Give Ron Washington his due

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Ron Washington is the most successful manager the Texas Rangers have ever had.

No one else is in the conversation.

Washington has led the Rangers to the playoffs each of the past three seasons, including consecutive trips to the World Series in 2010 and 2011. The Rangers have won 279 games the past three seasons; only the Evil Empire has won more in the American League over that span.

Never has a manager done so much and received so little credit. Either it goes to general manager Jon Daniels. Or it goes to CEO Nolan Ryan. Or it goes to the players.

Any blame? Washington gets the bulk of that.

The manager is always going to get blamed when a team gets within one strike of a title and loses, which happened in 2011. Or when it's part of one of the worst collapses in MLB history, which is what happened last season.

Some folks even hint that Washington's job is in jeopardy. Really? It's incredulous that Washington could be given a lesser team than he had last season and expectations could rise.

Washington excels, in part, because he doesn't let peripheral stuff like that affect his approach. He doesn't care what you think about his decisions regarding the lineup. Or the bullpen. Or his approach to managing. He's his own man. And he'll never let anyone define him.

That's why every player on the roster knows who's in charge of the team -- and it ain't the general manager.

The players understand winning is all Washington cares about. So they trust him. Implicitly. And that's why they always play hard for him. They don't always play well. Or smart. But consistent effort is never an issue.

The trust has been earned. After all, Washington had no managerial pedigree when JD took a chance on him because of his infectious personality and authentic demeanor.

"I'm not perfect. I make mistakes," Washington said. "But I'm not worried about them because I'm too busy trying to correct them, because the game is always moving. It never stops."

Washington has put his imprint on the way the Rangers play the game. They play with controlled recklessness, always putting pressure on their opponent. Pitching and defense are no longer an afterthought.

Think about it; for nearly 40 years the Rangers did their best imitation of a beer league softball team, no matter who owned the club or who was managing it. Washington becomes the manager and five years later the Rangers feel comfortable letting Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and their 67 homers and 184 RBIs walk because they believe Washington's style will generate offense.

Heck, the Rangers even hired a batting coach in Dave Magadan who emphasizes situational hitting.

"I've done what I came here to do," Washington said. "You have to get your players to trust what we were trying to do is the right thing. You have to preach the same thing over and over every day. The game will show them. Once it does, they hear your voice.

"All of sudden things you're preaching happen between the lines and your credibility grows and grows and grows. It's the same thing in the clubhouse."

Washington commands the clubhouse like no other manager the Rangers have ever had.

Washington was ripped for continuing to play Michael Young while he struggled much of last season. The beauty of hindsight allows us to understand why he did it, regardless of whether we agree with the move.

Players are acutely aware of how their brethren get treated. How Washington handled Young showed the other 24 players how he'd treat them in adverse times. If you banish the face of the franchise to the bench, what message does it send to lesser players?

We all wanted Washington to play Jurickson Profar, one of the game's top prospects, last season because all we ever care about is wins and losses. Washington viewed Profar as a September call-up and decided he hadn't earned the right to play in front of Young, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus.

And when the Rangers met with Kinsler's agent in the offseason about a potential move to first base, the manager was conspicuously absent from the meeting. If the move didn't go over well with Kinsler, Washington couldn't be linked by association. And he could never be viewed as a management tool.

Washington is a players' coach, no doubt. But we've all seen him confront players such as C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland, Andrus and Hamilton when they screwed up.

"That's managing," Washington said. "There are certain things we expect, and when I don't see it I'm going to bring it to their attention. First, you have to earn their trust and respect. You just don't get it when you walk through the door.

"Jon Daniels took a chance on my ability as a baseball man to transform a team into what we have right now. He trusted me, and it worked for both of us."

Still, much work remains. Washington and JD don't have a championship yet.