Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 10/25/11
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Before Game 5, Rangers manager Ron Washington was asked about his "unorthodox" managing style. The words unorthodox being that of the questioner and not my opinion. He went into a decently long answer about being aggressive, knowing his team and following his gut. Then he dropped a truth bullet. "I'm not as dumb as people think I am," Wash said. Everybody laughed, as if Wash had told a joke. Why, I do not know. What I know about Wash is depictions of him as a glorified mascot, a baseball-book buffoon, as incapable of matching "a wit" with the best baseball supposedly has to offer in St. Louis' Tony La Russa, as a beneficiary of a talented lineup and a genius front office do actually bother him. And rightfully so. So now, as Ron Washington's Rangers stand a single W away from winning a World Series a feat no Texas manager of any orthodoxy (by the book, by the gut, by the seat of his pants) has accomplished it is time to praise the genius of being dumb. Because "dumb" beat genius in Game 5. Gut TKO'd TLR at The Ballpark in Arlington. Wash 4, La Russa 2. In the Jengel box score, La Russa is tagged for the loss. His decisions were so absurdly second guessable, his explanations improbable. Why was Allen Craig stealing in the seventh with Albert Pujols at the plate effectively taking the bat out of their best hitter's hands? Why was Cards reliever Marc Rzepczynski out there in the eighth, pitching to Mike Napoli, instead of Jason Motte? Please tell me La Russa had a better explanation than Rzepczynski sounds like Motte with too much crowd noise buzzing. Nope, that is his story. Roger Clemens' idiotic "misremembered" comment sounds logical compared to this. And yet Wash is the "unorthodox" one because he stayed with David Murphy against a lefty, because he stays with Michael Young as his cleanup hitter, because he dances in the clubhouse, because he says things like "that's how baseball go" and because he trusts his gut. "I don't even know why it is unorthodox," Young said. "What is unorthodox about it? He has a team that won 96 games. It is because of the guy we have here, the guy putting the lineup out, making the switches and making the changes who put (Mike Napoli) in the eight hole to break up our lefties. It looks like a pretty genius move right now. So to be honest with you, I think it is an unfair rap that Wash has got to say he is unorthodox in the first place." I bounced back with what I had heard baseball people saying about Wash for a while now how going with his gut gets his Rangers in trouble. "It's that, and he doesn't care about answering questions from you guys. It's why he goes from the gut," Young said. "A lot of people won't do it. If you go by percentages, you don't have to answer questions. Wash doesn't care. It doesn't make him unorthodox. It makes him brave." The funny thing about brave is it looks a lot like crazy at times. It also resembles dumb from certain angles. The baseball people certainly hated how freely he used the intentional walk against Pujols, how he refused to engage in lefty vs. righty wackiness with La Russa, how he dropped Napoli to No. 8 in the order and countless crimes against the book that he commits daily. Twitter buzzes with anti-Wash sentiment most days. What Wash decided a long time ago is he has more faith in players than in a book. And they reward this faith by fighting their you-know-whats off for him. They have taken on his personality big guts, bigger lower guts and no apologies. "It is kind of how we play. It is kind of our team mentality," Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We are gutsy. Wash is a gutsy manager. Sometimes he is going to make moves that a lot of people wouldn't do." The way baseball goes is decisions are usually judged in the safety of the rearview. If Matt Holliday fails to deliver, hot work by Wash to walk Pujols. If not, Wash is an idiot. The strange thing is how quickly people go there with Wash. Maybe, it is because of the bravery. Or the butchery. The guy destroys the English language at times, the book, the idea of what a manager should act like when in the dugout. (Hint: No dancing. No hugging. No excessive emotion of any kind.) And he is underestimated as a result. In fact, before the World Series began, we were talking and he joked like he always does about how he has nothing to do with this. "All players," Wash joked, although he was not laughing. This bothers him, even though he'd never say so. And Game 5 had to feel like vindication, right? A little brushback for every meme that said he had zero chance of outmanaging La Russa. "Nope. As I always say, it is your players that make you look good," Wash said. "I did what I felt I had to do with my players and that's all I'm worried about. As you said, I can't match wits with Tony. I haven't been in the game that long. I just wish I could stay around as long as he has and be as successful as he has. I just trust my players and try to get them in a position where they can be successful, and they haven't let me down so far." And therein lies the genius of dumb. Wash does not think he is smarter than the game, just a part of it, which makes him not as dumb as y'all think.
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