MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Washington leaves legacy of loyalty in Texas

Revered by players, manager became face of franchise's rise to top

Washington leaves legacy of loyalty in Texas

No manager ever had a better relationship with his players than Ron Washington. Strip everything else away, and there you have his ultimate legacy.

Washington's players knew he cared about them, not just for the baseball, but as people. They knew his door was always open and that he'd always listen to whatever was on their mind. He was loyal to his main guys, especially the veterans. Adrian Beltre and Michael Young and others will always be appreciative.

Don't mistake this loyalty for being a soft touch. Washington despised mental mistakes and made sure his players knew that. He could be brutal to young players when they did dumb things.

Washington was also so secure in his own skin that he had no problem delegating responsibility to his coaches and allowing them input with in-game decisions. His strength was being able to relate to his players, and he knew it. All he cared about was winning.

He had a knack for saying the right thing to players, and when he got excited during games and slapped his players on the back and got completely into it, they knew that was completely natural.

When Nolan Ryan took over as Rangers president in 2008, his inclination probably was to replace both Washington and general manager Jon Daniels. But Ryan did what good executives almost always do. He stood to the side and watched both men do their jobs.

Ryan became one of Washington's biggest fans for creating a close, inclusive environment, an environment in which players played hard and worked together. Players matter in these things, but the manager is huge.

After eight seasons on the job, Washington had become the face of the franchise. Fans respected the job he'd done in leading Texas to the World Series in 2010 and '11.

Beyond that, they genuinely liked Washington. Even if they second-guessed some of the things he did in games, they knew his players would run through a wall for him.

This season, which has been decimated by injuries and poor performances, was another kind of test for Washington. He responded by working relentlessly on the field each afternoon and helping his young guys get better.

At heart, Washington was still an instructor, a player-development guy. He believed that if players were willing to listen and work, he could help them get better.

He was also looking forward to 2015, when he believed the Rangers were capable of getting back into contention as Prince Fielder, Yu Darvish and others can get healthy again.

And then on Friday, Washington abruptly resigned, saying he had an undisclosed personal issue that needed his attention.

His departure leaves a huge hole in the organization. No matter how many times a club interviews a manager and no matter how many background checks it does, it's impossible to know everything about a potential candidate.

Until he's actually on the job, there's no way of knowing everything about him. Does he work well with others? How will he handle tough times? Players crave consistency from managers.

So now Texas moves forward without the guy who'd been the rock of the team's clubhouse for the last eight years. Washington was a guy players counted on, a guy Daniels worked well with.

The Rangers may hire another good manager, but Washington's departure leaves a huge hole in the franchise. His legacy will be that he was the most successful manager the Rangers ever had, that he was in charge during the best years of the franchise.

Washington became a good citizen of the community as well. He'd been a part-time player during his 10 seasons in the big leagues, and then he worked resolutely building a name for himself as a coach and instructor.

It was this job with the Rangers that finally put Washington into the public spotlight. He thrived in the spotlight. He was a natural leader.

Here's hoping that this is a brief interruption and that Washington will soon be back in the game. Until that happens, he'll be missed.

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.