After spending seven seasons on the coaching staff of the Atlanta Braves, Ron Washington is returning to the American League with his first managing job since 2014.
Just when the baseball world expected the Los Angeles Angels to hire Buck Showalter as successor to the fired Phil Nevin, Washington won the job Wednesday.
The former manager of the Texas Rangers, he won consecutive pennants with the team in 2010 and 2011. His lifetime record as manager is 678-619, a winning percentage of .523.
A former infielder who had been third base coach under Brian Snitker for all six of the Atlanta’s division-winning years – the longest active streak by any major-league team – Washington played a big part in Atlanta’s 2021 world championship through his daily pre-game, one-on-on fielding drills with current infielders.
The bespectacled, highly-regarded New Orleans native helped first baseman Freddie Freeman (now with the Dodgers) win his first career Rawlings Gold Glove in 2018 and third baseman Josh Donaldson become one of three Gold Glove finalists a year later.
Shortstop Dansby Swanson, who won his first Gold Glove with the Chicago Cubs this year, also excelled under Washington’s tutelage.
During the 2023 season, the entire Braves starting infield reached the All-Star Game in another tribute to Washington’s influence. The group included third baseman Austin Riley, shortstop Orlando Arcia, second baseman Ozzie Albies, and first baseman Matt Olson. Riley and Albies were Gold Glove finalists in recent years.
Also credited with the development of six-time Gold Glove winner Eric Chavez, who played third base for the Oakland A’s while Washington was a coach there, Washington has been a coach for 27 seasons.
Following the retirement of 2023 Houston pilot Dusty Baker, the 71-year-old Washington instantly becomes the oldest manager in the majors – two years ahead of Bruce Bochy (Rangers) and Brian Snitker (Braves).
Washington had an advantage in Anaheim’s interviewing process because of close ties to Angels general manager Perry Minasian, who had been an assistant GM in Atlanta from 2017-20. Angels general manager Perry Minasian knew Washington well from their time together in the Braves organization, where Minasian was an assistant general manager there from 2017-20.
The new manager’s mission is to restore a winning atmosphere with the Angels, who have had eight straight losing seasons and are on the verge of losing two-way star Shohei Ohtani to free agency. Unable to satisfy Ohtani’s urge to play for a contender, the team also needs make decisions on Mike Trout, a 10-time All-Star with a 12-year, $426.5 million contract, and fellow slugger Anthony Rendon, whose seven-year, $245 million deal has been short-circuited by injuries.
Owner Arte Moreno has invested heavily in player payroll. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, the Angels ranked 13th among the 30 teams with a payroll of $163.2 million. That bought them a 73-89 record, 17 games behind the front-running Houston Astros in the American League West.
Blessed with a sunny personality, the affable Washington has often been compared to Baker, who brought food to the clubhouse and conversation to the manager’s office.
He’ll be missed in Atlanta, where he and bench coach Walt Weiss, another former manager, were both biding their time for managerial spots to open.
In their search for a Washington replacement, the Braves could consider recently deposed managers David Ross, a former catcher who played for the team, and Phil Nevin, a former third baseman who last surfaced as the most recent manager in Anaheim.
The Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers remain the only teams with managerial openings.