Walking through the park and reminiscing.
Kansas City signed 18-year-old Ron Washington as a catcher but raised him as a shortstop-second baseman-third baseman. He spent six seasons there, reaching Class AA the last two, where he saw most of his playing time at second base.
Those two years, Wash’s fellow Royals Baseball Academy graduate Frank White was breaking in as the club’s utility infielder and then settling in as its regular second baseman.
Wash was blocked at second by White, who was just a year and a half older. But shortstop Freddie Patek was on the wrong side of 30.
Was Wash frustrated?
The Royals traded him in 1976 to the Dodgers for a player you’ve never heard of.
Wash played in 154 AA games and 116 AAA games in the Los Angeles system. He reached the big leagues in September 1977, getting 20 plate appearances in 10 games. He hit .368 and struck out only twice in 19 at-bats.
But he wouldn’t get back to Los Angeles in 1978. In fact, that brief opportunity in September 1977 (during which the Dodgers maintained a double-digit-game lead over the rest of the NL West) turned out to be the only big league action Wash would see in his four years with the club.
If you think the Rangers have an infield that never sits, take a look sometime at how often second baseman Davey Lopes, shortstop Bill Russell, and third baseman Ron Cey took a day off from 1976 through 1979. The primary utility infielder during that stretch was the anemic Ted Martinez, a secret admirer of Freddie Patek’s offensive prowess.
Was Wash discouraged?
The Dodgers went so far as to loan Wash to the Mets for the entire 1979 season. At age 29 he spent all year in AAA, backing up 21-year-old third baseman Jose Moreno and 21-year-old shortstop Mario Ramirez.
(Yes, that Jose Moreno. And that Mario Ramirez.)
Was Wash disgruntled?
The Dodgers formally moved Wash the next spring training, trading him to the Twins for a player you’ve never heard of.
On largely bad Minnesota teams from 1980 through 1986, Wash mostly sat on the bench for managers Gene Mauch and Johnny Goryl and Billy Gardner and Ray Miller and Tom Kelly. (He did get into 119 games for Gardner’s 102-loss club in 1982, but he didn’t lead the club in starts at any one position.) He also played in 301 AAA games during that seven-year span.
Just as Oakland passed over Wash several times for manager while he was on its coaching staff, lots of shortstops and second basemen and third basemen were given chances to start for the Twins while Wash was a player there.
Did he think he deserved a chance to play more? Did he think there were veteran starters on those clubs whom the manager was too locked into?
Minnesota General Managers Calvin Griffith and Howard Fox and Andy MacPhail believed Wash belonged on the roster. It was up to Mauch and Goryl and Gardner and Miller and Kelly to decide when he played. I suspect it was less frequent an opportunity than the confident infielder believed he deserved.
Was he mad?
Was he right?
Did it matter?
Does he remember?