ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Los Angeles Angels hired Ron Washington to be their manager Wednesday, turning to a veteran baseball mind in an attempt to end nearly a decade of losing.
The 71-year-old Washington became the oldest current manager in Major League Baseball and only the second active Black manager, joining Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"I'm lost for words, but not the work it will take!" Washington told The Associated Press by text message.
Washington led the Texas Rangers from 2007-14, winning two American League pennants and going 664-611 overall. He spent the past seven seasons as third base coach for the Atlanta Braves, helping them to their 2021 World Series championship — the franchise's first since 1995 — and a run of consecutive National League East Division titles that reached six this year. He also worked with Atlanta's infielders, and it was a point of pride when the entire group was selected for the MLB All-Star Game this past summer.
Washington replaces Phil Nevin, who wasn't re-signed last month after 1 1/2 losing seasons in charge of the long-struggling Angels. The AL West Division club is mired in stretches of eight consecutive losing seasons and nine straight years without making the playoffs, both the longest streaks in the majors, despite the presence of superstars Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout in recent seasons.
Washington has never shied away from work: He's regularly among the first on the field, hitting hundreds of grounders to infielders.
Arte Moreno, the Angels' 77-year-old owner, clearly hopes the experienced Washington can get the most out of a long-underachieving franchise with a big payroll and three-time AL MVP Trout, but almost no team success to show for it. Ohtani, the 2021 AL MVP who stood out both as a starting pitcher and a slugger in the lineup when not on the mound, became a free agent this week.
Washington received a two-year contract for the Anaheim club. He will be the fourth manager in six seasons for the Angels since the departure of Mike Scioscia, who spent 19 years running the Halos' bench before walking away after the 2018 season. Brad Ausmus, Joe Maddon and Nevin have all tried and failed to reverse the club's slide.
Washington's largely successful tenure in Texas had plenty of rough patches along the way. He tested positive for cocaine use during the 2009 season and offered to resign, but he kept his job and led the Rangers to the World Series in 2010 and again in 2011.
He abruptly resigned on Sept. 5, 2014, surprising the baseball world. Two weeks later, he acknowledged having an extramarital affair and cited it as the reason for leaving Texas, which had intended to bring him back in 2015.
With a reputation as a personable, old-school manager with an ebullient personality and an exciting edge, Washington also knows the AL West well. Along with his time in Texas, he spent 13 seasons over two stints as a coach with the Oakland Athletics.
In the 2011 film "Moneyball," based on the book about the small-spending A's unlikely success in the 2000s, Washington was played by actor Brent Jennings, who delivered one of the movie's most memorable lines when urged by Oakland general manager Billy Beane (portrayed by Brad Pitt) to tell a player how easy it is to learn how to play first base: "It's incredibly hard!"
In real life, Washington is one of the most respected infield coaches in the game's history — and former A's third baseman Eric Chavez once gifted Washington one of his Gold Glove Awrds because he played such a vital role. His drills and viewpoints have been used across the majors to improve players' performance, and he helped the Braves' infielders throughout his most recent coaching stop.
In addition to all four Atlanta infielders (first baseman Matt Olson, second baseman Ozzie Albies, shortstop Orlando Arcia and third baseman Austin Riley) making the NL All-Star team this year, two other former Washington disciples with the Braves represented the NL: first baseman Freddie Freeman of the Dodgers and shortstop Dansby Swanson of the Chicago Cubs.
Washington passes Bruce Bochy of Texas — fresh off his fourth World Series title overall and first with the Rangers, having returned this year after three seasons out of baseball — and Brian Snitker of Atlanta, both 68, as MLB's oldest current manager. Dusty Baker was the oldest at 74 before retiring last month after four seasons leading the Houston Astros, and he was also the only Black manager in the majors besides Roberts.