As an A’s fan, I’m generally not too concerned when the Texas Rangers go on a bad run of results, but I couldn’t help feeling some sympathy for their manager at the end of April. Ron Washington was a member of Oakland’s organization for many years before getting his first managerial position with the Rangers prior to the 2007 season. Wash was well respected and well liked by all in Oakland so it wasn’t much fun seeing him getting battered with criticism.
It was the same old situation that happens in all sports: a team goes on a bad run and the media starts stoking the fire. A manager getting the sack provides plenty of column-fodder during the run up to the act, the immediate aftermath and then throughout the process of appointing his successor. The media (and some of the fans – mostly those who frequent radio phone-ins) start looking for reasons why the team is slumping and all too often you hear accusations of the players being unhappy with the manager and such like.
The common line doing the rounds was that Wash was too ‘old school’ and his methods were failing to inspire or impress his players. After little more than a year in the job, people were ready to conclude that he just couldn’t cut it as a Major League manager.
But things can change quickly in sports, particularly in MLB where the teams play virtually every day. As April came to a close, the Rangers were 10-18 with the worst record in the Majors and a certain amount of questioning about the manager, general manager and playing staff was clearly justified. Since that point, the Rangers have gone 11-4 and if they win the second game of their series against the Houston Astros tonight, they will have completed their climb back to a .500 record.
Isn’t it funny how the rules change though? On 30 April the team was losing and everyone was putting their boot into the manager. Now the team has gone on a great run and Wash is an afterthought. No talk about his old school methods. Why, he’s just the guy who fills in the line-up card each day. It’s the players who win the games; managers just lose them.
We could argue all day about how much influence a particular manager really has on his team’s performances. We could also cast doubt on the Rangers’ ability to keep up their current pace, or even to finish the season with a .500 record. But if people wanted to criticise Wash for the Rangers’ losing run, they should be giving him equal praise for their recent upturn. And more importantly, they should remember it the next time his team goes through a tricky spell.