Texas manager Ron Washington has survived a lot this year.
He survived an admission of drug use in previous years. The Rangers kept him on as manager as suggestions he be relieved whirled around him.
He survived injury after injury to his team’s key players like Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz.
He survived having his top two starters, Scott Felden and Rich Harden, go down in flames and not even survive to make the postseason roster.
Mostly, though, he survived by believing in himself as a manager when even his superiors had doubts.
“I knew from spring training that we had the personnel to play the game the way it has to be played-fundamentally sound,” he told me this week.
“We weren’t going to play the wait-for-a-home-run game anymore,” he says emphatically. “It was time to use our speed, hit and run, steal bases, have productive outs and be aggressive running.”
That resulted in a start to the season where the Rangers ran themselves out of some games. The front office called on their manager.
“I took some heat early on,” he says, “for the style of play. I said we had to stick to it to win and some of the folks around here weren’t so sure.”
“You have to let them (the players) make mistakes,” he goes on. “They have to fail to learn. This was a new game for them and they had to learn how to play it.”
Washington refused to surrender his beliefs. The players began to see it work and the snowball picked up momentum.
“You take what the game will give you,” he says repeatedly. “Every day you have to be aware of what’s happening. If the game is going to give you something, you take it.”
If the pitcher is slow to the plate, the Rangers run. If the pitcher has a good pickoff move or a slide step to speed his move to the plate, the Rangers hit and run.
If the pitcher is wild, the Ranger hitters wait. If strikes come early, they are aggressive on first-pitch strikes.
You take what the game gives you.
Washington meets with his team after every game. Those meetings last for about a minute or less.
“I tell them what I think of what we just did or didn’t do,” he says. He doesn’t mince words and lots of those words aren’t exactly printable.
“We’re not going to change,” says Washington. The Rangers are what they are and they are just what Ron Washington hoped they would be. He took some heat, “but that’s what a leader does,” he says with no hint of ego.
Who are they? They are the AL pennant winners and in the World Series for the first time in their 50-year franchise history.