Busy Rangers finally get to Washington’s deal on their to-do list

02/25/2014 9:24 AM

02/25/2014 9:25 AM

Since ending the 2013 season, the Texas Rangers:

• traded away the highest-paid second baseman in franchise history;
• waved goodbye to the club’s CEO and living legend Nolan Ryan;
• welcomed Shin-Soo Choo with the richest contract the team has ever awarded an outfielder;
• drafted Super Bowl XLVIII’s winning quarterback;
• renamed the ballpark, and
• by not re-signing Nelson Cruz, likely will remov the $26, two-foot-long Boomstick from the stadium concessions menu.

They’ve been busy, in other words. So busy putting together the 2014 team, the general manager said Monday, that there had been no time to sit down and extend the contract of manager Ron Washington.

Calling Washington’s new deal “a foregone conclusion,” Jon Daniels said, “I know this has been a bit of a media speculative story, but it’s really never been a story from my standpoint or our organization’s standpoint.

“We feel as strongly about Wash as we ever have.”

Washington’s new contract extends through the 2015 season. But more to the prickly point, Wash said, it ends the persistent questions this spring about his job status.

“To be honest with you,” he said at Monday’s announcement, “I haven’t woken up one morning wondering about my status because I already had a status — 2014.”

If Washington wasn’t worried about his job, though, and Daniels and Rangers ownership weren’t worried, who really was?

Both sides figuratively pointed the finger Monday — their index fingers, I should note — at the media. Daniels didn’t name names, but he admitted he had a problem with the characterization of Washington as a “lame duck.”

“Lame duck — I don’t really buy into that stuff,” Daniels said. “That’s not the reason we did it. Maybe if it was an inexperienced manager with a new team. But you’re talking about a tenured, veteran guy who this team believes in and has followed into some big-time battles.

“Wash and I had a couple of conversations about it this winter. We said, ‘Hey, let’s get everything else settled, get the team ready to roll and get out to Surprise.’ We had dinner the other night and kind of a brief conversation that was part of a bigger conversation about our team and what we needed to get accomplished.

“We’ve been pretty consistent all along about our faith in Wash and his staff and how it all fits together here.”

Washington assures that he wasn’t the one furtively fanning the no-contract flames during the off-season.

So why the delay, which only allowed the media speculation to grow?

Because the Rangers could. Washington’s loyalty was sealed when Daniels and Rangers management backed him — with no public hesitation — after his embarrassing 2009 incident.

Washington, a career baseball man, wasn’t about to make a public stink about a job that only 29 other men in the world have.

That’s not meant to demean Washington, who’s more than feisty enough to fight his own battles. Besides, as Daniels made clear, the loyalty in Washington’s case is a two-way street.

“I remember during the interview process, back in fall of ’06, [special assistant] Don Welke spent some time with Wash down in New Orleans,” Daniels recalled, “and he came back with a big smile on his face and said, ‘That’s the guy for me. That’s just a good baseball man.’

“Obviously, there was more to it, but that really sums it up. There’s no pretense about Wash, no B-S. It’s baseball 24/7. It’s been a good fit from day one.”

Asked to describe his manager, Daniels boldly said, “I think he’s one of the best in the game.”

If that doesn’t end the non-story story, it should.

About Gil LeBreton

Gil LeBreton

@gilebreton

Whether it's pondering Moose McNuggets at the McDonald's in Norway or chasing Lance Armstrong up some mountaintop in France, Gil LeBreton has been entertaining Star-Telegram readers for nearly 30 years. He's covered 21 Super Bowls, 14 Olympic Games (summer and winter), saw Muhammad Ali box, Paul Newman drive a race car and Prince Albert try to steer a bobsled.

Gil also once briefly held the WBC Junior Welterweight title belt -- he had to, because the guy he was interviewing, champ Bruce Curry, had to suddenly step into the men's room.

Email Gil at gilebreton@star-telegram.com

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