Note: Spring training is just around the corner. To get you ready, we'll take a look at every position between now and when pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Ariz., in mid-February.
Today's position: Manager
Ron Washington returns for his eighth season at the helm of the Rangers. It seems like ages ago that talk was swirling about Washington's job security early in 2008. But that team started winning and playing better, and Washington's ability to cultivate a productive and positive clubhouse culture became evident. Washington helped a young team grow and learn and eventually make two consecutive World Series appearances.
His players love him and there aren't many teams that play as hard for their manager as the Rangers do for Washington.
But the reality in 2014 is that Washington, at least right now, heads to spring training without a contract extension. That does not mean Washington won't be this club's manager for years to come. But the club has had two straight disappointing finishes, making 2014 a big year. That's especially true after the money the team spent this offseason to bolster the offense.
For some managers, the idea of not having a contract extension at this point -- especially with two AL pennants in the past four seasons -- might provide a big distraction and force them to alter what has made them successful. The Rangers know that won't happen with Washington.
That's part of what makes Washington who he is. He'll just keep teaching and managing and working to improve, no matter what the contract situation is when the season begins. But because he doesn't have an extension, the questions will be asked quicker about his job security should the club struggle for any extended period of time. Just wait until the first six-game losing streak. That's something Washington and the Rangers front office will have to deal with if he doesn't have an extension.
Washington, though, says he isn't worried about any of that. His focus is making sure his team reaches its potential in 2014. An offense that struggled to consistently score runs now has some more firepower in Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo. That should help. But the pitching staff is already dealing with injuries and the club must figure out what kind of depth they have in spring training.
Washington also has to adjust to some new faces on his coaching staff. The club made the decision to go in a different direction with the bench coach, firing Jackie Moore after the season. Washington has expressed confidence in Tim Bogar, his new bench coach, and the two can use the spring training to get better acquainted. He also has a new first base coach and catching instructor in Bengie Molina.
So it's a different team on the field and in the dugout for the manager. We'll see how it all plays out.