BY: Richard W. Humphrey
Ron Washington will not be replaced as the Rangers’ manager. Despite the epic collapse of this year’s team, he has led the Rangers to the last two World Series, and that will be good enough to retain his job. That is not to say that a heap of the blame for the collapse doesn’t fall on his shoulders. It does. The aspect of playing his regulars too much was discussed in the previous post, but there are now legitimate questions about his management style.
He has always been laissez-faire in his approach to the managing the players. He does little to rein in the veterans. He backs them to the hilt no matter what happens on the field. At times this year, some of the players appeared to be taking advantage of the last of consequences. It has been likened to allowing the inmates to run the asylum. Perhaps Washington’s approach has worn off and discipline has dissipated. He said at the last Tuesday’s wrap up press conference when he took responsibility for playing the veterans too much and literally wearing out the team, that there is a continuing learning process for him as manager. Hopefully, he can re-gain control, and perhaps the anticipated personnel turnover will make this aspect of his job easier.
However, the Ranger’s life cycle is to the point that veteran players will be moving on whether through trade or free agency, and younger players will be forthcoming from the farm system to take their place. There has always been a question as to Washington’s ability to develop young players. He’s back, but his seat could be warmer than it would initially appear.
However, the rest of the coaching staff is a question mark. In the past, the Rangers have usually invited back all the coaches even before season’s end, and that has not happened yet. Clearly the current staff is being evaluated. Clearly too, the major factor in the collapse was the offense, so the hottest seat among the coaches belongs to hitting instructor Scott Coolbaugh. Looking back, the Rangers had the acknowledged finest hitting coach in the game for 15 years in Rudy Jaramillo. He has not received as much credit for his contributions to the team’s success over the past three playoff seasons as deserved. He did much to develop players such as Michael Young into an All-Star caliber career.
Jaramillo left after the 2009 season with the team in financial straits and with a handsome offer from the Cubs that Texas couldn’t match. Clint Hurdle was next, and he was the right man at the right time. Ian Kinsler had perhaps his best Major League season, Josh Hamilton won the American League MVP award, and the Rangers went to the World Series for the first time in history. Unfortunately, Hurdle moved on to manage the Pirates.
It’s been a black hole since. Thad Bosley, a Washington cronie from the past was named to the position after Hurdle departed. He was a disaster lasting about a third of the season, before being replaced by Coolbaugh. The 2011 team again went to the World Series, so Coolbaugh was back, but this team’s offense was down considerably from last year. Ian Kinsler had his second consecutive off season. Young and Mike Napoli were two more that notably slipped from their 2011 offensive numbers. Over the final days of the season, the offense not only did not execute, but hitters, most notably Josh Hamilton, looked terrible at the plate.
Over the final 10 regular season games and the Wild Card play-in game, the Rangers scored 45 runs, an average of barely four per game, about a run per game less than the season’s average. Just one more win in those 11 games, four wins instead of three, would have put the Rangers into the first round of the playoffs. The offense was the biggest culprit for the ineptitude.
Coolbaugh may not be the only one on the hot seat. Gary Pettis is the outfield and base running instructor. There seemed to be more base running gaffs this year. For sure, Texas led the league in runners picked off bases. There has been much written about Nelson Cruz’s miss of the fly ball that would have wrapped up last year’s World Series had he caught it. In retrospect, Cruz was not positioned properly to make that catch. Pettis is responsible for positioning the outfielders, but somehow, he has escaped criticism for the play not being made.
Defensively, the Rangers set a club record for fewest errors made in a season this year. Kinsler however made a boatload.- 18 this year, up from 11 in 2011 and seven in 2010. It was more noticeable over the final weeks of the year. Third base coach Dave Anderson is the infield coach. He could be on the hot seat too, especially with questionable calls as the third base coach.
When spring training convenes next February, Ron Washington will again be leading the troops. The rest of the staff may have a different look, as the Rangers try to fix the problems that made 2012 a great season with a disappointing ending.
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