Ratto: Washington a Study In Honesty, Intellect and Hardball

October 27, 2010, 5:23 am
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SAN FRANCISCO -- When Ron Washington was asked about the semi-precious Giants late-and-postseason slogan, Torture, he smiled. Hes been around too long to view baseball as anything more complicated than can be explained by his own slogan.

Thats The Way Baseball Go.

That just means there are things in baseball you cant control, the Texas Rangers manager said Tuesday. Maybe I should have said that and maybe the slogan Thats the way baseball go wouldnt have been out there.

He says this without any regret, either for the grammar or for the lack of a more pithy slogan. Then again, Washington is the most profound example of a guy who makes steak and lobster out of oatmeal and raisins, simply by being the most Washingtonian he can be.

Washington has learned in his four years in the job how to not only roll with punches, but to absorb them and come out better for them.

He challenged the established pecking order in Texas, made mistakes and emerged a smarter manager. He came close to being fired at least once, in 2009, but survived because his general manager, Jon Daniels, stood up for him. He admitted to drug use this spring and won over owner Nolan Ryan by acknowledging guilt and seizing responsibility.

He even came out better for not getting the Oakland managing job he should have gotten in 2006. He is here, after all, an honest manager who may stray from the book at times in the dugout but not from his core belief that a man is measured by how he stands when he stands alone.

When he told us about (the positive cocaine test in spring training), it was pretty emotional for everyone, third baseman Michael Young said. But he stood up and accepted responsibility, and some of the players . . . well, most of the players stood up and said they wanted him to lead us. We wanted Wash to be our manager.

And so he kept his job, enhanced his reputation within the Ranger clubhouse as an honest man and loyal fellow traveler, and is now in his first World Series, a manager who uses his gut but never forgets to use his head.

I think hes proven, bench coach Jackie Moore said, that if you cant play for Ron Washington, it isnt his problem. Its your problem.

Washington came to Dallas after 11 years in Oakland coaching under Art Howe and Ken Macha, knowing that he would never get the job himself because, among other things, he would say no to general manager Billy Beane when the facts suited it.

But having come to Texas, he faced a long-held culture of playing for the three-run homer, which wasnt his culture. He wanted a team with more facets, and bumped heads with the prevailing ethos often, sometimes impulsively. He crossed shields with Hank Blalock and Mark Teixeira, and had a dugout confrontation with Gerald Laird.

But he learned the art of delivering the messages more palatably, he showed loyalty to his players, and eventually he got to the point where they stood for him when he needed them most.

He is a different manager than Bruce Bochy in that he seems at time to operate on hunches, and is not as deft with a bullpen. Then again, Bochy has managed almost four times as long, and as coach Tim Flannery said, Boch is a card-counter. He counts cards. In short, he plans days and events months ahead for a situation that may arise later.

In all other ways, their managing styles reflect what the contents of their dugouts allow. Bochy isnt against offense, he just doesnt have a lot. Washington doesnt dislike his bullpen, he just has to be careful about how he uses it.

And neither will freak out on the big stage, because theyve done the big stage. Bochy has been here before as a manager and a player, and the lights have never been brighter than they were when Washington had to admit to a demon he didnt even know he had.

In short, this isnt torture at all. This is the payoff for one life -- two, really -- for whom there is no more apt explanation than thats the way baseball go.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.