Commentary

A turnaround of biblical proportions

Hallelujah! The Texas Rangers believe, and are a championship team again at last.

Updated: September 30, 2010, 3:21 PM ET
By Jim Reeves | ESPNDallas.com

I wasn't expecting a sermon about the Texas Rangers at church last weekend, and truth be told, that's not the message the minister was trying to convey. It's just that there were a few of us heathens in the congregation who somehow manage to relate almost everything to baseball.

Don't get excited. This isn't a religious column by any means. It's just that when the pastor started talking about serving others and how at the Last Supper Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, my mind drifted to Michael Young.

[+] EnlargeMichael Young
Kyle Terada/US PresswireMichael Young was the first player to buy into Ron Washington's philosophy, and has helped convert others to the manager's message.

A stretch you say?

Maybe so. But I think a case could be made that Young has been washing some dirty feet in Dallas for most of the last decade. He's been giving ... and giving ... and giving for so long that it has become a way of life.

Like most everyone else, when I saw the video of the Rangers celebrating on the field and in the visiting clubhouse in Oakland last weekend, the face I looked for was Young's. I wanted to see the joy in his eyes and the smile on his face.

What I saw was a man who clearly wanted to be sure that all of his teammates were enjoying the moment as much as he was. What I saw was a clubhouse full of Youngs.

When I asked myself why this Rangers team won a division championship when so many others, some of them good teams, failed miserably, the answer was right there in front of my nose.

Sure, there are plenty of tangible reasons why the Rangers won: better pitching, better defense, better situational hitting.

But the intangibles have been there, too, and they've been as important. The sermon that the Rev. Ron Washington began preaching from the moment he arrived in Texas was teamwork wins championships, and it has finally been heard, accepted and put into practice.

His first disciple of that principal and the epitome of Washington's philosophy is Young.

[+] EnlargeRon Washington
AP Photo/Donna McWilliamManager Ron Washington has helped change the culture with the Texas Rangers, preaching teamwork and intangibles. "All I was asking them to do was respect the game, do what the game asks them to do and the results would take care of themselves," he said.

"We had to come in and change the culture," Washington said Wednesday afternoon just before the Rangers closed out their three-game series with Seattle. "Everyone in the organization had to change the way we think about ourselves.

"I always felt like there was a certain way to play the game and you have to respect the game. All I was asking them to do was respect the game, do what the game asks them to do and the results would take care of themselves."

It took awhile for Washington's message to get through to everyone, but from the beginning Young was on his side, not just verbally with his teammates but more importantly with his actions.

This is a player who twice surrendered positions he loved because his team asked him to move for someone else who could make the team better. This is a man who showed his teammates a little about toughness last season when he insisted on playing with broken fingers.

"Michael has been here forever," Washington said. "He's a lifer for the Texas Rangers, and he's been waiting for this moment for a long time.

"He kept a group of young guys committed to doing what needed to be done every single day -- go out there, respect the game, play nine innings. Without his leadership I don't think we'd be where we are right now and have this opportunity to bring a world championship to Texas."

One disciple isn't enough, of course. The whole team eventually had to fall in line and not just accept Washington's message about teamwork but be willing to do what it took to put it into play, even if that meant sacrificing individual glory.

[+] EnlargeDavid Murphy
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesSince Josh Hamilton left the lineup with a rib injury, David Murphy has come off the bench to provide a much-needed spark. "I don't know where we'd be without David Murphy," manager Ron Washington said.

David Murphy, for example, had to get on board. To go all biblical again, if Young i s Washington's Peter, Murphy has been his John.

Murphy has been a phenomenal player off the bench for Washington, giving this team a critical lift by stepping in over the last month while Josh Hamilton has been injured. There aren't many bench players in baseball who can go from riding the pine to hitting third in a potent lineup, but Murphy has not only done that, he's done it almost as well as Hamilton was doing it.

"Murphy is a professional and a great teammate," Washington said. "All Murphy wanted to do was win. I told him in spring training I would get him at-bats if he would just work and be a part of the team.

"It's worked out for him and for us. I don't where we'd be without David Murphy."

Or Neftali Feliz, Tommy Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero, C.J. Wilson andNelson Cruz. Name your own favorite Rangers player and chances are, he belongs on this list.

"Bringing in Clint Hurdle (as hitting coach) was huge," Murphy explained. "I'm a big fan of Rudy's (Jaramillo). Love him. Rudy helped me take a huge step from maybe sticking in the big leagues to being a big-leaguer.

"But Clint has helped me look at a lot of different aspects of the game, to be a better situational hitter. Overall as an offense, he has preached the unselfish approach and how so much can be accomplished when nobody cares who gets the credit."

There it is again, the theme of unselfishness and teamwork. It permeates this Rangers team, and along with all those tangible things that are so easy to spot it's what sets this team apart from those that could never, ever get this far.

"Billy Martin told me something a long time ago that's stuck with me," bench coach Jackie Moore remembered. "He said, 'Pards, take care of the little things and the big things will fall in place, whether it's in baseball, life, whatever.'

"In baseball, it's getting a bunt down. It's putting the ball in play to move a runner. It's executing the hit and run. Here, for the first time in Texas maybe, the bunt has become a play, the sacrifice is a strategy, the hit-and-run is executed regularly."

It truly is a different team; a championship team again at last.

Can't wait to hear the sermon on the Sunday after the Rangers actually win a playoff series. We may just have to elevate some folks to sainthood.

Do I hear an amen?

Jim Reeves, a former columnist with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is a regular contributor to ESPNDallas.com.

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