Souhan: Here's a thought, Gardenhire for Ron Washington

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 20, 2013 - 11:29 AM
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Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington watches from the dugout during the baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles Sunday, July 21, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

The manager is under fire. It may be time for him to move on, but there is a way to make it work for everyone.

The manager played in the Twins’ organization in the 1980s, hoping to build a career as a utility infielder, but found himself pushed inevitably toward coaching. He gained a reputation as an expert on infield play, helping transform key players on winning teams, and eventually landed his own managing job.

He finished near the top of the American League in the Manager of the Year voting frequently, and became known for his humor and Southern colloquialisms. The man can tell a story, but his current story has grown stale. His team isn’t what it once was, and whether the slippage is his fault or not, change for change’s sake might be productive.

He should trade places with Ron Gardenhire.

If ever two teams should consider swapping managers, it’s the Texas Rangers and the Twins. Ron Washington and Gardenhire are good managers who could use a fresh start.

Gardenhire grew up in Oklahoma and was an All-America shortstop at the University of Texas. He hasn’t had a decent team to manage since 2010, when he was named American League Manager of the Year.

Although he professes loyalty to the Twins and General Manager Terry Ryan, he’s got to be sick of sending the likes of Liam Hendriks to the mound. Moving to Texas would give him the kind of jump-start that seems to have reinvigorated Terry Francona in Cleveland and helped make the Indians surprise contenders this season.

He’d manage a much better team in his home region, and no one could say that his players needed to hear a new voice. He would be the new voice.

I first met Washington in the visiting dugout in Oakland. Kirby Puckett called him over, and the two sat and told stories for an hour. Washington just missed playing on the 1987 Twins World Series champion, when Al Newman won the utility infielder job in spring training.

Maybe Washington has lost his influence in the Rangers clubhouse, or maybe the Rangers just aren’t as good at the Oakland A’s. Either way, he might welcome a chance to work in a place where winning 90 games isn’t expected, where developing great young players such as Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano could define the next portion of his career.

Washington and Gardenhire are friends. They’re among the most personable managers in the game. They’re both baseball lifers who will wind up landing managerial jobs in the future if they are indeed fired next month.

Instead of these franchises considering firing managers they value, why not just trade them?

The Rangers would get a guy who looks and sounds like an actual Texas Ranger, allowing them to save money on mascots, and the Twins would get a new guy to yell a whole different brand of cuss words at Trevor Plouffe. Washington might be the most creative cusser in major league baseball. He can use a certain word as a noun, adjective, exclamation and gerund all in the same sentence.

If Gardenhire and Washington didn’t work out in their new jobs, each team could fire someone in whom it had little emotional investment.

Terry Ryan should make this deal. It wouldn’t be as splashy as A.J. Pierzynski for Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano, but it would be a lot better than J.J. Hardy for Jim Hoey.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. jsouhan@startribune.com

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