Monday, September 27, 2010

Ron Washington. Redemption.

We had just returned from our two year visit to Philadelphia when the news was breaking about Ron Washington, the manager of baseball's Texas Rangers.

I was surprised at the venom I was hearing on the radio talk shows by both callers and hosts. "Fire him... Baseball has to set an example.... He needs to pay for his actions." Phrases like this pretty much summarize the general opinion.

For those who do not follow sports gossip, Washington was on the dock for violating Major League Baseball's substance abuse policy. In a random drug test his came up positive. Washington's thirty years in baseball were about to get washed away through no one's fault but his own (his words). Ron Washington, not unlike many of us, couldn't handle success -- or maybe the pressure that comes with it.

The Texas Rangers hired Washington in 2006 after a bad few years with Buck Showwalter and a decade of pretty bad teams. Part of the frustration expressed on the talk shows was just being tired of losing. The Rangers had not made the playoffs and fans can put up with anything but a loser. The drug offense was a good excuse to get rid of a guy that was following in our losing tradition. That's the way the sports talk sounded to me.

But Rangers management didn't listen the masses. To their credit, Jon Daniels, general manager, and Nolan Ryan, team president, acted differently. They took Washington at his word when he offered a sincere apology -- and declined his request to resign. They stood by him and took a lot of newsroom heat for it. In their view, he deserved another chance. I respect them for facing down the crowd, because that is exactly what they did.

Now, after clinching the division title last Saturday, it seems keeping Washington was a good baseball decision, too.

I do not know if  Ron Washington is a great manager, I do not know how far he will lead this team in the playoffs, but I do know that when a man wants another chance we owe it to him not only to forgive, but to forget. Whether we win or lose. What happened last year is old news, it's time to be moving on.

And another thing: baseball is back. I mean real baseball, not the steroids version of 1990's baseball that turned an at-bat into a home-run derby and a pitch into a radar-gun contest. Steroids, or injecting artificial testosterone, was ruining this great game of skill, strategy, and finesse. But it's back and Ron Washington likes to play it the old-school way -- just seeing a suicide squeeze attempted by the Rangers is exciting, seeing it work makes me giddy.

Anyway, Give 'em hell Ron. Congratulations on your success. And thanks for bringing the great game back to Texas.
See Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports for an excellent article on Ron Washington


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