ANAHEIM, Calif. — When Ron Washington became a Major League Baseball manager for the first time 17 years ago with the Texas Rangers, his task was to end the Los Angeles Angels' near-decade of dominance atop the American League West Division.
That's exactly what happened.
"We ran them down," he said with a grin.
Washington pulled on a white Angels jersey Wednesday as the struggling franchise's fourth new manager in just more than five years. His new charge in this long-awaited second chance to be an MLB skipper is an inverted version of his job with the Rangers, who now reign atop the majors — they finally won their first World Series championship earlier this month — along with the Houston Astros, who have annually dominated the division for several years.
"Our whole focus is going to be to run the West down," Washington said. "And you can take that to the bank and deposit it."
The 71-year-old Washington exuded gratitude and optimism during his formal introduction at Angel Stadium, where his ageless energy and boundless baseball knowledge are the team's latest tactic in its attempt to end a malaise nearing a decade.
After getting multiple interviews for manager jobs in the years that followed his stormy departure from Texas in 2014, Washington finally landed a second chance when he won the recent competition to replace Phil Nevin, who wasn't re-signed after the Angels completed their eighth consecutive losing year and their ninth straight season without a playoff appearance.
"We are on our way up, and there will be nothing but positivity around here," Washington said. "We will make our way through the negativity. ... We're looking forward to the expectations. We will make it happen."
His two-year contract with the Angels contains a club option, said Angels general manager Perry Minasian, who pointed out the deal's relatively short length had no ulterior meaning but is a fairly standard length for modern manager contracts.
Washington is a beloved figure around baseball, with staff, players and fans of the Atlanta Braves — the team he spent the past seven seasons with as their third-base coach while also working with infielders — both wishing him well and lamenting their loss last week when the Angels announced his hire.
He is slowly assembling his staff in Los Angeles, but he hasn't chosen a pitching coach. He said former Astros manager Bo Porter will be his first base coach alongside previously announced Eric Young Sr. as the third base coach. Porter most recently worked on an MLB team's field-level staff as Atlanta's third base coach in 2015-16 before Washington's arrival, while Young was the first base coach for the Braves the past six seasons.
Washington is revered as a teacher and a leader who won two AL pennants in Texas and got within one strike of winning the World Series.
The Angels, though, are a daunting challenge. Even aside from the looming possibility of star pitcher/slugger Shohei Ohtani's departure in free agency, they haven't done much in the past few years to suggest major progress for a roster anchored by highly paid stars Anthony Rendon and Mike Trout.
"I see potential, but I also see guys that have to make certain that baseball is a priority," Washington said. "What I mean by that is commitment, attitude and effort. That's what we've got to get to."
Minasian was working for the Rangers when Washington arrived in 2007. Minasian, whose own future likely hangs on the Angels' short-term success, emphatically felt Washington was the best choice among several compelling candidates.
"He was dying for this opportunity, and I could feel it," Minasian said. "When you're talking to somebody and he's that passionate, and the want-to is through the roof, and he'll do anything he can to get us where we want to go, it just resonated with me."
Minasian also said the Angels had no concerns about the negative aspects of Washington's successful tenure in Texas, including his admission of cocaine use and his abrupt resignation after what he said was an extramarital affair.
"I feel comfortable with it," Minasian said. "He's a stand-up guy. He addressed it at the time. Over the years, if you ask the people around him what he's all about and what he brings to the table, you'll get nothing but glowing remarks."
Unlike some of his youngest players, Washington is old enough to remember the era when Orange County had a perennially successful team — and those old-school bona fides were obvious throughout his first official day on the job. During his news conference, he half-jokingly referred to his new team as both the Anaheim Angels and the California Angels, two of its previous names during his playing and coaching career.
"Yes, I'm 71 years old," Washington said. "I still can think. I still love the game of baseball. I still love making a difference."
Washington becomes the oldest active MLB manager, and he's only the second Black manager currently in the majors, joining the Los Angeles Dodgers' Dave Roberts. While it's not his focus, Washington doesn't take the responsibility lightly of being the Angels' first Black manager.
"I've been in this position before, but it's always nice to know that you can be a trailblazer," Washington said. "It's always nice to know that you're sitting in a position where it can create other positions for other Black personnel that have an opportunity to be a manager. So it is important that I be successful, and it is important that every opportunity that presents itself to me to open up a door for a qualified Black baseball person, I'm willing to take the step to do that."