Hiring Ron Washington as 3B coach a strong move by Braves

The move got overshadowed Tuesday by the big news of Brian Snitker returning as Braves manager — sans “interim” label — and hiring of new pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, but the addition of Ron Washington as third-base coach could end up being an important move for the Braves and particularly for young infielders such as Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies.

Braves infielders already had former National League MVP Terry Pendleton at their disposal, and now, with Pendleton returning in the bench-coach role he assumed when Snitker took over as interim manager May 17, adding Washington to the mix looks like something of a creative master stroke by Braves officials.

Ron Washington was highly regarded for his work with Oakland infielders before he became a Rangers manager. He served again as A's third-base coach last season, now will have that role with the Braves in 2017. (AP file photo)

Ron Washington was highly regarded for his work with Oakland infielders before he became a Rangers manager. He served again as A’s third-base coach last season, now will have that role with the Braves in 2017. (AP file photo)

Before his nearly eight full seasons as manager of the Rangers through early Sept. 2014, Washington,  was a former third-base coach and highly regarded infield coach. A former major league infielder himself, “Wash” was so good at the infield-coaching duties with strong Oakland defensive teams that former six-time Gold Glove winner Eric Chavez once gave him one of his Gold Gloves as a token of appreciation.

But it was believed that Washington was only a candidate for the Braves managerial job, and if he didn’t get it he’d pursue another or go back to being third-base coach with the Athletics, where’s he’d spent much of his career as a player and coach. He was the A’s third-base coach last season.

However, somewhere along the way during their conversations with Washington, Braves executives came to the conclusion that he might be a fit for them even if they decided to go with another manager. Washington, a New Orleans native known around baseball as “Wash,” was receptive to the idea.

Some history for those who might not be aware or perhaps forgot: Washington resigned as Rangers manager on Sept. 5, 2014, to devote more time to his wife after admitting to an extramarital affair. The A’s hired him in May 2015 as an extra coach to work with infielders, but he couldn’t be in the dugout during games until two months later after replacing fired A’s third-base coach Mike Gallego. He spent the 2016 season in that role and worked with A’s infielders.

But again, when he came to Atlanta last week to interview, everyone in Oakland and, presumably, everyone in Atlanta thought it was for the managerial post only. So the announcement Tuesday that he’d been hired as third-base coach was a surprise to just about everybody outside the offices of the two teams.

“There wasn’t any (initial) thought to have him” as third-base coach, Braves general manager John Coppolella said. “He got very strong managerial consideration. It just happened where, as we spoke to Oakland, credit to (Athletics executive vice president of baseball operations) Billy Beane and to (general manager) David Forst — these guys told us, ‘We just want Wash to be happy, we just want good things for Wash.’ These guys took a chance on Wash when he was out of the game, to help get him back.

“When he wanted to go for this opportunity so he could be closer to home, so he could get on a new adventure, those guys (Beane and Forst) didn’t stand in his way. Those are two high-character guys who really did a selfless thing all the way around with Ron Washington. We’re very happy to have Wash, we think he’s going to bring a lot of energy, he’s going to help out infielders, he’s going to help out base runners. This guy brings off-the-charts energy, dedication, everything. This guy is a really nice add for us. We’re thrilled to have him as part of our team.”

To give you a better idea of  how well-regarded Washington was in Oakland, here’s part of what veteran A’s writer Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about his decision to go to the Braves:

According to sources, the A’s matched the Braves’ offer to Washington, but he wanted to be close to his family in Louisiana. Washington lives in New Orleans in the offseason.

“This is a unique professional opportunity for Wash, which allows him to be closer to his family in New Orleans,” A’s vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane said in a statement. “His professionalism and enthusiasm have left an indelible mark on everyone in our organization. We are all excited for him and wish him the best.”

Washington has made no secret of the fact that he would like to manage again, and it was unlikely to happen in Oakland, where Bob Melvin is firmly in place and where Washington was passed over for the manager’s job in 2003. Washington took Texas to the World Series in 2010 and 2011.

Washington’s focus after rejoining the A’s in 2015 was shortstop Marcus Semien, who set an Oakland record with 35 errors last season. Under Washington’s tutelage, Semien reduced that to 21 errors this season.

“Tm happy for Wash and wish him the best,” Melvin said Tuesday. “The time we had with him was terrific and he and I became very close. He did a great job with our infielders. Marcus Semien in particular is the obvious one.”

Semien said Tuesday that he has formed a close bond with Washington, but he emphasized that Washington’s work with all the team’s infielders was important. “He was great for everyone,” Semien said. “He was out there every day from the first day of spring training on, out on the back field before games, after games. I’ve never seen a coach work that hard before.

“Our relationship really grew as I really started to understand what he was teaching. It took a while, but he kept assuring me I would get better and that one day it would come a little easier, and it did.”

• OK, I’ll close with this tune for “Wash,” who’s coming home to New Orleans, or at least a lot closer than he was before. It’s the great Dr. John, with help from some of his many friends including the Neville Brothers.

“GOIN’ BACK HOME TO NEW ORLEANS”

Dr. John

Dr. John

Goin’ back home, fe nan e’
To the land of the beautiful queen
Goin back to home to my baby
Goin’ back to New Orleans

On the double, here comes the Neville Brothers!

Seeing na-na, my parin,
Couzine and my ma and pa
Want to plant my feet on Rampart Street
Be there for the Mardi Gras

Goin’ back home, fe nan e’
And never more will I roam
Goin get me fill of that etoufee
Cuz New Orleans is my home

Is that a jumbo jet?
No, that’s Big Al comin’ to put a hurt on you

On the level, there’s Charlie Neville

Get some crawfish, jambalaya
Red beans and fine pralines
Get some lovin’ that gonna satisfy
Home in New Orleans

Goin’ back home, fe nan e’
In the land of the Carnival Queen
I’m goin’ back home to my baby
Goin’ back to New Orleans

I want go back home
Back where I’m little known
Yeah, home, boss
You’re home sweet home.

Here come Pete Fountain

I want to see some
On that Mardi Gras queen
Good red beans
Baby, I want to go back home
Home, sweet home
Home back to New Orleans

Goin’ back home, fe nan e’
In the land of the Carnival Queen
I’m goin’ back home to my baby
Goin’ back to New Orleans


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