Ron Washington gathered his players for what they thought would be another team meeting in a surprisingly dreary season.
Instead the Texas manager delivered the biggest shock of all: He was stepping down immediately.
Washington resigned Friday, saying he needed to devote his full attention to an “off-the-field personal matter.”
The announcement came a day after the injury-ravaged Rangers (53-87) lost their sixth straight game and became the first team in the majors mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Only three years ago, Texas reached its second consecutive World Series under Washington.
“It’s like losing your dad,” pitcher Derek Holland said. “I was extremely close with him. He’s taught me a lot both on and off the field and I didn’t see any of this coming at all. I’m lost for words.”
Washington issued a statement in which he said his resignation had nothing to do with the team’s record. He did not disclose any details of why he was leaving, but did give general manager Jon Daniels permission to say at a news conference that the move “was not drug-related.”
During spring training in 2010, it was disclosed that Washington had admitted to using cocaine once the previous year, but team executives stood by him. The manager got a two-year contract extension in 2012, then during spring training earlier this year had another season added through 2015.
“As painful as it is, stepping away from the game is what’s best for me and my family,” Washington said. “This is in no way related to the disappointing performance of the team this season. We were already discussing 2015 and looking forward to getting the Rangers back to postseason contention.”
Tim Bogar, who is in his first season as Washington’s bench coach, will be the interim manager. Daniels said the club “most likely” would open a managerial search after the season.
“It’s obviously not exactly how you want to become a manager for the first time, especially when you take over for a really good friend,” Bogar said. “He coached me in Triple-A, he basically taught me how to get to the big leagues, and then I was a colleague.”
Third baseman Adrian Beltre said he hadn’t noticed anything different in Washington in recent weeks, the time frame offered by Daniels for when Washington’s issue arose.
“It’s difficult trying to separate what was going on with him or the team,” Beltre said. “If you see a guy not being himself or not being happy, we’ve got plenty of reasons for not being happy here. So I couldn’t pick up if something was going on with him and I have no idea.”
When asked if people should be concerned for Washington or someone in his family, Daniels again would not get into specifics. The 62-year-old Washington is married, but has no children.
“I certainly think well-wishes and thoughts for him and his family are appropriate,” Daniels said.
The Rangers have been out of contention for months in a season so filled with injuries that they are the first team in major league history to use 60 players. That total reached 63 after two more pitchers made their major league debuts in a 10-2 loss to Seattle on Thursday night.
Of the primary additions last winter, slugger Prince Fielder missed most of the year after neck surgery and leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo was slowed all season by an ankle injury before an elbow issue shut him down for good.
Ace pitcher Yu Darvish is likely to finish the season on the disabled list because of right elbow inflammation. Left-handers Matt Harrison (back) and Martin Perez (elbow surgery) also are sidelined, and Holland didn’t make his first start until this week after injuring his knee tripping over his dog.
“This has been a difficult season for the team on the field for a variety of reasons, but it was very clear throughout the organization, publicly, privately, and with Ron, that he was coming back,” Daniels said. “We were planning on him to be back as our manager for 2015, and the bottom line is that you don’t have a season like we had without a number of things going wrong.”
Washington was hired after the 2006 season, replacing the fired Buck Showalter. The team’s winningest manager and the only one to lead the franchise to the World Series, Washington leaves with a 664-611 record (.521 winning percentage).
The hiring of Washington came a year after Daniels had become the youngest GM in major league history. Washington had been a coach the previous 11 seasons in Oakland, where he had been credited for developing the organization’s top infielders.
Washington was a skinny middle infielder who had more than twice as many games in the minors than the majors in 20 seasons as a professional player. He then spent four years as a minor league coach before his 11 seasons in Oakland.
“He means everything,” said shortstop Elvis Andrus, who made his big league debut at 20 without playing a game above Double-A. “I think he’s actually the reason that I always feel so comfortable here in the big leagues. He always had my back no matter what.”
Bobby Jones, an assistant hitting coach who has been with the organization for 27 years, will be Bogar’s bench coach.