Washington vows 2024 Angels will be different

February 14th, 2024

Almost two months after he was named manager of the Angels, Ron Washington was busy in Arizona, attending a five-day pre-Spring Training minicamp filled with Minor Leaguers from the organization.

Not only was Washington watching the players perform on the baseball field, but he also informed them what he expects once they become big leaguers.

“The main message I sent to them was [to have a] work ethic, care about each other … and develop a culture and structure. You must be a team to be successful,” Washington recalled telling his players. “You can’t have people going in different directions. That’s the main thing. The organization is trying to build the Minor League system just like they are trying to do on the Major League side.”

Washington is planning to send the same message to his Major League players before they have their first full-squad workout. He expects the 2024 Angels to be different, in a positive way.

“I’m not saying we are going to win the division, but I tell you what, we are not going to be the same Angels that were in previous years,” Washington said. “We are going to match the baseball that [the AL West] is playing. If we can match their game, then we are going to be right there with them.”

The Angels’ roster has undergone some changes since the end of ’23. Washington will be without slugger/right-handed starter Shohei Ohtani, who signed with the Dodgers. The Angels still have a veteran presence with outfielder Mike Trout and third baseman Anthony Rendon set to return, and Washington, noting their extensive time spent on the injured list last year, views them as keys to success this season.

Washington met with both players in the offseason. He didn’t make demands; he asked both what the team has been lacking the past few years. According to Washington, Trout and Rendon said they wanted better structure on the team.

“It’s having a reason to come to the ballpark every day. They expect to win,” Washington said. “You have to expect to win. Now, expecting to win and winning are two different things. To expect to win, you have to do what it takes to win. Those are the things we are going to be tackling.

“I [also] want Mike Trout to be Mike Trout. I want him to lead. I want Rendon to get healthy again and get back to being Rendon. I want the rest of the guys to grow.

“Once you get past those veterans and infielder Brandon Drury, I think everybody has to understand what their skill set is. Let’s perfect your skill set, and the learning part of it is going to be all year long.”

This season will be Washington’s first managerial gig since 2014, when he was with the Rangers. During his eight years with the team, he had a 664-611 record, won the American League pennant in 2010 and ’11 and led the club to four straight 90-plus-win seasons from 2010-13. But he resigned as manager in ’14 due what he called an “off-the-field personal matter."

Washington then went back into coaching -- first with the Athletics in 2015 before he joined the Braves’ organization. During his seven years with the Braves, Washington was the third-base coach and worked extensively with their infielders. Under Washington’s tutelage, former Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman (2018) and shortstop Dansby Swanson (2022) won their first career Gold Gloves, while third baseman Austin Riley was a finalist for the award last year.

Now he is getting a second chance to manage in the big leagues, and he said there is nothing like calling the shots on the field.

“You crave [getting that] position again,” Washington said. “But you know what? If for some reason, I didn’t get another opportunity [to manage], I would have been happy being in Atlanta helping out.”

What’s the biggest lesson he learned from his days with the Rangers that he takes to the Angels? The key, Washington said, is being patient with his young players. Los Angeles has its share of young studs on their roster such as shortstop Zach Neto and catcher Logan O'Hoppe.

“You must have patience because the game is young today,” Washington said. “You have to teach. You have to make them understand that if you fail at something, [that] doesn’t make you a failure. If you fail at something, you buckle up, you work and correct it.

“We have a chance to change the past. All we have to do is stay in the process, do what the game asks us to do every single day, care about one another, help each other along the way, and we’ll get where we need to get.”