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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ron Washington, The new Manager of the Texas Rangers

By David Kaye

A month after firing Buck Showalter owner Tom Hicks and second year general manager Jon Daniels have found their guy in Ron Washington. Washington previously served the last 11 years as first and third base coach for the division rival Oakland Athletics as well as infield instructor. He has been noted by former players on the A’s including all star third basemen Eric Chavez for being an intricate part into why his defense has so steadily improved and this has translated into six gold gloves for the best defensive third basemen in baseball. . Washington will need more than his popularity throughout the A’s clubhouse and his successful track record if he wants to turn around a Texas team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 1999 and has had a losing record the last six out of seven years.

The knock on the Rangers team during this span has been that they don’t have the pitching to compete with rivals Oakland and Anaheim. It was made clear by the signing of Alex Rodriguez that owner Tom Hicks has a deep wallet, but instead of going out and signing top of the line pitching he throws his money away to different sluggers. Even during the hay day of the Rangers in the late 1990’s when they won three AL West titles they continued to struggle with poor pitching. Still, the Rangers were able to find some kind of balance that permitted them to win and if Ron Washington doesn’t want to become another casualty of under performing managers then he needs to re-invent that balance.

The Rangers are not helped by the fact that they play in one of the worst pitching parks in baseball Ameriquiest Field. Since the inception of their struggles began in 2000 the pitching staff has hurled a less than impressive ERA of 5.17, but if you’re looking optimistically Texas has not posted an ERA of over five since 2003. During this span Ranger hitters have enjoyed belting out an average of 223 home runs a season, but last year failed for the first time since 2000 to blast at least 200 homers. Texas has one of the best infields in baseball with third basemen Hank Blalock, short stop Michael Young and first basemen Mark Teixeira who is coming off his first gold glove. Still, these three players can’t do it all and they need immediate assistance in the form of some veteran arms.

We live in a world that is predicated by the saying what have you done for me lately and all the glamour surrounding Ron Washington will be short lived if the Rangers go out and get swept by the Angels to start the season. Owner Tom Hicks must start allocating his money properly and begin to spend on veteran pitching. The Rangers have young pitching, but if they want to return to the playoffs right away they need to sign someone such as Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito. By signing Zito they are re-uniting him with Washington and are also bringing into the clubhouse a winning presence. Last years signing of Kevin Millwood was a step in the right direction as he won a team leading sixteen games, but the acquisitions of un proven veterans Adam Eaton and Kip Wells did nothing to aid the team.

If the Rangers can sign one of these two all star pitchers they will be even closer to winning the division. Their two main competitors Oakland and Anaheim are currently going through some re-construction of their own. The Angels are in a fog of confusion and the A’s are very close to losing their two best players in Frank Thomas and Barry Zito who lead them to all the way to last years ALCS. I’m not saying the signing of a Zito can translate into what former Ranger Kenny Rogers did for the Tigers, but it can certainly put them a top the Al West.

When you mix in second year man Ian Kinsler, outfielder Nelson Cruz and possibly all star Carlos Lee [If they can sign him, but that possibility doesn’t look bright], a healthy Brad Wilkerson, pitcher Vicente Padilla and closer Akinori Otsuka the future in Arlington looks bright. Still, this hope rests on the Rangers bringing back their balance and new manager Ron Washington will do whatever he can to return the Rangers to their winning ways.

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