The immediate aftermath of the early end of a baseball season can be both a good time and a bad time to take stock of where a team stands.
It's a good time because you aren't clouded with rosy memories of playoff heroics or other emotional attachments that get in the way of making a clear-eyed assessment of a player or manager. It's a bad time because the bad feelings of a disappointing end can create the same kind of problems.
That thought came to mind while reading a pair of postmortems on the Rangers season. Joe Sheehan of Sports Illustrated recently lambasted Ron Washington's managerial technique, especially his decision to keep playing Michael Young long after it became clear that Young's tank was running on empty. Adam Morris of Lone Star Ball turns his posion pen to the front office, ripping them for failed acquisitions and a failure to make other moves that would have helped the Rangers.
Both pieces are well written and well argued. Sheehan's points are ones we've made here plenty of times and he thoughtfully extends it to Washington's refusal to play Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt at the expense of taking at-bats away from a player who was killing the team. Morris doesn't need to do much to outline the trade flops and further criticizes Daniels for bringing up Profar and Olt instead of getting Washington players he would have used off the bench down the stretch.
You can probably pick up on the disconnect between those two reads on the situation. Both are defensible, but it's hard not to see them side by side and wonder if there isn't an even larger disconnect between the front office and Washington.
There hasn't been any public rancor or even whispers of behind closed doors intrigue, but it does seem problematic that the manager won't play the players that the front office wants on his roster. The Rangers need to be able to move forward if they are going to remain in the mix for a World Series and it is impossible to do that if a manager is using anything other than performance to determine who is in the lineup on a given day.
At the same time, Daniels and the rest of management has to tread carefully with a manager who has the support of the clubhouse. We've seen in Boston and elsewhere how quickly things can wrong when there's a shaky chain of command and ill will between the manager and the decision makers.
It would be hard for the Rangers to fire Washington right now, but there needs to be something done to make sure that the team isn't hamstrung by a failure to adapt to new realities. Josh Hamilton's imminent departure will make the end of one moment for the Rangers, one that got them tantalizingly close to a title, and there should be a lot of thinking and examination before the next one begins.