Woodward on Rangers' Urgency: "It's Like We're Entering August Tied for a Playoff Spot"
The typical baseball season is often described as a marathon. It's a six-month grind where games in April and May carry a different sense of urgency than down the stretch in August and September.
There isn't a manager's manual or handbook for navigating a 162-game season. And even if there was one, throw it out the window this year. Thanks to COVID-19 (and an assist from the MLB/MLBPA economic squabble), the 2020 season will be a two-month, 60-game season.
What's usually been described as a marathon is now being dubbed a sprint throughout the baseball world. Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward is embracing that mentality, putting his own unique spin on it.
"We’ve had three months now to discuss (it)," Woodward said in a Zoom call on Thursday. "When I say it's a sprint, I told the staff today, it's like we're entering August tied for a playoff spot. What would our mentality be in that situation?"
Now back in Texas, Chris Woodward is preparing his staff for that sprint. Even though he's entering only his second year as a manager, he's going to be put to the test due to the different dynamic a 60-game season brings instead of the typical 162 games. Having the pennant-race mentality will obviously affect the way he manages.
“In a typical season, you give guys the benefit of the doubt to figure things out," Woodward said. "We don’t have time for that this year. We have to hit the ground running. There is less rope for guys. We feel that way from a team standpoint and feel like guys have to approach it that way individually.”
The competition at first base could be a way that exemplifies how long of a rope Woodward gives his players. Ronald Guzman and Greg Bird will still have the first crack at the position, but the Rangers didn't forget how good Isiah Kiner-Falefa was during spring training. It forced Woodward's hand and was about to have Todd Frazier start taking grounders at first base before camp was suspended in March.
“I’m looking for consistency. Obviously, with Guzman and Bird, we’re still looking at those two guys to fill that role, but we have other options," Woodward said. "When we hit spring training (next week), like I said, there’s not a lot of rope for either guy. We’re going to need some production at that position. We’re going to need consistency. ... I want to see it right from the beginning—both of those guys coming to compete.”
In his first year as manager, Chris Woodward's mantra was process over results. It could be considered by some as a conflicting philosophy, but Woodward does not share that belief. The Rangers manager will still emphasize their process during this unique season, taking into account how his players were able to respond one way or another in 2019. Players like Joey Gallo took it and ran with it right away. Players like Rougned Odor took a little longer. Considering how good those players can be in short stretches, a 60-game season could play well into the Rangers' hands.
"I think it's even more important that players stick to what we started last year, in a shortened season. That's what they're going to look for from me," Woodward said. "We have to be even more vigilant from a statistical standpoint in valuing what we value to show those players. 'Hey man, don't get discouraged. I know there's only 60 games, but you're hitting the ball really hard, your at-bat quality is off the charts. We need you to keep doing that. Don't worry about looking up and seeing that you're hitting .210.' I think that's gotta be the message driven home to all these guys."