There is no question that the Texas Rangers had a disappointing season in 2012 and there has already been much blame passed around for their quick departure from the postseason. There are plenty of players such as Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young who have received part of the blame and Ron Washington has come under harsher criticism than ever before.
Jon Daniels or "JD" as he is known throughout the baseball world is often considered as the brilliant general manager who can do no wrong. Most credit him with rebuilding the organization from top to bottom as he has put a successful manager in place, built a top-notch front office, rebuilt the farm system and made countless wise moves in the trade and free-agent markets through the years. I am one of those who often trusts JD in all areas and throughout most of the season I felt he was once again making great decisions to give this team every opportunity to win.
After the past week, I have wondered if JD should be given a free-pass this time around. Should blame be placed on the players on the roster and Washington and the coaching staff with Daniels not be held at least partially responsible?
I really have thought for much of the season that Daniels gave Washington a team that he could win a World Series with. In the offseason he went out and got Yu Darvish and Joe Nathan, which allowed Neftali Feliz to move into the rotation and Alexi Ogando to move back into the bullpen. During the season, injuries struck the rotation and he went and first got Roy Oswalt, but later acquired Ryan Dempster. He also upgraded the catching position with Geovany Soto and while many may not feel that Soto was an upgrade over Yorvit Torrealba, that is really an argument for a different day. Darvish success with Soto alone is reason enough for it to be considered a successful move.
When I really felt that Daniels was doing everything he could to help this team was when he brought up Mike Olt and later Jurickson Profar. They were both players that were not expected to be called up in 2012, but there were clear needs for them and Daniels did not hesitate to give Washington the opportunity to use them, even if that meant their service time clock would begin.
However, now I wonder if Daniels actually did everything he could with this club in 2012. It is much easier to criticize the play of players on the field and the decision making of managers, but a general manager is harder to analyze. With a GM you really do not know everything involved. There is the issue with winning now, versus building for the future as well as many financial issues that have to be considered. I now travel all the way back to the offseason and wonder if some of the things that I have criticized Washington about during the season were due in part to decisions made by Daniels.
One of the first things I go back to is the decision to move Neftali Feliz into the rotation and move Ogando back into the bullpen. I can question that back and forth and the truth is that nobody knows what was best on this one. The Rangers needed Feliz in the bullpen to make two World Series appearances and they needed to know what he could do as a starter. Ogando also did wear down as a starter during the 2011 season, but the bigger issue is Ogando being a two-pitch pitcher. There is solid reasoning for Feliz in the rotation with Ogando in the bullpen, but the results make people question the decision. While I could really criticize these decisions if I wanted to, nobody knows how these things turn out without injury.
There has also been some discussion as to whether Daniels could have improved the rotation more at the deadline. While that is understandable, outside of Zack Greinke, Dempster was one of the best options on the market and Daniels got him. That is also not mentioning the signing of Oswalt, which should be considered like a deadline deal as well. Oswalt and Dempster did not turn out as well as one would have liked, but Greinke was not as great of an acquisition as the Angels would have liked either. Daniels made moves to improve the rotation, they just didn't turn out.
The areas that I come to question are the ones most people have hammered Ron Washington for on a regular basis, myself included. Washington was criticized all year long for playing Michael Young everyday and now everyone is criticizing Washington for not resting his regulars throughout the season. They specifically point to Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar and wonder why they were not used to rest Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre down the stretch. They also question why Olt was not used to give Michael Young more rest, but also to hopefully get a more potent bat in the lineup. I question these same things and still do, but we have to remember that Washington did not have Olt until August 1st and Profar until September 1st. Should Washington still made changes once Prorar and Olt arrived? In my opinion there is no question that he should have, but the problems were still there before then and he had already been dealing with them a certain way.
If we travel back to this club out of spring training, Washington had Alberto Gonzales and Brandon Snyder who were basically filling the role that Profar and Olt did at the end of the season. It is obvious that Washington did not like these options. Snyder was on the roster until Olt was called up on August 1st and in four months time got a total of 69 at bats. Gonzales made his last appearance on August 5th and finished with 55 at bats. Washington did not really consider Snyder or Gonzales as options and he may as well have played with a 23 man roster. Washington created the habit of playing Kinsler and Andrus everyday from the beginning and that should have been a sign for Daniels to get Washington a utility infielder that he was comfortable with. There were also concerns about the offensive production at first base during the offseason, but nothing was done about it. Young's production fell off a cliff in 2012, which impacted production at DH and first base, but especially with injuries to Mitch Moreland and Mike Napoli, Washington did not have much option, other than to play Young on an everyday basis.
What all of this meant was that Washington was not comfortable with his options off of the bench and developed habits from day one that ended up leading to a tired and flat team. Daniels did give Washington Olt and Profar, but Washington needed options well before August 1st. Had Daniels given Washington a better utility infield option and another solid bat that could play first base, it is very possible that things could have turned out differently and much of Washington's criticism would not be there.
While Daniels still gave Washington a team that he should have been able to win with, this was not a perfect team. There were plenty of holes and many of them were with the bench. The failure of this club belongs to everyone and while I am normally the first to praise Daniels and criticize Washington, nobody is exempt on this one from ownership, the front office, coaching staff or players. An implosion like this takes a team effort and it will take a team effort to rebuild it. It is easy to overlook things when someone has been as successful as Daniels has been, but just as Washington can be second guessed, so can Daniels.
John Bowman is a lifelong baseball and Texas Rangers fan that loves to ponder the deeper aspects of the game. Some of his first baseball memories involve Arlington Stadium nachos, Charlie Hough's knuckleball, dirt on Pete Incaviglia's uniform and the voices of Mark Holtz and Eric Nadel as he fell asleep.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ron Washington
- Jon Daniels
- Michael Young