Did Mike Jacobs Save Ron Washington's Job?
After a 3-0 start that feels like months ago, the Rangers are 5-7. Not good, especially considering nine of those 12 have been at home and half against the lowly Orioles and Royals.
But as they tonight begin a seven-game road trip against the Toronto Blue Jays and the best pitcher in baseball (Roy Halladay), they have some momentum, and their manager.
Rangers' management has given Ron Washington the dreaded vote of confidence. I ain't buyin' it. You?
Trailing 5-3 in the 8th Sunday, the Rangers were fortunate to have the Royals not make three plays in which ball momentarily went into glove. First, David DeJesus couldn't hold onto Andruw Jones' drive near the left-field wall. Tough catch, but what resulted in a double could've been a loud out. Then first baseman Mike Jacobs botched Hank Blalock's routine grounder. And, finally, with Chris Davis pinch-hitting, Royals' second baseman Alberto Callaspo knocked down a grounder, but was unable to throw out Blalock at the plate.
Given a pardon, the Rangers won it in the 9th on Michael Young's first career walk-off blast to deep left-center.
I'm not saying Washington would've been fired had the Rangers lost and hit the road at 4-8. But his short leash would've gotten shorter. If it hasn't already.
So far it's been status woe.
Shoddy defense. Horrible bullpen. Inexplicable fundamentals. Weird managing. Sporadic attendance. And another ugly April.
In '07 the Rangers were 10-18 on May 3. In '08 they were 10-18 by April 30. Washington was almost fired last April. Remember?
At that time owner Tom Hicks admitted his manager's dismissal was all but done:
"Pretty close," Hicks said last May. "Nolan's take was that if this thing doesn't turn around pretty fast, let's make a change."
Management, led by president Nolan Ryan, made contingency plans that included feeler calls to potential replacements Don Baylor, Jackie Moore, Mike Hargrove and Jim Tracy. Keep those names handy.
Because Washington's moves have been characteristically crazy.
A double-steal with the game tied? Yanking Young from a 9-0 lead with the bases loaded in the 7th to give an at-bat to Omar Vizquel? And the glass-half full bullshit? Seriously, in the face of repeated, similar failures Washington's bubbly optimism is annoying, if not altogether insulting.
Hicks is on record saying he expects to be a "contending team" this season, and that Washington will be judged solely on his team's record.
"The last two years we got off to terrible starts based on poor defense, poor pitching and crummy defense," Hicks said back during spring training. "You can't lay that all on the manager, but he's the manager."
The organization's premature promotion of Derek Holland over the weekend may not signal panic, but certainly enhanced urgency.
The Rangers - and Washington - cannot afford another 10-18. They can thank the Royals for avoiding 4-8.