Washington wants Cruz, Nathan back in Texas for 2014
Rangers manager refuses to place blame after offensively challenged campaign
ARLINGTON -- On the morning after elimination, Rangers manager Ron Washington faced the media one last time.
He touched on many subjects. Washington said he wants all of his coaching staff to return. He hopes the Rangers will re-sign Nelson Cruz and keep Joe Nathan. He talked about the inconsistency of his offense and strongly defended his team's aggressive baserunning.
Washington also made it clear that he was proud of what his players accomplished in 2013, despite falling short of their goal, and wasn't really interested in breaking down exactly what went wrong.
"I think that would be pointing fingers, and one thing we always did in that clubhouse is whatever went down, we accepted it," Washington said. "We just didn't get it done. Of course you can assess things that went down over the course of 162 games. You win games that you shouldn't win, you lose games that you should win. You can always point back and say, 'If this would've happened, if that would've happened, it might've been different.'
"Through all the turmoil and all the adversity that we had that happened to this club this year, we never put our head in the sand. We just kept battling. Once again, I'd like to say out loud that I'm very proud of the way those guys fought in that clubhouse through everything."
The Rangers season came to an end with a 5-2 loss to the Rays in the Wild Card tiebreaker game Monday night at the Ballpark in Arlington. The loss kept the Rangers from going to the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
"It's disappointing, because our intentions were to play possibly for the World Series and we didn't do that," Washington said. "Those expectations don't change, and those feelings when it doesn't happen don't change. We played 163 games. In the past four years, our season was never over until 162 games were over. I think that's an accomplishment in itself. The only thing I feel is disappointment that we expected to do more and it just didn't happen."
The next step for Washington is to meet with general manager Jon Daniels and discuss the Rangers' offseason plans. There will be no discussions about Washington's job security unless it is to talk about a contract extension. Washington is signed through next year, and the Rangers have made it clear he will return after the club won 90-plus games for the fourth straight year.
The main topic of discussion will likely be the offense. The Rangers were built around pitching and defense in 2013, and their once-explosive offense produced some of the lowest numbers seen in a non-strike season since the Ballpark opened in 1994.
Asked if offense would be a priority this off-season, Washington said: "I would think so. You got to score runs. You got to score runs. You got to score runs."
Yes, he said it three times, and for good reason. The Rangers scored 730 runs this year, the lowest in a full season at the Ballpark in Arlington. Their 176 home runs was the third lowest, and their .412 slugging percentage was the lowest, a reflection of the lack of power usually associated with the Rangers.
"I think everyone would like to have power in their lineup, but when that doesn't happen, I don't think you sit back and use that as an excuse," Washington said. "You try to do other things to put runs on the board. An asset I felt that we had was our speed. At times we were too aggressive, but the thing I loved more than anything else was there was never a time where we weren't aggressive. And that's what I loved."
The Rangers stole 149 bases, tied for the most in one season at the Ballpark. They were also successful on 76.4 percent of their attempts, which was the fifth best success rate in the American League this season. But there is also no doubt the Rangers' aggressiveness cost them at times.
But Washington made it clear the Rangers are not going to change their aggressive style of baserunning.
"I've always been a person in the game of baseball that was aggressive as a player, I was aggressive as a coach, and I'm aggressive as the manager," Washington said. "And I'm not going to apologize about that. Yes, sometimes it causes issues, but that's the way we play. That's the type of athletes I had, and all we can do is continue to work on it and maybe we'll be consistent at it, but I am not putting ankle chains on them. I am not putting handcuffs on them. We're going to go out there and take it to them, and we'll live with it. And that's what we had to do this year.
"You're always surprised when you have potential in your lineup and things just don't click. We just weren't consistent. There were certainly times when our offense looked as explosive as any offense out there, and there were times when it wasn't. It was just a weird year on our offensive side, but they never stopped grinding."
The Rangers will look for offense this offseason, especially for power in the middle of the order. Washington is hoping Cruz will be a part of that.
"When you think about a Nelson Cruz, who wouldn't want a Nelson Cruz?" Washington said. "Big heart, great teammate, but there's a lot of decisions to be made on our part and Nelson's part. I do believe Jon Daniels will go down that road and see where it works or doesn't work."
On the pitching side, Washington said the Rangers' staff is in great shape. The Rangers' rotation next season will include Derek Holland, Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando. The Rangers also expect Matt Harrison to be back to full strength, and they still have Nick Tepesch in the mix.
In the bullpen, Jason Frasor is the only key reliever who is eligible for free agency. Right-handers Tanner Scheppers and Joakim Soria, and left-handers Neal Cotts and Robbie Ross are returning. The Rangers also expect Neftali Feliz to be at full strength in Spring Training and they are expecting to keep him in the bullpen.
The Rangers still have to make a decision on Joe Nathan. The Rangers have a $9.5 million option on him for 2014 with a $750,000 buyout. But Nathan also has the right to void the option himself and become a free agent. Nathan, who has no intention of retiring at age 38, said he would like to remain in Texas, but is also hoping for a multi-year deal rather than playing on a one-year contract.
Washington made it clear he wants Nathan back.
"I thought Joe Nathan had a tremendous year," Washington said. "I think, at the end of the year, Joe Nathan proved to everyone that doubted him what he was made of, and I certainly would love to continue giving him the ball, because he gets outs.
"I think my pitching staff is in a great situation right now. If we can keep what we have together and add to it, and the experience that some of the young guys got down in that bullpen, they can take it and grow into the next year. We just got to see what pieces we got to add, and we'll be in good shape."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.