Ron Washington was beaming in his black suit, complete with a red tie, as he sat at a table perched on a platform in the Home Plate Club of Angel Stadium on Wednesday.
The 71-year old manager from New Orleans, the newest in Angels history, scanned the room, taking in his moment as his new general manager, Perry Minasian, boasted about him. Minasian gave him his official Angels gear and Washington affixed his newest cap to his head and meticulously buttoned each button on his newest jersey.
“Now I’m legit,” Washington said and smiled.
It had been nine years since Washington had been in this position, the manager of a major league baseball team. Now that he was back, he stated his message clearly: The Angels will be a force to be reckoned with while he’s in charge.
“Our whole focus is going to be to run the [American League] West down,” Washington said in front of a crowd of Angels players, alumni, media members and team employees. “And you can take that to the bank and deposit it.”
Washington, hired by Texas Rangers ahead of the 2007 season, has had a chip on his shoulder after not winning a World Series despite AL pennants in 2010 and 2011 and a wild-card berth in 2012.
He left the Rangers before the end of the 2014 season — stating, at the time, that his decision to leave was because he had been unfaithful to his wife. Of the nature of his departure from the Rangers, Minasian said Wednesday that he had done his due diligence and felt comfortable hiring Washington.
Washington had been trying to return to a managerial position since then, interviewing with at least three other clubs over the years, he said, but he never stopped believing his next opportunity would come.
He has a World Series ring, having been an integral part of the 2021 campaign of the Atlanta Braves, the team he had been the third base coach for since the 2017 season.
And he spoke with more than just determination, but a conviction in the Angels, with his confidence in himself and down-to-the-soul belief in a better Angels future paving the way.
The Angels have not reached the playoffs since 2014 and have eight straight losing seasons. In addition, Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani is a free agent and could leave the team. While some view the roster as weak, Washington sees potential.
“I really have been, since I've been here these past three days, focusing in on these young arms we got,” Washington said. “I am very impressed with the young arms we got. That's why we trying to find us a pitching coach to guide them in the right direction.
“Pitching and defense is the key to success. The rest of it, I'm going to take care of as we move along. … The defense, you're looking at the best in the business, and that's not patting myself on the back. That's a fact.”
The Houston Astros have won the AL West six of the last seven seasons. The Rangers won this season's World Series.
While some view beating the top teams in the division as a tall order, Washington says so what.
“Yeah, the Astros [have] been there,” Washington said matter-of-factly. “When I took over in Texas, guess who was the big dog? The Angels. And what happened? We ran them down. So my intent is to run Houston down.
“I'm not saying that's gonna happen this year. But we don't know when it's gonna happen. I can tell you what, we're gonna get back on top.”
Washington’s official candidacy for the Angels job began with a dinner with Minasian in New Orleans a few weeks ago — though Washington’s familiarity with the Minasian family dates back much further. After that, Washington was invited to meet with Minasian and other members of the front office in Scottsdale, Ariz., for a brunch on the Tuesday of the general manager meetings last week.
Team owner Arte Moreno picked Washington up from the airport and Minasian and the rest of the Angels contingent talked with him for more than three hours, Minasian said, and he was offered the job. The next day, the Angels announced Washington as their new manager.
Washington’s Angels have already secured their new third base coach, Eric Young Sr., who followed Washington from Atlanta, as well as their new infield coach, Ryan Goins. Washington also said Wednesday that he knows who his first base coach is, though he did not give a name. The Angels confirmed Bo Porter as their new first base coach on Friday. The Angels also confirmed on Friday that they promoted Jerry Narron to major league catching coach after previously serving as their minor league catching coordinator. The Angels subsequently named Johnny Washington as their hitting coach and Barry Enright as pitching coach.
Next up on Washington’s agenda: making calls to the team’s biggest leaders for the foreseeable future: Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon.
Washington and Dave Roberts of the Dodgers are the only Black managers in the majors, after Dusty Baker retired from his position with the Astros last month. Washington replaces Phil Nevin, whose contract for next season was not picked up by the Angels.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.