Feb 262013
 

React: Should Wash be on the Hot Seat in 2013?Ron Washington has become one of the most beloved managers in Texas Rangers history and has managed this team to levels never attained by previous squads.  With the success has come a new level of expectations in Arlington – a trip to the postseason is no longer where the bar is set, but rather considered acceptable and lackluster.

Wash do what Wash do…

Since taking the reins in 2007, Wash has managed the Rangers to a record of 520-452 and finished in the top five for AL Manager of the Year honors three times (’09, ’10 & ’11; not always a good thing).  This isn’t the place to compile “the resume of Ron Washington”, but I just wanted to set the stage.  Oh yeah, his teams also reached the World Series in 2010 and 2011…but something tells me you knew that.

So, with all this success, why is the term “hot seat” being mentioned in the same breath as Wash?  Well, because “that’s the way baseball go”.

Jim Bowden (former MLB GM & current ESPN.com contributor) from interview with Ben & Skin (ESPN Radio, 103.3 FM):

There’s a lot of pressure on managers to win when their teams are good enough to win. As long as Ron Washington makes the playoffs, his job will be fine. I think that’s the key, whether it’s the division or the wild-card, he’s gotta do that. If the Rangers are on the outside looking in come November, it would not surprise me at all if they decided to make a change. So, yeah, I think there is pressure there.

As we have been reminded throughout the offseason, baseball is a performance business where winning now is the measure of success – especially for teams with existing talent at the major league level.  With that in mind, it’s only fair that we take a look at Wash under the same scope that we would a player who fails to perform as expected when needed (ahem…Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, etc.).

Two Types of Managerial Situations

For a manager, while winning isn’t everything, it certainly provides a good amount of job security.

Develop and don’t regress.  Some managers aren’t necessarily expected to win now (ex. Bo Porter in Houston), but more expected to set the tone for the team, develop young players and wait for more talent to arrive.  When Wash arrived in Arlington in 2007, he was

Win now.  Then there are managers with good major league talent and fan base and front office that expected a trip to the postseason – for these managers, winning is everything – and it’s on this list of managers where you’ll find Ron Washington.

“Hot Seat”

React: Should Wash be on the Hot Seat in 2013?To be clear, I’m not calling for Ron Washington to lose his job right now.  Far from it actually – our 2013 Field Trip T-Shirt has a Wash Theme.  We are simply asking the question, should Wash be “on notice”, and if the 2013 season were to get off on a bad foot, should there be a change?

If so, how bad would it have to get for you to feel that firing Ron Washington during or immediately after the 2013 season would be justified?  Read on, then comment below.

Argument for the “Hot Seat”

Last year’s meltdown and the perceived loss of respect late in the season are enough to warrant Wash being on the hot seat.  The window to compete can be quickly closed, and while the Rangers have some great young prospects in the pipeline, we need a manager that can deliver a championship when provided with a championship-caliber roster.

Evan Grant (SportsDayDFW.com):

…I think he’s on something of a hot seat this year. Washington didn’t have a great year last year as the Rangers manager, but I think he learned from it.

The way the 2012 season ended left us all sick, and while that can’t be all we base Wash’s job security on, I repeat…it’s about winning now when you have as much talent as the Rangers.

React: Should Wash be on the Hot Seat in 2013?

Loss of respect? We don’t care about Josh, but the fear is that other players that remain on the team feel the same way.

In addition to the decline in on-the-field performance that led to the poor ending last season, it seemed evident that Wash had lost the respect of some players.  We all remember the confrontation between Wash and Josh in the dugout in Oakland, and I know we aren’t concerned with Josh’s respect of Wash now, but it’s very possible that other players feel the same way.

If Wash has started to “lose the clubhouse”, there is no question that he should be on notice.  He must prove that he has the proper command and respect of the clubhouse in order to maintain his role in this organization.

Unbalanced managers often “lose the clubhouse” because they are too “huggy” or they are overly strict.  This could very well be the case with Wash and could be what led to the collapse last season.

Finally, Wash has been out-managed in some key situations and games during his tenure as manager – often going with his “gut” instead of a more statistically-aligned decision.  Game management, just like player management, requires balance and if Wash can’t provide more balance in his approach to both, the Rangers will need to look elsewhere for a manager that can lead this franchise back to the World Series.

Chris Bahr (SportingNews.com)

Even dating back to the team’s back-to-back World Series losses in 2010 and 2011, there were serious criticisms of Washington’s in-game management skills and alleged over-reliance on “gut decisions.

Argument against the “Hot Seat”

Back to the opening statement of this post…

Ron Washington has become one of the most beloved managers in Texas Rangers history and has managed this team to levels never attained by previous squads.

When a manager has taken you to the World Series twice in the last three seasons, he does not deserve to have his role under the microscope.  It is extremely difficult to do what the Rangers did in 2010 and 2011 and with that success, Wash has earned our patience, support and respect.

The idea of including Wash in any “Managerial Hot Seat” article is absurd given his track record and impact on this franchise and the DFW sports scene.

He has transcended the status of Major League Manager, and has become a cultural icon synonymous with a new era in Rangers baseball and everything that is fun and enjoyable about this team and this great game.

Tim Cowlishaw (SportsDayDFW.com), when asked “Do you think Ron Washington is on the hot seat after losing the division?” may have summed it up best:

No.

Where do you stand?

Again, I’m not calling for Wash’s job here – simply asking the question…should Wash be on the hot seat heading into the 2013 season?

In your opinion, is Wash on the hot seat?

Either way, what scenario would has to play out during 2013 to change your opinion?

