ARLINGTON, Texas -- Now comes the easy part for the Texas Rangers' Ron Washington, first-time All-Star manager.
He's sifted through all the statistics, analyzed all the top players in the American League and made his final roster selections for the July 12 All-Star Game in Phoenix. He explained his reasons and defended his decisions Sunday to the media and a national television audience. All that remains is filling out the lineup card and managing the game.
That part has Washington very excited.
"You dream of the type of team you'd like to have fantasy-wise. Well, I just got a fantasy team, although it's real," Washington said. "I think it's as talented a group that you could put together. Each one of them brings a different aspect of the game. And more than that, the whole group are winners."
Washington said he's thankful to get the opportunity to put together an impressive roster.
"It was fun simply because you have a choice of the cream of the crop of the whole league," Washington said. "The experience for me is something I will never forget. I will always cherish it.
"The fans and the players, they did all the work of putting it together and I think they did a fantastic job."
Washington has a full appreciation of what an All-Star Game victory can mean to the American League team in the World Series. The National League's victory in Anaheim last year gave the San Francisco Giants the home-field advantage over Texas in the 2010 Fall Classic. The Rangers lost that series in five games.
"It's not just a game for show," Washington said. "I think we all want to go out there and represent and I think the best way to represent is to go out there and play the very best game that's presented to us and win it.
"I'll do my part by making sure I have the work set up for them to do to get prepared. Then after that, I'm going to get out their way and watch them and enjoy it."
Does that mean Washington will use signs, put runners on the move and manage the game as he would in the regular season?
"I think I'll keep that in the clubhouse and keep everyone guessing," Washington said as a slight smile came across his face.
Washington's selections hint at a manager intent on winning. He wanted more left-handed pitching, opting for C.J. Wilson and David Price. He went with Jose Valverde, who has experience in the pressure situations of the late innings. To get those pitchers on the team, Washington didn't attempt to maneuver things to add Paul Konerko or Mark Teixeira or other hitters with good numbers. He's trying to win the game and knows having the ability to have pitchers he can use as situational lefties late can be an advantage in doing that.
Washington's mission in an All-Star Game is to make sure the players have fun but understand that the outcome matters. That plays to his strengths. It's the way he approaches his daily job with the Rangers, keeping the mood light when he can but making sure his players know when it's time to get down to business. The Rangers were a loose bunch that enjoyed themselves during the playoff run in 2010 but knew the job they had to do.
That's what Washington will try to do in the short time he has with his talented AL team.
"I'm just going to look at it as a team and I want us to play as such," Washington said. "I'm not individualizing any organization or players."
Washington said he hasn't put together a lineup yet and is focused on the Rangers finishing the final week of the season strong to take a little momentum into the All-Star break. But some decisions, he said, don't require a lot of thought. Asked who would close a one-run game in the ninth, Washington didn't hesitate.
"Mariano Rivera," Washington said. "That's easy."
Washington knows he could face some difficult decisions next Tuesday, but he's looking forward to the challenge of trying to win home-field advantage, something that might help his own team in a few months.
"It's been quite an experience," Washington said. "I've learned a lot. Now that we're here, it's all about the All-Stars."
So Washington has made his picks and will now get ready to pack his bags for Arizona. He hopes to secure home-field advantage for the American League with a win and, in the process, maybe help his own team in a few months.
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.