This could have been a season in which a slip might have been expected for the Rangers, with personnel changes and a wave of injuries to pitchers making the club younger and less experienced. But the Rangers are leading the American League West and playing .600-plus baseball, even after a 6-3 Interleague loss to Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
The Rangers have been and still are a club whose play is characterized by resilience, determination, aggressiveness -- all of the components denoted by the phrase: "They play hard." This sort of thing can't be quantified, but you'll know it when you see it, and you typically see it with the Rangers. Why?
Daniels, the Rangers' general manager since October 2005, brought in Washington as manager before the 2007 season. Daniels gave a suitably well-rounded answer to the question of the team's approach. But he also gave the largest share of credit to Washington.
"It's what we've talked about with Wash from Day 1," Daniels said. "This was when our [Class A California League] team was from Bakersfield, he used to joke that that if we had to go play the Angels with the Bakersfield club one day, he would have these guys believing that they were going to beat the Angels that day. That was back in '07 when he started. And that's just his mindset -- it's a one day at a time mentality.
"When you talk about an organizational culture, it's one thing to have a mentality and beliefs, but it's another thing to have the right individuals who can execute it, carry it out. We've also had practice at dealing with adversity. We've had our fair share of distractions. These guys have a resilient mentality; circle the wagons, pull together.
"And I think it goes hand-in-hand with trying to build from within. We've got [first-base coach] Dave Anderson and [bullpen coach] Andy Hawkins that we've promoted from within. We've got our coordinators who were coaches at lower levels in our system. In the front office, running departments are people who have worked their way up through the organization. I think there's a togetherness, a bond, we've been doing this together now for a while. There's a trust in each other on and off the field.
"Wash is huge in pulling that together. He cares about people. He genuinely cares about the players' well-being."
As Daniels notes, a wide variety of players have had their best seasons playing for the Rangers. Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley, Mike Napoli and Marlon Byrd are a sampling of that list.
"Wash should get a fair share of credit for that," Daniels said. "He's created an environment where guys feel comfortable, are able to be themselves. There is a discipline and a structure, but it's not rigid.
"I don't think it's an accident. And I'm not taking anything away from the players involved. But I think Ron does a great job of creating an atmosphere where guys have to worry about playing baseball and playing it the right way, and not about a lot of other things. Guys universally seem to enjoy playing for the man."
When the Rangers had to make personnel adjustments in the offseason, not to mention in Spring Training, Daniels felt comfortable with that direction. The Rangers with Washington had already gone through a building process with younger players, moving toward the pennant-winning seasons of 2010-11.
"That was huge this offseason," Daniels said. "It was kind of like, 'We're going back to where we were in '08 and '09. We're not starting over, we're not rebuilding. But we're getting back to what we're good at.' It's an opportunity for Wash and the staff to teach again, so these young guys can develop at the big league level.
"And that was huge for us, knowing that we've got a manager who has done that here. It's not like he was part of a rebuilding program in some other city, he did it here with us. It was easier to commit to going with young players, because he embraced it."
The Rangers have had success in both player development and competing at the highest level. They have built admirable organizational depth, particularly in pitching. And they have moved into the ranks of the most successful Major League franchises.
"Everybody has a role here," Daniels said. "We're all pieces of the puzzle. We work together to make it work. And Wash is chief among them. It's been a partnership. When we hired him originally, people thought it was kind of an odd pairing, he and I. There were wildly different backgrounds, experiences and personalities. In a way, I think that's why It works, not just he and I, but all the other people in the organization.
"I'm a big fan," Daniels said of Washington. "I think we've grown together. I think we're both better at our jobs today than when we first met, along with a lot of other people. We've grown together, we've [ticked] each other off at times, we've helped each other out at times. It's like any good working relationship, hopefully we've gotten better. But yeah, I'm a big fan of his."