- Roy S. Johnson, Contributing writer, ESPN.com
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Ron Washington isn't supposed to be here. Not managing the Texas Rangers in the postseason. Not managing anyone, really.
Nor is Dusty Baker.
Joe Girardi, either.
So said the Hot Seat Gods, those ubiquitous voices that fill the Ethernet with dictums all day every day. The Hot Seat Gods have no offseason.
Only four weeks of NFL games have been played this season, but the HSGs have already deemed myriad coaches to be on a very crowded Hot Seat: Wade Phillips of the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, Ken Whisenhunt of Arizona, San Francisco's Mike Singletary, Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio, the New York Giants' Tom Coughlin, Carolina's John Fox -- and even Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin, who was supposedly on the Hot Seat before 2010 began for daring not to make the playoffs last season.
Not a single national anthem has been played in the NBA's 2010-11 regular season, and yet the Hot Seat Gods have already deemed a plethora of head coaches to be, at the very least, on a seat that is quite warm. Among them: Rick Carlisle in Dallas, Flip Saunders in Washington, John Kuester in Detroit, Indiana's Jim O'Brien and the Knicks' Mike D'Antonio.
The HSGs are cruel and unforgiving, but they say they have your best interests at heart. They say they only do it for you.
They put coaches (and an occasional front-office guy) on the Hot Seat because it's all their fault. The team's malaise rests at their feet, and they don't deserve to stay in their jobs.
Sometimes, that's true. Mets manager Jerry Manual and VP/GM Omar Minaya had run their course in New York. They'd been living on the Hot Seat so long they'd paid off its mortgage. It was time for them to go.
Pittsburgh's John Russell knew his job came with a Hot Seat before he took the gig, and he was finally relieved of his misery Monday. As was Milwaukee's Ken Macha.
Before you've finished reading this column, a couple more managers are likely to go, too.
Yet the Hot Seat Gods are idiots, and the Hot Seat is the biggest cliché in sports.
First, every coach, manager and general manager sits on a seat that is tepid, at minimum. And sure, coaches and executives often are under fire, facing pressure to win today and tomorrow or go home. (Though it's absurd that Phillips apparently had to beat the Texans two Sundays ago to save his gig.) But just as often, they're not -- at least not to the degree(s) deemed by the Hot Seat Gods.
Sports is mired in a fire-the-coach mentality, and it's unfortunate. It's reactionary, pack-like and usually short-sighted.
The Rangers' Washington epitomizes why the Hot Seat Gods are often wrong -- why firing the coach or manager or executive isn't always the right move. If they'd had their way, the 58-year-old manager would have been fired at least three times since he was hired in Arlington four seasons ago with a low-profile resume as a position coach.
Those kinds of guys arrive in town with a Hot Seat already in tow, and they usually fry on it. Most often, they never get another chance to manage again. (See: Willie Randolph.)
Washington's last Hot Seat moment occurred six months ago during spring training when Jon Heyman of SI.com reported that the manager had tested positive for cocaine in the summer of 2009.
The HSGs said he was toast. And yet, he's still in the Texas dugout, not only managing the Rangers against the Tampa Bay Rays in an ALDS starting Wednesday, but also as a leading candidate to be named AL Manager of the Year.
That he wasn't fired amidst the storm that followed the drug test revelation is testament to the cooler heads that run the Rangers -- general manager Jon Daniels and president Nolan Ryan. They knew about the test, of course; Washington, under the weight of much guilt, had come to them about his transgression even before he learned the results of the test.
"Ultimately, we decided we believe in the guy, as a human being and a manager," Daniels recently told MLB.com. "Once he took the steps he took, we felt the best thing was to put our arms around him, support him and make sure he got whatever help he may need given the circumstances, and try to move on."
The Rangers players also didn't buy into the Hot Seat frenzy. They stood by their manager. The result was a 90-72 record, good enough to win the AL West.
And now they have the look of a World Series favorite among a group of AL teams, none of which particularly distinguished themselves during the final weeks of the regular season. Their rotation of Cliff Lee, Colby Lewis, Tommy Hunter and C.J. Wilson is arguably the best among the AL teams still standing.
Their combined ERA is 3.47. None of the other three teams comes close. (Tampa Bay's is 3.96, the Yankees' is 3.97, and the Twins' is 4.24.)
Now it's up to Washington to manage the weaponry he helped groom through the myriad hot spells he faced.
It's time to cool the Hot Seat and just play ball.