Washington Monument

New Rangers manager injects hope and, yep, even optimism in Arlington

"I just want him to be Hank Blalock, hitting homers, driving in runs and playing third base like a Gold Glover," Washington says. "I'm taking the burden off him coming to the park wondering if he's going to play against some tough lefty pitcher. Instead, I want him focused on figuring out a way to beat that lefty's ass."

Can the Rangers find consistent fourth and fifth starters? Can Washington will them into winning games 3-2, not just 11-2? Can 38-year-old Sammy Sosa, signed to a low-risk contract, make Texas' roster and add everyday pop without a corked bat or juiced body?

"It's all going to work out," says Washington, concluding his wintry mix of sermon and salesmanship. "I've started getting rid of the tension that was everywhere, with the players and even their wives. We're cleansing ourselves. We're going to be a team that scratches and claws when we're behind and that goes for the knockout blow when we're ahead. We're going to win."

It's two months until the Rangers' season opener and seven years since their last playoff game. But frostbite in Hades be damned, I'm ready to run through a wall. Or at least out into the snow.

Whaddyaknow, I amin a baseball mood.

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