ARLINGTON -- They cooked hamburgers at the house of Rangers owner Tom Hicks on Sunday night, but it was not a social event. The get-together was held so Hicks could formally meet with Ron Washington, the Oakland Athletics' third-base coach who was in for his second interview for the Rangers' managerial opening. At one point, after some serious baseball discussions, Hicks pulled general manager Jon Daniels aside.
"What am I missing?" Hicks asked Daniels. "This guy is fantastic." Daniels told Hicks, "He's my No. 1 recommendation. I didn't want to tell you that until I brought him in for a second time." Hicks and Daniels were planning to meet on Monday afternoon to discuss who would be their next manager, but they both agreed they had the right man for the job, and held a press conference instead to introduce Washington as the 17th full-time manager in Rangers history. "It was just spontaneous," Hicks said. "He's real. He's a baseball guy and he's a winner. The fact that Oakland has been winning for so long with different managers and something has kept that clubhouse effective, I think Ron has played a big part in that. I think he'll bring out the best in our players." Washington, a 54-year-old New Orleans native, has 28 years of professional baseball experience and is a former infielder who spent all or parts of 10 seasons in the Major Leagues with five different organizations. He had been on the Athletics coaching staff for the past 11 seasons. Prior to that, he spent four years in the Mets farm system -- two years as a Triple-A coach and two as a Class A manager. "He has one of the most unique and contagious personalities I've ever been around," Daniels said. "You can't help being around him and feeling the positive energy. He's sincere, he's authentic, he's a class act and he's an intelligent baseball man. "We wanted a winner, and he comes from a winning background. He has the heart of a champion. It was a real no-brainer. His passion for the game comes through. He's an old-school baseball guy. I thought that what we needed." Washington received a two-year contract with two option years. "Two years is fine with me," Washington said. "It's not like this team is going through transition. They have a good nucleus here. They have good hitting, and I've always liked their bullpen. If we get the front end of the rotation settled, then this team can get over the hump pretty quickly. "As far as a two-year contract or two one-year contracts, it doesn't make a difference. You either do the job or you don't. Everything is predicated on the players. If they do the job, I might get two more years. If they don't, they might do something else here." Washington repeatedly described himself as a "player's manager" who wants to keep things simple and have them done right. "I want my team to go out and do the things they are supposed to do in a baseball game," Washington said. "Keep things simple, stupid. You prepare in all fundamental areas of a baseball club, then go out there and let your talent take over. "I wanted people to say Ron Washington's team plays the game the right way. There are no secrets. We're going out there and grinding it out every day. You win by pitching and catching the ball. We're going to do what we can to help the pitching staff, and we're going to stress defense." Washington will keep hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Dom Chiti, and former Oakland manager Art Howe is expected to join the staff as the bench coach. Howe just took a job as the Phillies third-base coach but the Rangers have received permission to interview him and he is expected in Arlington on Tuesday. Washington served on Howe's staff in Oakland and he wants an experienced manager beside him in the dugout to help with the learning process. "I want someone there who will make sure I don't miss anything," Washington said. Don Wakamatsu was the Rangers' bench coach and a finalist for the position. He is also a candidate for the Oakland managerial opening. If he doesn't get that job, he could be on Washington's staff or stay with the organization in some other capacity. "If there's anything bittersweet about this, it's that Don has been there for us the last four years and is a close friend," Daniels said. "I met with him [on Sunday] night and he was disappointed. But he was very professional and understanding. I hope he stays with the organization, we're better with Don on our staff." Third-base coach Bobby Jones could end up as the Rangers' Triple-A manager at Oklahoma. Washington is expected to hire two or three of his own coaches. He also wants to start meeting with his players as soon as possible. Pitcher Kevin Millwood and first baseman Mark Teixeira were at Monday's press conference, and others will start hearing what Washington has to say in the near future. He is eager to get started. "I want to meet with everybody and see if we can get on the same page," Washington said. "I'm going to listen to them and try to implement anything they have to say. I want to find out what they think it will take to progress. "What I look for most is a family atmosphere. I definitely want to be in a situation where we work as one and care about each other. I want these players to understand that we have each other's backs and I, as their manager, will always have their back. I will be there for the players, period. I will have their backs."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.