyal and true to your heart. You survive the rough times, and one day you realize that you’ve hung around long enough to win 582 games, more than Bobby Valentine and more than the late Johnny Oates.

In this age of social — and anti-social — media, the milestone is certain to shower Washington with both rancor and praise. That’s the way Facebook go.

But be careful what you criticize him for. With half of his starting lineup rewritten from a year ago, and with 60 percent of his expected pitching rotation lost through injuries, Washington still has the Rangers on track for an unprecedented fourth playoff season in a row.

Before that hoped-for postseason, the Rangers will have played 162 games. That’s 162 times that Washington has put his nightly work on public display. That’s 162 times to scrutinize his lineups, the pinch hitters that he may or may not send to the plate and the relief pitchers that he brings in.

I’m as guilty as you are. I’m guilty of wondering what the Rangers’ lineup would be like with Ian Kinsler batting fifth. I want to see Leonys Martin playing every day. I’ve been wincing lately, too, every time Joseph Ortiz comes in.

But again, that’s the way baseball go. You can’t measure Washington by the number of trolls who anonymously rip him on the Internet. Instead, weigh his performance in the same way that Valentine, Oates and all baseball managers are judged — by how much he wins.

Two Octobers ago, the radio talk shows were steaming. The World Series was about to be lost, they said. The manager was over-managing.

I remember it well, because I was in my hotel room — in St. Louis. And the radio hosts and callers were bashing the Cardinals’ Tony La Russa.

As Wash would say, “Baseball.” The one-word explanation suffices.

The great La Russa retired after winning that World Series with 2,728 victories to his credit, a .536 percentage.

For what it’s worth, before Saturday night’s game, Washington’s seven-year winning percentage as the Rangers’ manager was .540.

It’s a figure that the sabermetrics guys are likely uncomfortable with. Wash does some things by the book but so many by the gut. He’ll play the percentages, except when he doesn’t.

Trying to follow what Washington does with sabermetrics is like trying to track a hurricane with a slide rule.

His failure to fully embrace baseball’s new math is probably one of the reasons that Oakland’s Billy Beane never hired him as manager even after 11 seasons as a coach.

But if we’ve seen anything over the seven seasons, it’s that his players won’t hesitate to play hard for him. His veterans, in particular, seem fiercely loyal to him.

That two-way loyalty might well have cost the Rangers another division title last season. The front office felt it had given Washington “major league quality” backups for the stretch run; Wash appeared to think otherwise. He and the sparkless lineup went down with the ship.

He learned from that experience, I think. Utility man Jeff Baker has so far played in more than half the team’s games. Leury Garcia is on pace to double the playing time that infielder Alberto Gonzalez saw last season.

Washington, of course, will be criticized for using them both too much and too little.

The game’s gods willing, he’ll become the winningest Rangers manager ever sometime in July. He’ll probably still do something that night that makes you want to scream at the TV.

But the percentages say Ron Washington likely will end the game with a hug.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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