The Rangers made a change atop the dugout, announcing the dismissal of manager Chris Woodward on Monday afternoon. Third base coach Tony Beasley will take over on an interim capacity for the remainder of the 2022 season.
“(General manager) Chris Young and I had the very difficult task of informing Chris Woodward of our decision today,” president of baseball operations Jon Daniels said in the press release announcing the decision. “In his tenure as Rangers’ manager, Chris worked tirelessly under what was at times some difficult circumstances. He has been dedicated and passionate in his efforts to improve the on-field performance of the Texas Rangers, and it is greatly appreciated. He has represented the organization with class and dignity.
“We have had extensive discussions over the last several weeks and while the team’s current performance is certainly a big part of this decision, we are also looking at the future. As the Rangers continue to develop a winning culture and put the pieces together to compete for the postseason year in and year out, we felt a change in leadership was necessary at this time. On behalf of the entire Texas Rangers organization, we thank Chris and wish him and his family the very best.”
Woodward, 46, spent a bit under four seasons at the helm in Arlington. Texas hired him off the Dodgers coaching staff over the 2018-19 offseason, making him the permanent replacement after dismissing Jeff Banister that September (with some intervening interim work from Don Wakamatsu). Woodward stepped into a difficult situation, taking over a team coming off a last-place finish that was cutting payroll as it embarked upon a rebuild.
Texas bounced back a bit during Woodward’s first season, finishing in third place in the AL West at 78-84. The club was outscored by 68 runs that year, though, and regression hit the following season. Texas went 22-38 during the shortened campaign, then stumbled to a 60-102 record in 2021. It marked back-to-back last-place finishes, but Texas nevertheless signed Woodward last November to an extension that ran through 2023.
At the time, Daniels praised the skipper for “(helping) to lay the foundation of our culture” throughout his first three seasons. The Texas front office certainly couldn’t have expected great results with the rosters it trotted out through 2019-21, and Woodward’s extension reflected the organization’s confidence in his ability to guide the club to a more competitive phase. Texas signaled a desire to push payroll forward at the start of the offseason, and the Rangers followed through with a far more aggressive winter than many might have expected.
The Rangers signed four players to multi-year free agent contracts, including two of the three largest overall guarantees of the offseason. Texas added Corey Seager for $325M over a decade not long after signing Marcus Semien for seven years and $175M. They stepped in as the Rangers’ foundational middle infield, while the club signed Jon Gray to a four-year, $56M pact to anchor the starting rotation. Texas brass acknowledged that leaping from a 60-win team to immediate postseason contention seemed like a stretch, even with such an aggressive offseason overhaul. Yet the Rangers no doubt anticipated a marked improvement that’d serve as a stepping stone to a playoff run in 2023.
The results on that front have been mixed. The Rangers are on pace for their best season in three years, with a 51-63 record that has them in third place in the AL West. A 44.7% winning percentage is much better than the sub-40% marks of 2020-21, but that still translates to a roughly 90-loss pace over the course of a full schedule. They’re 9 1/2 games out in the wild card and virtually certain to miss the playoffs again, with little hope of playing meaningful games in the season’s final couple weeks.
At the same time, one could argue the Rangers have been more competitive than their record would suggest. They’ve been outscored by only two runs on the season with more blowout wins (games decided by five-plus runs) than losses. Had they played to a roughly .500 record that aligned with their run differential, they’d be in the wild-card picture, and the general tenor of the franchise would be far more optimistic. Instead, they’ve gone an atrocious 6-24 in one-run contests, losing so many tight games they’re nowhere near contention.
How much responsibility Woodward bears for that record is open to debate. There’s no doubt some amount of misfortune with a record that poor, but one could also note that Woodward is ultimately in charge of managing a bullpen that has blown 18 leads (the eighth-most in the majors). Texas has gotten productive seasons from some of its young position players (i.e. Jonah Heim and Nathaniel Lowe), but the club hasn’t gotten much from its younger starting pitchers aside from Dane Dunning. Meanwhile, Texas has gotten solid seasons from Seager and Gray, but Semien has underperformed in the inaugural season of his free agent deal.
Of course, managerial decisions are made based on far more than just the club’s on-field results. Teams are evaluating a skipper’s handling of the clubhouse and behind-the-scenes work that takes place out of public view. Daniels and Young evidently determined the time had come for a change in the voice atop the clubhouse.
Over the next two months, that’ll come with the elevation of Beasley to the manager’s chair. A former minor league skipper in the Pirates and Nationals farm systems, Beasley first joined Texas’ coaching staff in advance of the 2015 season. The 55-year-old is now in his eighth year with the Rangers, a stint that overlapped Banister’s and Woodward’s time as skipper. This will be his first major league managerial opportunity.
Texas will conduct a search for a full-timer next offseason. The Rangers the fourth team that’ll be doing so, as each of the Phillies (Joe Girardi), Angels (Joe Maddon) and Blue Jays (Charlie Montoyo) dismissed their skippers in-season. Philadelphia has gone on a tear under interim manager Rob Thomson, while the Angels continued to flounder under their temporary skipper Phil Nevin. The Blue Jays have improved an already-productive club in their first month under interim manager John Schneider.