According to two baseball sources I trust way farther than I could throw them, your Texas Rangers are making plans for when – not if – manager Ron Washington is fired this season.
The Dallas Observer – via this here The Sportatorium sports blog – has learned from separate sources that the Rangers have held preliminary – if not more serious – talks with Don Baylor, Mike Hargrove, Jim Tracy and Jackie Moore about being Washington’s successor. At least one version of the inevitable overhaul, temporarily put on pause by the team’s recent uptick, includes the firing of all assistant coaches other than hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo and third base coach Matt Walbeck.
Odd timing, I know, in that recent confabs between president Nolan Ryan, general manager Jon Daniels and Washington led to a youth infusion of Brandon Boggs, German Duran and A.J. Murray that has propelled the team to wins in six out of eight games and out of last place in the American League. But apparently the team’s slow starts, sloppy fundamentals and general irrelevancy under Washington are considered ultimately irreparable.
“The players know Wash is a good guy,” one of the sources told me this morning. “But his enthusiasm and optimism isn’t translating into him being a manager that gets through to them. They’re ready to move on from him. Of course, these are the same guys who were ready to move on from Buck (Showalter), too.”
The silver lining is that Nolan, hired in February to infuse the organization with credibility, is finally aiming one of his trademark fastballs just under the chin of a franchise that has needed a brushback for a long time.
It was Ryan who suggested Daniels and Washington start the youth movement. And three of the managerial candidates have strong ties to Nolan. The other, former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tracy, has a link to the organization through his son, Chad, the team's second-round draft pick in 2006.
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According to one source, Baylor is the front-runner. An AL MVP during a 19-year playing career that included a teammate on the 1977-79 California Angels named Nolan Ryan, the Austin native has been out of baseball since 2005. In ’03 Baylor was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer but, after a stem-cell transplant, has a clean bill of health. He managed the Colorado Rockies and Chicago Cubs, served as bench coach for the New York Mets, hitting coach for the Seattle Mariners and, according to this 2006 story, desperately wants another managerial shot.
A lot of us semi-old-timer Rangers fans remember Hargrove as the “human rain delay”, always stepping out of the box to adjust his cup and his cap and his sleeves and fidget relentlessly with his batting gloves while consistently hitting over .300 in the mid-70s. Another native Texan with an open line of communication to Ryan, he managed the Cleveland Indians to two World Series in the ‘90s before being fired by former Rangers GM John Hart. Of all the candidates, he’d likely sell the most tickets.
Moore might be the closest of Nolan’s old cronies, but still the longest shot to be Texas’ next manager. In 2000 Ryan named him the first manager in the history of his minor league Round Rock Express. Currently a bench coach for the Houston Astros, Moore’s only Major League managerial experience was way back in 1984 with the Oakland A’s.