I loved Chris Woodward’s introductory press conference speech.
Of the three managers that Texas has had since I started writing about baseball in 2010, I relate to Woodward more than Ron Washington or Jeff Banister.
I loved Ron Washington’s character. He was goofy, but stern; he was idiomatic, but forthright and inspiring; he was one of the guys. I loved how Jeff Banister expressed leadership. He was vocal and unwavering; he was cryptic but honest; he was unquestionably a leader.
What do I love about the potential of Chris Woodward?
He says he’s going to manage like I do.
I’ve been a manager of a staff for several years in my everyday profession. I got to my position in the “classical” way, you might say. I started off at one of the lowest positions possible, although it was something I was good at. I learned about how the rest of the operation worked, got curious, interviewed and got promoted. I demonstrated I could learn and be proficient, interviewed and got promoted again. All the while, I learned that you have to relate to your team.
I was always told that it’s not possible to manage people you worked alongside or people you befriended. I always disagreed with that. I think part of being a good manager involves a great deal of trust. I don’t just mean about decision making on the job, but about matters in life that inevitably bleed over into the workplace.
I see my work associates more than I see my family. For Major League baseball players, that burden is multiplied infinitely. Months on the road, months away from “home base,” can take its toll and the people you work with – the people you play with – become family. They are the ones you talk to if something’s on your mind, again, not just with the job, but with other things.
When Chris Woodward said that he wanted to know all of his players intimately, that he wanted to relate to and understand them, I knew where he was coming from. Whether it’s the guy who comes in whenever we ask, even though he’d rather spend time with his son in the hospital, or the girl that needs to study for her final exam and just can’t work when we might need her, I know that there are bigger things outside of the job.
Obviously, the job is an integral part of a person’s life, but it can’t be their whole life. They’re people, not machines. You can say that personal and work life should be separated, but certain things will come along that can’t be separated by clocking in.
Part of the stated issue with Jeff Banister was the inability to communicate plans and ideas to his players. More specifically, I think part of the problem was getting the players to buy in to the plans and ideas he had. Banister had the benefit of several key leaders in 2015 and 2016, but as the guard changed and the number of influential veterans who had experience in the clubhouse dwindled, Banister appeared to have issues getting younger players on the same page.
Getting players to buy in to the message is key. I believe in the idea that you can get your players to buy in if you buy in to your players. I’m not implying that Woodward needs to be invited to everyone’s house on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but being emotionally invested in his players and his players’ well-being while communicating the identity of the Texas Rangers to them is a great philosophy to get behind. Your players are far more likely to get your tasks accomplished if you talk to them instead of at them.
The cap on all of this was Woodward saying that he understands that there is a line there. He is still the manager. There are moves that he will initiate that might not sit well with players or management, but it’s my opinion that as long as he’s able to let them know how that ends up helping the team, that helps the atmosphere.
Woodward’s opening salvo as he begins his tenure with the Rangers is a great stencil for how to manage any team – baseball or workplace: keep the lines of communication open, understand where your players are coming from, believe in their abilities, put them in the best places to succeed so that your goals can be achieved.
Welcome to Texas, Chris Woodward.
Do you think Chris Woodward is the right man for the job? Share your first impressions on the latest manager of the Rangers with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.