This isn't how Ron Washington wanted his season to end. An AL West title, the franchise's first playoff series victory, and a trip to the World Series will not soon by forgotten by a fan base long starved for baseball success. But at the end of a season filled with so much off-the-field commotion, the Giants went home champions for the first time in almost 60 years, and the Rangers went home defeated.
World Series defeat or not, Washington's 2010 season might not end all bad. As the Major League awards season kicks off, the Rangers manager looks like the favorite to take home the AL Manager of the Year award, over some stiff competition. Some of the game's most respected managers—Joe Girardi, Ron Gardenhire, and Joe Maddon—managed their teams into the playoffs, generally a prerequisite for MOTY consideration.
Teams lead by Girardi, Maddon, and Gardenhire all finished the season with better records than Texas, and while the Rangers defeated the Rays and Yankees on their way to the AL Pennant, voters sent in their ballots before the post-season began. So what makes Washington's season so special? Why will he come out on top? One word: adversity.
Awards voters love adversity, and the 2010 Texas Rangers had plenty of it. This really begins back over a year ago though, so let's take a step back and look at their less-successful 2009 campaign. For the first time in five years, the Texas Rangers were playoff contenders, entering the seasons home stretch with playoff aspirations.
Off the field, though, 2009 was not the Rangers' year. Earlier that season, Tom Hicks, the Rangers owner who a decade earlier made Alex Rodriguez baseballs highest paid player, had defaulted on a $500 million loan. The team was for sale, and the prospects for adding payroll in the near future seemed remote.
Possibly the Rangers two best players, Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler, had less than optimal seasons, as Hamilton battled through injuries and Kinsler saw his batting average plummet. To make matters worse, pictures surfaced in August showing that Hamilton had relapsed earlier that year. The Rangers made a push towards the end of the season, but fell well short, missing the playoffs yet again.
Entering 2010, hopes were somewhat high that the Rangers could build off a solid 2009 and final capture the AL West. But with the Angels, as always, looking strong, Seattle building through defense, and even the A's looking competitive, the division was wide open. The ownership situation had yet to be resolved, and to make matters worse, an incident surfaced during spring training that almost cost Ron Washington his job.
On March 17, SI.com reported that Washington had tested positive for cocaine during the 2009 season. The incident led many to call for Washington's resignation, and while the Rangers manager kept his job, it wasn't the greatest way to start the year.
The ownership situation seemed to be resolving itself, but a January deal between Hicks and Nolan Ryan's ownership group fell through, and as the season started, the Rangers were officially being operated by Major League Baseball.
But right out of the gates, the Rangers looked like the team to beat in the AL West. With Nelson Cruz tearing the cover off the ball in April, and the duo of Hamilton and Guerrero picking things up in the first half, the Rangers got out to an early lead. While a midseason deal for Cliff Lee didn't pay off immediately, the Rangers finished the season in first and the rest is history.
What role Washington played in this near-Cinderella season is up for debate. But with a roster far less talented than that of New York, Tampa Bay, or arguably even Minnesota, and with a team not that much better on paper than the Angels, or some though, coming into the season, the Mariners, the Rangers won the division and shot through the American League playoffs.
Girardi, Maddon, and Gardenhire did admirable jobs throughout the season, and even were we to blame their teams playoff failures on them, it not all that relevant - the votes were cast before the postseason began.
But Washington was able to keep his team together through an avalanche of off-the-field headlines and get the most out of his roster. For that, he deserves the Manager of the Year award. I believe the voters will agree.