Ron Washington And The End Of An Era For Texas Rangers Baseball

When things go to hell in the world of a team and its season, fans have various ways of dealing with the disaster. Some stay right in the midst of the mess, right in the heat of the fire with their team, game after game, knowing in their hearts that it will not get any better and that the season is lost. Others come and go, watch particular games of their choosing while casually keeping up with the proceedings. Still others turn away altogether in anticipation of the end and merely look forward to next season. There is no particular degree of fandom when deciding on which approach to take. It is what it is. When it comes to the 2014 version of the Texas Rangers, I have taken the latter of the three. However, I felt in my heart that no matter how bad it had gotten, there was still one man who would do his damndest to hold it together, and that was their manager, Ron Washington …

… and last Friday, Ron Washington resigned as manager of the Texas Rangers.

At the time I heard the news, I was concluding a meeting at work and was already exasperated at the thought of spending the remainder of my Friday night not at a high school football stadium (as is the norm for me on Friday nights in the fall), but working on my dissertation instead. However, the news that cascaded down my Galaxy phone made my Friday even worse. Ron Washington, the man who was the glue, the leading figure, the man who brought the Texas Rangers hope and two consecutive World Series appearances, was gone.

I was sick. Shoot, I still am. For an organization that has watched just about every key member from 2010-2013 walk out the door, this one hurts the most. In that four-year span, the Rangers won two division titles, two AL pennants, made two World Series appearances, a Wild Card play-in game, and an opportunity to play in the Wild Card with a one-game tie-breaker. To teams that have won a World Series, they may wonder why that is such a big deal, which is fair, but they must also understand some things.

The Texas Rangers were the laughingstock of Major League Baseball for years. Outside of the Johnny Oates years when the Rangers won three consecutive AL West titles, the Rangers have been horseshit and irrelevant in regards to quality, championship-aspiring baseball for the 32 years that I have been alive. Even in the early 2000s, those AL West-winning Ranger teams routinely ran into the New York Yankees in the postseason and were soundly sent to the house each and every single time.

In 2007, Ron Washington came to the Rangers after spending 11 years as the third-base coach of the Oakland Athletics. The Rangers took their lumps adjusting to playing grown man baseball, but their win totals rose each and every year until they finally broke through in 2010 and won the AL West. That team beat the Tampa Bay Rays in the divisional round and killed the Yankees in the ALCS to make it to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. They lost to the San Francisco Giants in five, but I wasn’t even mad. Hell, I kind of saw it coming. The point was the Rangers not only made it, but a championship foundation had finally been laid. Ron Washington was in the midst of all, the man steering the ship as only he could.

The 2010 team featured Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, as well as The Great Cliff Lee, Bengie Molina and Vladimir Guerrero. Four years later, none of them are still on the roster.

The Rangers repeated and won the Wild, Wild AL West in 2011 to make it back to the ALCS, beat a Detroit Tigers team that featured The Great Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder and The Incomparable Miguel Cabrera just to name a few. This time, the Rangers were determined to win it, and the players who remembered the taste of losing, along with Uncle Ron, knew that the time to win was right there.

The 2011 World Series was going according to plan with the Rangers holding a 3 games to 2 lead against the team residing in St. Louis whose name I refuse to mention. From there, the team fell apart, and since it still bothers me to even think about Game 6 and Game 7 of the World Series, we won’t go into too much detail other than to say that if Neftali Feliz could only get one more freaking strike and if Nellie Cruz could catch a fairly routine fly ball into right field with two outs in the ninth inning, the Texas Rangers win the 2011 World Series and Ron Washington becomes a World Series-winning manager. Shit, if Darren freaking Oliver gets one more strike in the 10th inning, the Texas Rangers win the 2011 World Series and Ron Washington becomes a World Series-winning manager, but it was not meant to be.

The 2011 team featured Nellie Cruz, C.J. Wilson, Mike Napoli and David Murphy, all key contributors to The Cause. None of them are still on the roster. Then comes 2012 and the Rangers lose in the one-game playoff to the Baltimore Orioles. Sure, it sucked, but no big deal, right? It’s not like the bottom fell out. 2013 followed and they lose in the one-game tie-breaker to the Tampa Bay Rays. During that time, the Rangers watched key contributors to the championship years walk out the door either through trade or simply due to not being re-signed. Nolan Ryan, one of the architects of the reclamation project over the last several years, was gone as well.

The writing has been on the wall, but with Ron Washington still at the helm, things couldn’t possibly get worse …

… except they did. They got much worse.

The 2014 Texas Rangers are having a season from hell. They are 33 ½ games out of first in the AL West, which is simply another way of saying they are dead-damn-last. They have had numerous injuries, including to Yu Darvish, who was officially ruled out for the remainder of the season despite being cleared to play. Citing a personal matter, but with the possibility of also being completely fed up, Ron Washington turned in his walking papers on Friday, thus ending the end of an era.

There is no way in the world I can blame Ron Washington for walking away from this pile of shit masquerading itself as a competent baseball season from the Rangers. Sure, there are the injuries, but the fact that numerous people have left who were here during the glory years lets me know that him bouncing is the best thing for both parties. The Rangers can officially start from scratch, and while they still have longtime Rangers Elvis Andrus, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison, along with Adrian Beltre and new additions Prince Fielder and Shin Soo-Choo, it is safe to say that the best way for the Rangers to completely rebuild was to separate from the magnetic and dominant personality that helped start it all. If that’s the case, I am at peace with it. Sick as hell, yes, but I understand.

No matter what Ron Washington does, he is a legend in the D/FW Metroplex. He was the man in charge who showed Texas Ranger fans what winning baseball looks like. He set the standard and exceeded it in his time as manager, and whoever is next in line in his spot definitely has his work cut out for him. Ron Washington may end up being a manager again, or he may not, but he has a fan for life in me. I miss him already.

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