I Like His Style

I don’t know much about Ron Washington, the manager of the Texas Rangers. I vaguely remember his name as a player when I was growing up, I haven’t looked up his career stats, nor do I know what position he played. But I like his style.

I have heard or read that he is a player’s manager, and that it’s his character that keeps his players from quitting on him in what started out as a disastrous season. He isn’t one of the big names in baseball management like Joe Torre (Dodgers), Lou Piniella (Cubs), Tony La Russa (Cards), or Bobby Cox (Braves), but he does have class, and he stood up to a MLB pitcher like many others probably would not have. In fact, those who have had an insider’s look at professional sports know that professional athletes “never hear the word ‘no.'”

A friend who pitched for the Braves told me that they were fined if they carried their own luggage. Professional athletes, for the most part, don’t live in the real world. That’s why, for example, Manny Ramirez could get away with assaulting the Red Sox traveling secretary because the secretary told Manny it would be problematic to get 16 tickets a couple hours before their game against the Houston Astros.

Here’s the story behind the photo, which made me a big fan of Ron Washington: C.J. Wilson, a left handed reliever for the Rangers, had a disastrous outing (8th inning, August 5, vs. NYY) that was ended by a Richie Sexson grand slam. It was time for him to be relieved, and in professional baseball, it’s the manager’s duty to go to the mound to make the change. In this case, before Ron Washington was able to get all the way to the mound, Wilson initiated his departure by flipping the ball to Washington. Apparently, as if it had been rehearsed, Washington grabbed Wilson by the arm and drew him back to the mound so that he could properly hand the ball to the manager. Once that was done, Wilson was free to leave the mound for the showers.

For those who are not aware: Baseball is a game with its own culture and traditions, and many things are done the way they are done simply because “that’s the way it’s done in real baseball.” That includes things like not stealing bases once your team is up by 10 runs. In certain situations it’s acceptable for a pitcher to intentionally hit a batter (it’s called sending a message, or protecting his teammates), but it’s never acceptable to hit a batter in the head. Though there is no rule against doing so, it is never acceptable for a batter to look down to see the catcher’s signals to the pitcher. Interestingly, it is okay for a base runner or coach to assist the batter with what pitch is coming as long as it isn’t done in a way that “shows up the other team.”

Baseball is a funny game in many ways, and the way the game is supposed to be played isn’t something that is known naturally. Rather, the way the game is supposed to be played is something that is learned over time and with proper exposure to its culture. I’m proud of Ron Washington for giving C.J. Wilson a lesson on how a pitcher gets relieved. Regardless of how bad a pitcher has performed or feels, he is supposed to stand there like a man and wait for the manager to arrive to relieve him of his duties because “that’s the way it’s done in real baseball.”

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