A month during a baseball season is a ton of time. A month in an off-season for a new manager, a first-time manager, might not be long enough.
Woodward has been busy, to say the least, and he’s racking up frequent-flier miles as he jets back and forth from his home and family in the Phoenix area to Arlington. Not a week has gone by that he hasn’t spent at least a couple days in Texas.
Ooooh, hotel points, too.
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“Early on, basically I was here the whole time,” said Woodward, who was hired Nov. 3.
There was no shortage of work facing him after taking the job as a complete stranger to just about everyone in the organization. The Rangers hadn’t hired a coach or signed a player to a big-league deal, and they have been busy upgrading their analytics side.
Woodward has been trying to put his arms around all of it, and the first step was trying to find coaches to help him carry the load.
“Filling the staff has been the biggest thing,” he said. “Once we hired a hitting coach and once we hired a pitching coach, we could start to put some processes in play and how we’re going to get our information, what we’re going to do with our information, what direction we’re going to move, what’s our philosophy. All these things need to be addressed.”
Woodward comes from an data-driven organization, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he brings with him knowledge of how they handled their baseball side. He needed to learn the Rangers’ hierarchy and how everything funneled downhill.
There isn’t much difference in data from club to club. The differences are how its applied and how players learn to trust it. That’s also why putting together a coaching staff was the biggest task facing Woodward.
“They’re going to immediately relate to the players,” he said. “Our next step in gaining their trust is to give them something that makes them comfortable, whether it’s information or whether it’s technique. We have to figure out how it’s given to them.”
Players, though, also have to trust what their manager is all about, and Woodward said that he has spoken to almost all the players on the 40-man roster. Those who live outside the U.S. have been a little harder to reach, but Woodward plans on tracking them down, too.
Many players are working out locally and getting extra face time with their new boss. He has left a favorable first impression.
“You shook his hand and could look in his eyes,” catcher and native Texan Jose Trevino said. “A firm handshake, and that says a lot. In the state of Texas, if you shake a man’s hand and look in his eyes, it really means a lot. You could tell he really cared not only about you as a baseball player but as you as a person as well.”
Woodward also didn’t know the medical staff, the training staff and the support staff who help make the team function day to day.
Someone pass the throat lozenges.
“Obviously, I’ve been reaching out to players since Day 1,” Woodward said. “It’s a lot of time on the phone. A lot of conversations. I’m meeting a ton of new people every day. I didn’t have relationships with any of them. Getting to know them is more than just one conversation. It’s conversation after conversation.”
But the lines of communication haven’t just been one way. Woodward has asked players and scouts and analysts about the past few seasons, trying to gauge everything from how information was used to the state of clubhouse chemistry.
Creating a new chemistry won’t be an issue, Woodward said.
“I think that’s my biggest strength,” he said. “That’s one thing as a player I did. I was a very respected clubhouse leader. That’s something I preach heavily.”
The bulk of that work will be done once all the players are together in spring training. For now, Woodward has enough to keep him busy.
“It’s still going to take some time, but he’s catching up quickly,” general manager Jon Daniels said.