Washington becomes easy managerial choice for Rangers

Tuesday, November 7th 2006, 6:33 am
By: News On 6

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks planned to meet late Monday with his general manager to choose the team's new manager from three finalists.

That was before Ron Washington wowed him, and made it an easy decision. Hicks and GM Jon Daniels didn't even need a formal discussion to end their monthlong search for Buck Showalter's replacement.

After an initial interview three weeks ago, Washington returned to meet Hicks at the owner's home Sunday. During a break between hamburgers and an intense three-hour baseball conversation, Hicks pulled Daniels to the side.

``He was very careful never to tip his hand to me,'' Hicks said. ``I said, what am I missing? This guy is fantastic.''

It was then that Daniels said Washington was his top choice. And, just like that, the decision was made.

``We spontaneously talked to Ron,'' Hicks said.

Instead of meeting to discuss finalists Monday, the Rangers introduced Washington as the their 17th full-time manager with a two-year contract that includes two additional option years. He is their first black manager.

``I felt that once I got in here, and I make an impression on those guys, that it would be a possibility that it could happen,'' Washington said.

The 54-year-old Washington, a coach for the Oakland A's the past 11 seasons whose only managerial experience was two years in the low minors, left his first meeting with Daniels and other Rangers officials with a bold statement: ``'You guys have impressed me, but I know darn well when I leave this room, I've impressed you.' And I left.''

Washington's infectious personality and optimistic spirit did impress Daniels, who wanted to hire a teacher, a winner and a communicator.

``Work ethic, professionalism, respect of the game,'' Daniels said. ``I didn't think we were going to find all of those characteristics in one person. (Washington) proved me wrong.''

When Showalter was fired after an 80-82 season with three years left on his contract, Daniels said the Rangers needed a ``different perspective.'' That's exactly what they get with Washington, who inherits a team that has only one winning season since last making the playoffs in 1999.

``Keep it simple stupid, that's my motto,'' Washington said. ``The way you do that, you make sure you're prepared in the fundamental areas of baseball and let the talents take over.''

Showalter was known for his hands-on approach that led to some discord in the clubhouse between some players and the manager. He was 319-329 in four seasons, and the Rangers never finished higher than third in the AL West under him.

``I'm going to be a players' manager. My job is solely to make sure that every player on the Texas Rangers feels like they are part of everything going on here,'' Washington said. ``As a manager, I'm no good if the players don't get it done. If the players get it done, I'm great.''

Washington takes over a team with three-time All-Star shortstop Michael Young, slugging first baseman Mark Teixeira and 16-game winner Kevin Millwood. All-Star outfielders Gary Matthews Jr. and Carlos Lee and 15-game winner Vicente Padilla are among seven Rangers who have filed for free agency.

``He's been through it as a player, he's been through it as a coach. He knows how to win,'' Teixeira said after attending Washington's news conference. ``He said everything that a player wants to hear. He said everything that an owner and a GM want to hear. He's all about winning. He's a baseball guy that wants to win.''

Washington played in 564 major league games over parts of 10 seasons for five teams (the Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota, Baltimore, Cleveland and Houston).

But his only managerial experience was two years in Class-A in the New York Mets organization before becoming a coach for the A's. He interviewed last week for Oakland's managerial vacancy created when Ken Macha was fired.

Washington was popular with Oakland players, many of whom wanted him to be their new manager. Six-time Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez inscribed one of his past trophies ``Wash, not without you'' and gave it to Washington.

``Ron is a good baseball man who has been an integral part of our success,'' Oakland GM Billy Beane said. ``We'll miss him, but this opportunity is very well deserved.''

The other finalists were Texas bench coach Don Wakamatsu and Japan Series-winning manager Trey Hillman, an Arlington native and the Rangers' former director of player development. Both interviewed with Daniels and Hicks last week.

Wakamatsu has a year left on his contract, but might be in a different role if he stays. Washington plans to interview Philadelphia third-base coach Art Howe, the former A's manager he worked with for seven seasons, about being his bench coach.

The A's have received permission to talk to Wakamatsu about their managerial opening.

New York Mets third base coach Manny Acta and Phillies minor league manager John Russell, a former Rangers catcher who caught one of Nolan Ryan's seven no-hitters, also interviewed but never met with Hicks.