Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels and skipper Ron Washington hopped on a conference call late this afternoon to discuss Wash's two-year contract extension -- "a formality as much as anything," as Daniels put it. The general manager said it was "clearly the first order of business" in the post-season, "making sure our field leader and manager was locked up and taken care of." Said Daniels, "We're not in the World Series without his leadership." And so, two more years. At least.
When asked why not a longer contract, Daniels said, in essence: That's how business go. To which he added: The organization hopes Washington will "continue to be a Texas Ranger for many, many years to come."
Daniels recounted this anecdote: Someone had tuned into the MLB Network, late in the season, to watch the net's so-called Ballpark Cams. Said Daniels, all the other ballparks were quiet. Not the Rangers': "There was Wash with his coaching staff, working with his players in the dog days." With his skipper, said Daniels, "it's all baseball all the time. He has respect for the game, respect for his players. It's no accident we were a very resilient club this year. There's not a lot of B.S., not a lot of fanfare. It's all baseball. Winning baseball."
To which Wash added, before taking questions: "I had guys that Jon supplied me with who were baseball rats and had deep passion for the game, just as I had deep passion for the game."
After some chitchat about the coaching staff, which Daniels and Wash hope to keep intact despite Clint Hurdle's flirtation with Pittsburgh, talk turned to the Washington's tenure as Rangers skipper -- four years this Saturday. Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas wondered how he's changed.
"I've done better at communicating and making my point known [better] than I did the first couple of years," he said. "I learned a lot about how to handle a pitching staff. I've grown just as each day has come and gone." He said he's better "able to make my players understand what's right and what's wrong and getting them to buy into it. Communication is a skill I was born with, as far as baseball goes. ... When you think you have this game figured out, it humbles you. When criticism comes and it's dead-on, learn from it. And I've learned when criticism isn't warranted how to ignore it." He said his is a "collaborative" coaching staff. He said: "We have no egos."
Evan Grant of The News asked Washington to define Rangers baseball. That, the skipper said, is about "having better at-bats, working the counts, recognizing when we have to start in the bullpen, continuing to work on moving runners and getting runners in." In other words, all the hallmarks of what got the Rangers to the World Series -- and all the things that appeared to vanish once it came time to slay the San Francisco Giants.
His players also describe him as a heart-on-his-sleeve kind of a manager. I asked, then: In the four years he's been in Arlington, has he managed to reconcile the emotional with the technical?
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"The emotional part is just part of my being," he said. "I get excited when I see my players do well. They get excited. That part is easy, because the players feed on the skipper's emotion and attitude and how he reacts to things when they aren't going well. ... Any negatives feelings I have, I have to hold on to and deal with it on my own."
When he arrived here from Oakland, where he'd been an infield and third base coach among his many duties, in 2006, he said, "I was a novice. It was my first time managing. I had to process everything here. I had to process my players. And when I say I, I mean everyone involved, not just I. We had to process everything and change the culture. My being a teacher helped me out a ton. I was a teacher of the game. Then I became a leader, and my teaching skills hadn't left. I knew it would be a process, and sometimes it's not always smooth."
There are, he said, "some conflicts" along the way. He spoke of disagreements with Daniels, with Nolan Ryan. He spoke of working through them.
"In the game of baseball," he said, "you can do so much right and still get bad results, but I've always believed if you're gonna get bad results, at least do it right."