In your opinion, is Ron Washington on the "Hot Seat" heading into 2013?

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Feb 212013
 

Weekly preview of each of the Rangers’ American League West rivals for the 2013 season – from the bottom up.

  1. Houston Astros

Breaking Down the West   Houston Astros: Will a move to the AL get them out of the cellar?

The Rangers’ cross-state inter-league rival is making the move to the American League West starting in the 2013 season to become a more frequent opponent on the Rangers’ schedule and potentially bring more intrigue and consequence to each match-up.

Breaking Down the West   Houston Astros: Will a move to the AL get them out of the cellar?

New Manager Bo Porter hopes to get things turned around in Houston.

The Astros are a young team who will struggle to really build their identity in the American League in 2013.  However, with new manager Bo Porter in place, a respected front-office and a strong farm system (4th on Keith Law’s organizational rankings),they hope to get out of the cellar in the next 2-3 seasons.

Unfortunately, with the move to the AL West (Hello DH!), the limited experience of many key players (youth) and the anticipated improvement in Seattle, it’s not likely that they will finish anywhere but last this season.  The question is, how many games will this team lose?

After finishing last in the National League Central in 2011 and 2012, with 106 and 107 losses respectively, the win’s won’t come any easier in 2013.  Is another 100+ loss season on tap for the Lastros (sorry, couldn’t resist)?  Uhhhh…yes.

The Bats & Gloves

As stated earlier, the Astros have some young talent at the Major League level and the large majority of that, if not all, falls to the position players.  With some moving parts and flexibility in the line-up, it could easily change, but…

Projected Lineup (from Chip Bailey, Ultimate Astros blog)

  1. Breaking Down the West   Houston Astros: Will a move to the AL get them out of the cellar?

    Jose Altuve will set the tone for the Astros’ lineup in 2013.

    Jose Altuve, 2B

  2. Tyler Greene, SS
  3. Brett Wallace, 1B
  4. Chris Carter, LF
  5. Justin Maxwell, CF
  6. J.D. Martinez, RF
  7. Carlos Pena, DH
  8. Jason Castro, C
  9. Matt Dominguez, 3B

There are many potential variations out there for the Astros’ lineup, but the players are pretty set with the exception of OF Fernando Martinez who should crack the lineup regularly throughout the season.

The 5’5″ Altuve is a solid lead-off option, but beyond that the Astros have a number of question marks with inexperience and inconsistency being the big culprits.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some players here, but I don’t think the Astros can count on the offense to improve enough to avoid 100 losses again.

If a couple of the youngsters (Martinez, Martinez, Wallace, Castro & Dominguez) can break out and if they can get some consistency from the veterans (Pena, Maxwell), they could help win 7+ more games in 2013, but….

The Arms

Breaking Down the West   Houston Astros: Will a move to the AL get them out of the cellar?

Can the Rocket improve this pitching staff?

A few key figures from 2012:

  • .270 Batting Average Against – 27th in the Majors
  • .337 Opponents On-Base Percentage – 28th in Majors
  • .427 Opponents Slugging Percentage – 25th in Majors
  • 2.17 K/BB – 25th in Majors
  • 1.43 WHIP – 29th in Majors
  • Only blew 19 saves…but that was on only 50 save opportunities, so good enough for a 62% Save Rate – 26th in Majors

With all due respect to Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun and Joey Votto…it’s not going to get any easier in the American League West.

The Astros brought former Cy Young award winner Roger Clemens in to help, but that’s not going to help unless he brought Brian McNamee along.

The Rotation

There are as many as 10 pitchers in the mix, vying for a spot in the starting rotation, but here’s what’s likely:

  1. Bud Norris
  2. Lucas Harrell
  3. Phillip Humber
  4. Jordan Lyles
  5. Erik Bedard

Brad Peacock, Alex White, Jared Cosart and John Ely are all talented young pitchers who will very likely get a shot at some point during the season as well.

The Pen

Looking at this bunch, I would say there are no clearly defined roles with setup and closing duties open for competition in Spring Training – and the possibility of some of the youngsters mentioned above (Peacock, White, Cosart and Ely) fighting for spots in the bullpen (ala Robbie Ross).

More than likely, Jose Veras will be the closer at least to start the season.

The Manager

First year rookie manager Bo Porter has his hands full, but barring a cluster of unforgivable mistakes, expect the Astros front office to have some patience with him.  I, for one, think Porter was an excellent hire and if given time can be a good major league manager.

From “The Legend of Bo Porter” on RantSports.com:

Porter studied all 162 games of the Astros season last year. He believes the Astros could have won 35 more games than the 55 that the Astros did actually win. If you do the math, that is 90 win season for the Astros and would have ultimately propelled the Astros into the playoffs as the second Wild Card. Porter said those 35 games were lost at the “breaking point”. He also went on to say all the Astros need was mental toughness, and of course, a little motivation.

Maybe a little much, but shows the enthusiasm and confidence.

The Bottom Line

Breaking Down the West   Houston Astros: Will a move to the AL get them out of the cellar?

Astros’ prospect Delino Deshields Jr.

The facts:

  • New rookie manager
  • Move to the American League
  • Lots of unproven young talent
  • Very shaky (at best) pitching staff
  • Highly regarded front office
  • More young talent in the minor league system

Not working this game by game, but here are my predictions:

  • Best case: 77-95 – Altuve solidifies himself as an up-and-coming MLB star, a couple of the young bats really break out and Brad Peacock and Alex White save the pitching staff.
  • Worst case: 52-110 – Altuve regresses and Porter can’t find the right mix offensively or with his staff all season.

Up next…stay tuned.

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