Originally posted on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 10/27/11

I love me some Ron Washington. And since the baseball season will only have one more night if Colby Lewis can continue to outdo himself, I’d like to tell you why.

Though I’m a White Sox fan first, foremost, and forever, I’ve had the good fortune of seeing the rise of the Texas Rangers from up close over the last four years. In fact, their ascent from AL West doormat to the cusp of a world championship coincided neatly with me moving here. (And, for the record, I’ve been in attendance for both of their ALCS clinching wins. Coincidence? Hell no it’s not. Which is why I’ll be requesting a ring if they win one.)

Perhaps the largest sea change in this town, a town that only has time for football and winners, has occurred with respect to public opinion of Ron Washington, affectionately dubbed the Old School Brother here in Dallas. When I first got down here, it seemed like Washington was managing for his job* on a near daily basis. As things stand in the sports world right now, there may be no coach outside of Bill Belichick and Mike Tomlin with more job security than Wash.

* – In fact, there is a famous story often told on the radio that Nolan Ryan and/or Jon Daniels was ready to fire Washington but didn’t want to do it on the manager’s birthday. The Rangers then proceeded to go on a winning streak, Wash’s job was saved, and the rest as they say is history.

And for those of you who cheer for another team as I do, and who haven’t been able to watch from up close as this Rangers thing has coalesced over the last several years, allow me to give you some keen (but easily deducible) insight into the Ron Washington Managerial Doctrine.

Image source: RollingOut.com

Wash can be at once revered and reviled for his simple approach to things – simple at least in how it appears from the outside looking in – but this simplicity, at least in one respect, and in concert with Washington’s belief in aggressive baseball, is a huge part of the reason why the Texas Rangers are in the World Series for the second year in a row. It is a simplicity that can be perfectly viewed and understood through one quick Washington sound byte from yesterday:


“Harrison has been a big part of this team all year,” Washington said. “I am not changing the things that I’ve been doing all year. That’s why we are where we are and that’s why I’m saying Harrison.”

The quote is Washington’s response to the notion that yesterday’s rain delay opens up Game 7 to be started by Game 5 hero (and Game 6 comedian) Derek Holland. Matt Harrison, who started Game 3, has been slated to start a potential Game 7 all along. Would Wash ride the hot hand of Holland instead, people wondered, now that the Dutch Oven would be able to pitch with requisite rest?

The Old School Brother put a swift end to that notion, and in the process showed everyone in America why his players would, maybe even literally, run through a brick wall for him.

Ron Washington believes in his players. He trusts his players. Even when public opinion has turned against a member of the Rangers, Washington’s never does – so long as that guy has a track record of producing for Washington in the past, of course. It’s not blind faith that Washington puts in his players, it’s earned faith; and there is a huge difference. Matt Harrison is a great example.

Harrison went 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA during the regular season. That’s outstanding for an AL pitcher, especially considering where he pitches half of his home games. And though Harrison has an ERA north of 5.00 during the playoffs, and hasn’t pitched more than 5.0 innings in any game, his 15:7 rate of Ks to walks is reasonably good and he hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in any start.

Considering Holland’s superlative outing in Game 5 (8+ shutout innings) it’s natural for fans and media alike to wonder if Washington is at all wavering in who he’d throw for Game 7 – as Tony La Russa is, stating that he’d likely go with Chris Carpenter – but Wash is not a man who wavers easily.

His players love him for it. The fans and media and Dallas have learned to love him for it. Objective Rangers observers like me have come to respect him for it. And certainly the “baseball gods” look upon it kindly, because we have example after example of Wash’s players coming through for him when he’s stuck by them.

One such example took place in Game 6 of this year’s ALCS when many in the Metroplex were clamoring for scuffling Michael Young to be dropped in the order. Wash hung tough with Young in the cleanup spot and his most tenured regular responded with 3 hits, a homer, and 5 RBIs in the game that sent Texas to the Fall Classic. Another example was Game 2. Josh Hamilton is clearly hampered by his groin injury and many here in Dallas wondered if he should be benched or dropped in the order. Wash said no. Hamilton delivered a key sac fly and has gotten at least one hit in each of the last three games.

At some point, Wash’s faith in his guys will fail him. It’s inevitable. Ask any White Sox fan how well staying the course with aging, struggling veterans works after watching the dreadful 2011 season. As with many human qualities, a person’s greatest strength can sometimes prove to also be their greatest weakness when circumstances turn against them. It may not happen in Game 7 (if there is one), it may not happen next year, but it will happen. It always does. That’s how baseball go.

Josh Hamilton’s skills will begin eroding. Neftali Feliz won’t be able to find the strike zone. Ian Kinsler’s running and defense won’t be able to make up for the stretches when he can’t make contact, and on and on. Wash will stick them, and at some point the hits won’t come or the saves will be blown or the defensive plays won’t get made. The Rangers will have to adjust, and so will Wash. And we’ll see if he will, but that’s a long, long ways off.

What matters tonight and what matters tomorrow is that every player on the Rangers’ roster is capable of helping Texas win a World Series, so Washington’s trust in the guys who got him here is well-placed and will likely be rewarded. Even if it’s not, the Rangers won’t lose because Washington put the faith in the wrong guy. They wouldn’t be here, one game from a championship, if he hadn’t so steadfastly supported the players in the clubhouse over the last two years.

And just watch. If there is a Game 7, I bet Matt Harrison comes out and pitches well. Wash’s players do that for him when he stands by them. Besides, it’s not a wall Harrison would have to run through for Washington, just five or six innings to deliver a winnable score to the bullpen. Harrison has proven that when he’s at his best he can do that, and Ron Washington brings out the best in his players.

That’s why no manager in baseball has been better over the last two years than Wash, and his earned faith in his players just may be returned to him in the form a championship.

It would be a great moment for the team and this entire city where I now pay my rent, and it would be a well deserved one for this oft misunderstood and underestimated manager who could not be a more perfect fit for the collection of ballplayers in his dugout.

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