Rangers series doubles as family reunion for Wash

May 17th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- It’s going to be a homecoming for Angels manager Ron Washington on Friday, as he’ll be returning to Texas, where he managed the Rangers from 2007-14.

It’s the first time Washington is returning as an opposing manager, but he did go back as a coach with the A’s in 2015 and ’16 and the Braves in ’22 and ’23. But after taking 10 years to get another managerial job, this trip is extra special for Washington, who led the Rangers to four 90-plus win seasons and to the World Series in both 2010 and ’11. But Washington, a New Orleans native, joked that it’ll be a lot because at least 18 family members will be attending the games against the Rangers.

“I'm always looking forward to going back to Texas, but those three days right there are going to be some tough days,” Washington said with a smile. “Not only am I going back to Texas to a fan base that cared about the things we did when I was there, but I got all my family from New Orleans coming and that’s [a lot of] tickets. So I’m looking forward to going to Texas and I’m looking forward to getting out of there.”

Washington is a beloved figure by Rangers fans because he helped transform the team from an afterthought in the AL West into a powerhouse that won two division titles and appeared in back-to-back Fall Classics. The Rangers lost both, which Washington laments, but he did win one as a coach with the Braves in 2021.

“I reflect on it all the time,” Washington said. “As a manager, who wouldn’t want to win a World Series? And I had two opportunities. Mainly one in 2011 against the Cardinals. In 2010, Bruce Bochy and the Giants waxed us. But we came back the next year and we were prepared for it. But it just didn’t happen.”

Washington said he sees parallels between the teams he managed early in his tenure with the Rangers and this year’s club. The Rangers won 75 games in Washington's first year and 79 the next, but then reeled off a stretch of winning 87, 90, 96, 93 and 91 games over the next five years. He said teams have to learn how to win and it’s a process.

“In my first year in Texas, I had almost a veteran team, and it was the same stuff,” Washington said. “You just have to make sure that the foundation is right. You have to make sure that the culture is set up the way it's supposed to be. You have to make certain that the type of baseball you want to see out there and that’s where your coaching staff comes in. And my coaching staff is on it every single day.”

Washington said he believes he’s seeing progress with his club despite their record. He understands the frustration from the fans but said things will improve with time.

“No doubt about it,” Washington said. “That's what experience is. You guys just don't see the little bitty increments and the growth these guys are having. Sometimes it takes a while for them to figure it out. I'm happy with the way we've been playing. I'm like you guys, I want to see us win more ballgames. But you have to learn to do that. And this group I have, they are learning how to win.”

Washington understands it can be a grind mentally on the players, especially the younger ones going through a tough season. But he likes the mentality of the group and their willingness to work to get better despite the frustrating results on the field.

“The only way they're going to survive is to keep a positive attitude,” Washington said. “And always emphasize the things that are going well and make them understand the things that aren't going well and what type of work we have to do to make that go well. I got a young group, so that's gonna be ongoing until we figure it out.”

Washington said he has confidence that things will turn because he’s been in those situations, including with Texas. He also saw the A’s go from having losing records his first three years there from 1996-98 to winning at least 87 games in eight straight campaigns, while the Braves won 72 games in his first season there in 2017 before winning six consecutive AL East division titles.

“I've been in this situation before,” Washington said. “I'm here to try to make a difference. I'm here to help this organization be able to get back to their championship ways. And I understand the personnel we have that we're trying to do it with. You've got to have patience.”