2009 Will Be Make-Or-Break For Washington

Rangers' manager Ron Washington may be running out of time in Arlington.

Nolan Ryan is a no-nonsense kind of guy. This is usually a good thing. However, for a manager in the MLB, trying to balance a winning record with the development of young talent, this characteristic begins to loom ominously.

The trouble is, no one outside of the Rangers clubhouse believes that 2009 will be the year for the beleaguered Rangers. That would be 2010. And these years are always an exhausting paradox for managers; how many losses can be justified in the name of the future? The Rays would say quite a few. They dropped 96 in 2007, the year before their World Series run.

But this is little consolation for a manager. Everyone remembers Joe Torre and the 1996 Yankees. No one remembers that former Rangers’ manager Buck Showalter did much in the way of building the club as it is remembered now, developing talent and the like. And, sad as it may be, this sort of thing will be Showalter’s legacy. He cemented as much by going to the Diamondbacks and, again, getting fired the year before their World Series win in 2001, under Bob Brenly.

My point here is that Major League Baseball is not just a business, but a cold business as complicated and unfair as life itself. Perhaps that’s why Americans love the game so much.

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Ah, but back to our old friend Ron Washington. Washington has failed to reach the .500 mark in either of his two seasons with Texas, winning 75 games in 2007 and 79 in 2008. That said, Washington looks to be an apt leader for a young team. He makes no bones about asserting himself and challenging his players, which led to rumors of tension between him and former catcher Gerald Laird, and this hilarious mini-episode with C.J. Wilson.

This is an intangible quality for a manager, particularly one with a young team. But intangibles will only get you so far in this business; Washington may very well learn that if the Rangers don’t make some major strides in 2009.

For every World Series Champion, there are countless unsung heroes who will never hoist a trophy or be bathed in an ambivalent mix of beer and champagne. They are always important to some degree, some more, some less. They shouldn’t be forgotten, but they usually are.

Then there are the lucky ones, those who enjoy a combination of hard work, talent and a little luck and ultimately hoist the trophies, make the speeches and get bathed in alcoholic beverages.

Which group Washington will belong to when the dust settles is unclear; however, 2009, the last year of Washington’s current contract, should be an apt harbinger.

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