Baseball has basically been evolving (for better or worse, but mostly better) since its inception, but the recent sabermetric revolution of the last decade has broken down almost every aspect of the game by using basic math. And logic. On base percentage has appropriately trumped batting average as the most important offensive statistic, pitcher wins and losses have been exposed as meaningless, shifting is at an all-time high and sacrifice bunts hurt that team's chances of winning and I could go on and on.
For the Rangers -- led by a front office whom, in 2007, cleverly did to their franchise what the Astros are essentially doing now, before sabermetrics became so mainstream -- strangely, they are still managed by a man from the Old School. Ron Washington calls for too many bunts, is atrocious at handling a major league bullpen, and is generally considered as one of the two or three-worst managers in MLB from a tactical standpoint. But for a franchise like Texas, who has been as progressive with the data as any club in baseball, its manager (like the majority of MLB managers) is employed proof that sabermetrics haven't solved everything (yet).
Since Washington is still managing like it's the 1970s, there has to be a greater reason why the Rangers' front office keeps him around, because frankly they are too smart to do so based on his actual ability to manage while baseball games are occurring.
After back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and '11, Washington presided over one of the worst September collapses in baseball history in 2012, and if some fans weren't calling for his head then, the hot seat noise certainly grew louder during the club's rough finish to 2013. The day after the season, however, Jon Daniels established that Wash wasn't going anywhere. He would be back as manager for 2014.
You would think with the high turnover rate of this organization over the last few years -- from Josh Hamilton to Michael Young, to Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz, to Mike Napoli and C.J. Wilson and many others -- that the front office might have inevitably separated itself from Ron Washington as well, star-crossed tenure and all.
But it never happened. And since it hasn't, with all the injuries the Rangers have experienced it would be almost impossible to let him go after what is expected to be a postseason-less 2014; it just wouldn't seem right. Even if we look back as freshly as last year, without Harrison and Lewis, and losing Nelson Cruz for 50 games, getting nothing from Lance Berkman, et. all, the Rangers still won 91 games. All things considered, that win total was an accomplishment -- not a failure -- and Wash should be commended for the job he did.
Fast forward to 2014: With Washington's roster this season, he was expecting filet mignon by the end of July, but by the middle of May it was already abundantly clear that all he was getting was the $6.95 special that doesn't even come with a baked potato on the side. Minus Prince Fielder, Jurickson Profar, Martín Perez, Matt Harrison, and at least a half-season's worth of Derek Holland, Ron Washington is conceivably losing about 10 wins from what was projected to be an 86-win team before the season started.
When the Rangers win three out of four at a place like Detroit, yeah, you're going to feel optimistic that there's still a chance -- which there is. For all I know, that hope is the reason I'm writing this article in the first place. Yet when Texas goes on another losing streak, which they're likely to be on several times before the season ends, I'm not going to look at the manager as the reason. He's not the best. We know he's not the best. But he's still our guy. It's what we've got, and purely from a wins-perspective he can't do a whole lot better than he already has.
The Rangers currently have a surprising .500 record, and Ron Washington has to get some credit for that. After all, Washington began managing this club well before they came within inches of baseball nirvana. His first few seasons with the club were losing ones, and it can be debated whether or not the chip on his shoulder from his own playing career isn't one of the driving factors that makes him always seem to get the most out of his players, even if he's doing a terrible job strategically while the games are taking place. If I was making a list of all the things Wash has done well compared to what he's done poorly as manager, the latter would tilt the scale almost completely. But, again, when it comes to wins and losses -- how a manager is judged in a macro-sense -- Wash has done well with the talent Jon Daniels has provided for him.
How much of that credit belongs to which man becomes the natural debate, and for that I'd be a fool to say the bulk of Texas's success shouldn't be given to Daniels. Which is why I won't. But Ron Washington exists, damn it. Even if all the Rangers have needed over the last five years is a caretaker, an effective juggler of personalities, Wash has been that guy, and his teams have responded with 90 or more wins each season. That has to count for something, even if it's taken me until now to finally realize.
So, while baseball advances, the Rangers will remain with a manager stuck in the past. But wins will never go out of style, and Ron Washington still gets those.