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In a league where accountability lasts only until the fallout from the next oh-fer, at which point it is crowded out by man's basic need for cover, Ron Washington was asked what exactly is going on with his Texas Rangers, and he answered, pretty much, hell if he knows.
In a profession that demands Washington pretend this isn't as awful – if not yet catastrophic – as every other sane being can see it is, he was asked if he could lose his job because of it, and Washington granted, well, maybe.
A team comes apart as summer turns to autumn once, the explanations can be found in the ethereal rhythms of a season. It's not one man. It's rarely even one area. Though it could be the beer and chicken by the bucketful. That, we get.
The same team comes apart again, and somebody fetch the flamethrower.
So now Washington is taking questions on how 12 perfectly miserable days will, or should, influence his career, which I suppose is part of the gig. But it also reveals again that we have become a nervous, over-reactive and even vindictive public when it comes to assessing the field leaders of our baseball teams. The public said Don Mattingly had to be fired months ago, and it was a good thing he hardly lost for 2½ months, as otherwise he wouldn't survive the fact he has to be fired today. Jim Leyland has to be fired every time the Tigers lose a World Series game, the irony in that often being carried off by the wintry breaths of a sellout crowd at Comerica Park.
Washington sits then where plenty have before. He'd withstood one collapse, and now endeavors to captain a flawed but capable team into late September. In seven games over eight days, the Rangers hadn't hit a home run, hadn't held so much as a lead, totally whiffed a six-game homestand and, in some respects, looked like a ballclub wondering when something – anything – was going to go right.
When the Rangers had been swept by the A's, which accounted for losses four through six and probably snuffed their hopes in the AL West, Washington walked grimly into his postgame news conference. Same skinny legs. Same rounded belly. Same Marlboro breath. Same two-time AL pennant winner.
The offense, Wash. What's up with the offense?
"I'm not sure what's going on," he said. "I've never witnessed it before. You can have days, but…"
The sweep, Wash. The homestand. I mean, really?
"I'm disappointed," he said. "I certainly expected us to respond better."
The Rangers flew to Tampa, held a players-only meeting Monday afternoon, and readied for the Rays, who'd endured a bit of a late-summer wobble themselves.
So what about the meeting, Wash?
"It's not what they say," he told reporters there, "it's what they do."
And then the Rangers went out, didn't hit a home run, didn't ever lead, watched Matt Garza stall out in the fifth inning, and lost again. They've gone from forever out in front in the division to second place in the wild card and now are practically lashed to the likes of the Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees. The Rangers, a ballclub most decided was talented enough to finish behind the Los Angeles Angels and probably compete for a wild-card spot, had fallen to second place and into a competition for a wild-card spot.
Seriously, Wash, you gotta be worried about getting fired. Right?
"Yes, I'm concerned about my job," he told ESPN radio. "Who wouldn't be?"
Well, him, for one. Or he shouldn't be, anyway.
By the end of September, no matter how this turns out, Washington over five seasons in Texas will have averaged about 91 wins. He'll have managed in a World Series Game 6 and a World Series Game 7. Lost 'em both, got it. Helped get them there twice. Along comes a bad week late in 2012, a bad couple weeks late in 2013, and now that guy is wrong for the job.
This is the sort of thinking that has Terry Francona leading a resurgence in Cleveland. And Clint Hurdle erasing a dark generation in Pittsburgh. And Fredi Gonzalez winning a division title in Atlanta.
The fact is, Rangers management has not even considered removing Washington. The guy who walked through the door for a job interview and told them he'd manage by gut, is still that guy. Still their guy.
The guy who watched Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli go, and then Nelson Cruz…
Who put a small handful of starting pitchers on the DL…
Whose DH, Lance Berkman, hasn't played half the games and clearly wasn't able to do this again…
Who went 20-7 in August…
That guy? That's the guy you want to fire?
Hell if I know.
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