Sounds Like Richie Could Use Some Baseball

Ron Washington has us all very excited about the Rangers this season. Which means, of course, they'll still suck. But we'll be excited about it.

You'll have to wait until 6 tonight on TNT to find out if Josh Howard joins Dirk Nowitzki as an NBA All-Star. And you'll have to wait until next week to learn who owner Jerry Jones picks as the next coach of the Dallas Cowboys. But you don't have to wait any longer for your mid-winter Texas Rangers report. In

Off the field, it's been a nice off-season. Play-by-play voice Eric Nadel was named Texas Sportscaster of the Year for the fourth time. The Rangers are getting new neighbors, as just a couple blocks east on Randol Mill Road, 12 gigantenormous cranes are digging a hole on the very spot where I lived in college and where, come 2009, the Cowboys will reside.

And if you want a sneak peek at the team's new marketing campaign -- "You Could Use Some Baseball," created by Austin's Door Number 3 ad agency -- loiter around 5515 Southwestern Boulevard Friday from 9:30-11 a.m. as it shoots a TV commercial featuring a father trying to teach his son to joust while the mother reads a magazine. The money shot: The son ends up getting his sword stuck in a tree, prompting mom to quip, "You could use some baseball." Not bad.

But on the field, it's been a ho-hum winter.

The Rangers swapped top prospect John Danks for the White Sox's top prospect Brandon McCarthy. They signed oldies-but-(fingers crossed)-goodies Kenny Lofton, Eric Gagne, Sammy Sosa and... Seriously, I can't wait spring training to start in two weeks and for the April 2 season opener. Why? Ron Washington.

On Wednesday it was 32 degrees and snowing at Arlington's Ameriquest Field, and the Rangers' new manager totally had me convinced it was baseball weather.

"I love it!" said Washington. "Nothing that will stop us from getting our work done."

Oh, there's work to be done. But after an afternoon listening to Washington's sermon -- think Avery Johnson with more age and less drawl -- I'm convinced he's worth 10 wins all by his lonesome. He spewed forth more optimism, enthusiasm and energy in four hours than Buck Showalter did in four seasons.

"I'm a very confident guy," says Washington. "I was a blessed with a talent to help people. If it's in you, I can get it out of you."

Says general manager Jon Daniels, "He's had that affect on all of us, from minute one of meeting one."

The Rangers may not win in 2007, but they definitely won't be boring. --Richie Whitt