Washington back in Bay Area managing World Series

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by STEPHEN HAWKINS

Associated Press

Posted on October 27, 2010 at 5:57 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 19 at 12:32 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ron Washington frantically waves his arms in the Texas Rangers dugout, much like he did when he was a third base coach sending runners home.

It's not just his arms, either — Washington gets so wound up that he runs in place, feet furiously pumping up and down.

"I just love the way he never holds his emotion back, especially when he's managing," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "He hangs on every pitch, and it's great to know that your manager is in every single pitch and cares that much."

Washington's raw emotions were on display again after the Rangers won their first American League championship last week. In the privacy of their clubhouse, the manager talked about what the Rangers had accomplished together — and what he had been through because of his own big mistake.

Washington wasn't even sure he would be able to keep the Texas managerial job late in the 2009 season, when he offered to resign after admitting to using cocaine once and failing a drug test.

But team president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels stuck by Washington then, and again last spring when the story became public. That is also when, with tears streaming down his face, the manager told his players what had happened.

"If they would have came out and judged me right away, then I might have had a problem. But I never had a problem because they didn't judge me," Washington said this week.

"Any verification I needed was that moment with the players," Daniels said of the meeting last spring. "It was spontaneous and sincere and absolute, and it was very clear ... You're our guy, let's move on."

In his playing days, Washington was a skinny middle infielder who over parts of nine major league seasons played 564 games — 799 fewer than he did in the minors. He was then a minor league coach for five years before 11 seasons with the Oakland Athletics, where he became a beloved figure, coaching third base and working with infielders.

Daniels, the young GM, hired Washington to his first managerial job after the 2006 season to replace the fired Buck Showalter.

This week, Washington is back in the Bay Area, managing the Rangers in their first-ever World Series against San Francisco.

"It's nice to go back in front of people that love Ron Washington, that respected Ron Washington, that thought a lot about Ron Washington," he said. "But my focus is to go back there and win ball games."

The Rangers had never won a postseason series, or even a home playoff game, before this, the franchise's 50th season.

Texas changed that with a first-round victory over Tampa Bay before knocking out the defending World Series champion New York Yankees in the AL championship series, clinching with a Game 6 victory at home.

Throughout both of those series, there were images of the excitable Rangers manager in the dugout, reacting to the action on the field.

"He's passionate. Wash is a baseball guy, a blue-collar baseball guy," Texas third baseman Michael Young said.

"It's awesome because he wants to be out there with us," slugger Josh Hamilton said. "He wants to see us succeed, so he's all in, he's just getting after it, and the adrenaline going — the feet, and yelling and screaming, it's fun to see."

When Alex Rodriguez took a called third strike to end the ALCS, Washington pumped both fists.

One of the first people Washington hugged was bench coach Jackie Moore, who has been in pro baseball for 53 years as a player or coach. Moore has taken quite a few wayward elbows and other shots sitting so close to the manager the past two seasons in Texas.

"That's the enthusiasm he brings. He just can't sit still," Moore said, smiling. "I'm trying to learn all of his moves. I know when to duck, flinch or whatever."

Washington is there to excitedly give a high-five to Elvis Andrus after coming home on a double steal or Hamilton after another home run. And if they lose a game or something goes wrong, the manager has a simple philosophy.

"That's the way baseball go," he will say.

That was how he felt after the Rangers blew a 2-0 lead in the AL division series by losing both games at home. And again after Game 1 of the ALCS at Rangers Ballpark, when Texas lost after the Yankees had a five-run outburst in the eighth inning.

"He's so upbeat, he manages like a manager but he thinks like a player," co-owner and managing partner Chuck Greenberg said. "When you look at how loose and comfortable and confident and fearless this ballclub is, it's a reflection of Ron Washington."

In his playing days, Washington had no pop in his bat, but was good with the glove and smart on the basepaths.

While the Rangers have big boppers like Hamilton, Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz, Washington also emphasizes the fundamental skills that he was so good at along with solid pitching.

"Everyone has their style. I have a team of athletes that can do many, many things, and I just let them go," Washington said. "We can beat you with the long ball, we can beat you with small ball, we can run the bases, we can play defense, and no one wants to talk about it, but we can pitch. "

It has been quite a transformation. Texas used to score a lot of runs but often not enough because of poor pitching, and depended so much on homers.

These Rangers can run, pitch and still slug.

They led the majors with a .276 average and while 162 homers were their lowest total since 1992, they had fewer than 1,000 strikeouts for the first time since 2000. They an American League-high 53 sacrifice bunts, stole 123 bases and had runners advance from first to third on singles 122 times, 22 more than the majors' next-best team.

While the change wasn't immediate, Washington kept "preaching the same thing over and over and over" and still always talks about "doing what the game asks you to do." Texas has increased its win total each of the past three seasons.

"It's a process," Washington said. "It just takes time and it takes belief, and it takes the right group of guys, guys that believe in one another, guys that have respect for the game of baseball, guys that love to play it, guys that have passion. And all that I just said, Skipper got all that too."

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