Underachieving Rangers fire manager Woodward

1:47 PM ET

  • Jeff PassanESPN


      ESPN MLB insider
      Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”

The Texas Rangers fired manager Chris Woodward on Monday amid a season of dissatisfactory progress despite the investment of more than a half-billion guaranteed dollars in the free agent market over the winter, the team announced.

The Rangers occupy third place in the American League West with a 51-63 record. Woodward, after his fourth consecutive year with a losing mark, will be replaced by third-base coach Tony Beasley, who has been named interim manager through the remainder of the 2022 season.

“We did not come into this season thinking we had put together a championship roster,” Jon Daniels, the team’s president of baseball operations, said. “We thought we’d taken a major step forward in talent from where we were a year ago. We’ve certainly had aspirations maybe to overachieve some and still do have those, but we were, and continue to be, realistic about where we are. … That said, we did think that we’d be better than our record, and better than the way that we’ve played at times.”

The additions of Corey Seager — with whom Woodward was close from his days as a Los Angeles Dodgers coach — Marcus Semien and Jon Gray this past winter heightened expectations following a 60-102 season in 2021. While the Rangers have played far better this year, with a run differential near even, their 6-24 record in one-run games would be the second-worst single-season winning percentage in such finishes since 1900, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

“I think it’s just the overall structure, the environment,” general manager Chris Young said. “It’s not necessarily the content of the preparation, but the way it’s utilized. The way we utilize meetings, the way we utilize different resources throughout the day, creating a structure that’s really tailored towards winning a game every single day when we come in, and we felt like at times that got a little loose.”

Texas in November gave Woodward a contract extension that covered the 2023 season and included a 2024 option. The Rangers hired Woodward in November 2018 after coaching stints with Seattle and the Dodgers that followed a 12-year career as a utilityman.

He arrived in Texas to replace Jeff Banister, who had won division titles in his first two seasons after replacing Ron Washington but struggled to a last-place finish in 2018. The Rangers hoped Woodward would stabilize the role as the organization transitioned through a rebuild, which produced a better-than-expected start in 2019 as Texas went 78-84. But last-place finishes in the shortened COVID-19 season and last year prompted the Rangers to accelerate their timetable in the open market.

While they have one of the deepest farm systems in baseball, adding Seager at $325 million and Semien at $175 million to form their half-billion-dollar middle infield was the move meant to thrust the Rangers into at least near contention. Seager’s and Semien’s slow starts have abated — they’ve combined for nearly six wins above replacement — but Texas’ pitching ranks among the league’s bottom third in ERA and fielding independent pitching.

The new manager inherits a Rangers team with plenty to dream on — particularly if the team hits the free agent market this winter with money to spend and a starting pitcher to acquire. The Rangers considered multiple options at the trade deadline, including trading for starting pitching and even going after Juan Soto, but they held on to a farm system that features a wide array of talent at the top levels. With Seager and Semien, center fielder Adolis Garcia, catcher Jonah Heim, Gray — and perhaps left-hander Martin Perez, with whom the Rangers have discussed an extension — a core Texas can build around exists.

Finding a manager to bring the best out of the club in a division with a Houston Astros team that’s perpetually competitive and a Seattle Mariners team on the rise is now the goal. Texas revamped its coaching staff over the winter, and now comes the most important hire yet in a manager the organization hopes can accomplish what Woodward didn’t: a return to the glory days of 2010 through 2016, when the Rangers made the playoffs five times in seven years.

For now, Beasley is in charge as the club looks to build some momentum headed into the offseason. In his debut, Semien homered, rookie Bubba Thompson had a tiebreaking RBI single and the Rangers outlasted the Oakland Athletics 2-1 on Monday. Texas now has its first three-game winning streak in more than two months — since June 11-13.

“He has all the attributes that we’re looking for,” Daniels said of Beasley. “He has the respect of the staff, the respect of the players. He’s an intelligent baseball veteran, who’s won at the minor league level, performed in a variety of roles, both here and elsewhere. … He’s the right person for us as we move forward.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.