Rangers have been redirected by two team meetings

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Only five days have passed since Texas Rangers players were heaping praise upon Ron Washington after he won his 582nd game, more than any other manager in club history.

Among the things they said, and have said pretty much since the beginning of his reign, is that he is a player’s manager. Washington doesn’t rule with an iron fist, which allows the clubhouse to stay loose and carefree.

But they also know that he expects them to be prepared and ready to play the right way, his way, every game. If things go wrong for too long, Washington will act.

That has been the case twice this season, once in June after a losing streak hit six games and again less than two weeks ago after a prolonged and sometimes lifeless slump at the plate.

The tenor of the closed-door sessions was different, but the results have been identical. The Rangers won eight of their first nine post-meeting games, a stretch they had ridden into the finale of a three-game series at Angel Stadium on Wednesday.

Wins aren’t always guaranteed from a meeting, but Washington’s words produced the desired effect of the Rangers playing with more energy and more focus on what needed to change.

“The change is not because of my meeting. It’s because of the players,” Washington said. “Opportunity presented itself to say things, and you have to know that’s the moment. That’s why you can’t have meetings all the time, because you have to have their attention.”

The Rangers were trying to make it nine of 10 since their July 28 meeting, and also trying to complete a second-three game sweep of the Angels in the span of 10 days in a game that hadn’t ended at press time.

The most recent meeting, after back-to-back shutouts in a three-game sweep at Cleveland, lasted 45 minutes. Washington spoke his piece, reminding the players that they are all capable of being productive and as such should worry only about doing their job.

He then opened the floor for a group conversation that helped clear the air. The usual suspects — infielders Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus — were among the voices heard.

“They were drifting away from what the Texas Rangers are,” Washington said. “This one was about trying to find out what they were feeling.”

What was said is a team-only matter, but the results have been very public and had helped carry the Rangers from six games behind division-leading Oakland to within a half-game of first place after the A’s lost earlier Wednesday.

“It brought to light what was going wrong with our approach,” Kinsler said. “It has nothing to do with success or failure. It has to do with the way we’re playing the game. I guess you could call it a wake-up call.”

Washington said that he thought the team was sleepwalking. They certainly weren’t scoring. In the next nine games, though, they scored 54 runs.

The meeting helped, as did wins via a walk-off homer in the first three games after the meeting, but words alone won’t turn the tide.

“You still have to go out there and compete,” Andrus said.

The June 16 meeting, though, was completely one-sided. Washington was the only one who spoke after Toronto completed a four-game sweep at Rangers Ballpark, noting an abundant lack of energy.

“That one was a wake-up call,” Washington said.

The Rangers responded by winning three of four games from Oakland, sweeping three at St. Louis and winning two of three at Yankee Stadium.

“It’s not just saying the right thing, but saying the right thing at the right time,” left fielder David Murphy said. “It was the perfect day to get everybody together and have that meeting when he did.”

Washington wasn’t looking for credit Wednesday when asked at length about the meetings, though he said that knowing the pulse of his team is one of his “specialties.”

No one can argue with the results.

“Sometimes those meetings help you open your eyes and make you focus on what you need to focus on,” Andrus said. “That’s a good thing about a meeting, especially when they come from the manager. You see a lot of stuff that, as a player, you don’t see, and it’s going to help you out.”

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson

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