The Texas Rangers try to Sweep Ron Washington's Drug Episode Under Their Well-Worn Rug
You would be fired.
No? Go ahead, try it. Walk into your boss' office this morning and tell him that during a recent business trip on the company dime you snorted cocaine. You were in Southern California with some friends just chillin'. Drinking beer and talking baseball and women and life when someone suggested amping things up with some coke and you, for the first and only time in your life, said, "Aw, what the hell" and partook.
In the following days you led your 25 employees, making a multitude of decisions that directly affected the success of the company and the wellbeing of its corporate fathers.
Tell them that, honestly, you're only freaked out now because corporate came along with a random drug test when you returned from the trip and you're certain you're going to fail. Apologize. Offer to resign.
You'd be gone by lunch, right? Your resignation would be accepted. At the very least, you'd be suspended. Some sort of discipline.
But what happened to the manager of the Texas Rangers? Nothing.
Ron Washington went to upper management with his admission last July—volunteering details of the incident only because he knew he was going to fail the Major League Baseball's drug test, mind you—and the Rangers responded by allowing him to not only retain his job but also keep the whole incident hush-hush.
Instead of coming clean, the Rangers played dirty. Again.
Shame on you, general manager Jon Daniels. And yes, for the first time, we're appalled by your actions too, team President Nolan Ryan.
"I fucked up," Washington told The Dallas Morning News last week from spring training in Surprise, Arizona. "I told Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels that, and I fully expected them to fire me. I would've deserved it."
The fact that the head coach of a professional sports franchise tested positive for cocaine is unprecedented. The fact that he wasn't disciplined—other than being tested three times a week as part of a drug treatment program—is appalling.
Washington should have been fired. On the spot.
But, of course, the Rangers rarely do things the easy way. And, when it comes to drug use, they seldom do things the right way.
After years of coddling steroid users like Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco and Alex Rodriguez, last January star outfielder and recovering drug addict Josh Hamilton fell off the wagon and into a night of partying with women and alcohol and whipped cream and without his shirt. The Rangers allowed Hamilton to play—and to not say a peep about the hiccup—until photos of the night hit the Internet a good seven months later.
In the wake of Washington's revelation last July, Daniels and Ryan met over three days and finally decided to stand by their manager. They considered terminating him, but ultimately decided he was a good man who simply made a bad decision.
"Initially there was shock, anger, disappointment," Daniels told me last week on KLLI-105.3 FM The Fan. "His behavior was unacceptable, but we determined that it wasn't going to be a recurring thing. We believed in Ron and still do."
I'm all for second chances. Dallas is full of pardoned athletes, from Michael Irvin to Josh Howard to Hamilton. But the clean slate needs to be earned. Screw-ups mandate consequences.
Whether or not you believe a man can have a first-and-only experience with cocaine at age 57, Washington shouldn't be offered leniency because of his position, but rather stricter guidelines. As the manager, he's held to a higher standard than the team's fans and even his players. He isn't paid to hit home runs or throw curve balls, but to lead young men and to make mature, savvy decisions.
Seems like common sense, but the guy who jeopardizes his career and your team for a line of coke shouldn't be the same decision-maker you trust to make a pitching change in the ninth inning with a playoff berth on the line.
We can be disappointed in Washington. But we should be disgusted by the Rangers.
The organization should've at the very least suspended Washington, if not last season then at the start of this one. In an ideal world, they would've yanked back the curtain last July and been honest with their ticket-buying customers.
Daniels said the team was bound by a "confidentiality clause" as it pertains to employee drug treatment. The team couldn't talk about it. But last week when someone—Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Randy Galloway suggests a disgruntled former employee tried to blackmail the team—leaked Washington's story to Sports Illustrated, how did that clause suddenly dissolve? If there truly was a privacy rule, the Rangers should have still been gagged into offering only a "No comment."
Instead there was Washington, reading a heartfelt statement of apology. And there were the Rangers—as in the Hamilton case—openly, albeit grudgingly, addressing a drug-related event only when their cover-up was blown.
No way around it, this is a slap in the face to Rangers fans. Your manager uses cocaine in the middle of a pennant race and management hopes it just quietly goes away? Go out to Rangers Ballpark for one of the team's family-night promotions, just don't expect to hear what's really going on with one of the most vital family leaders.
The Rangers never really lie. They just don't tell us the truth. They can no longer be trusted. Their accountability and credibility are severely, if not permanently, tarnished.
And it raises the question, "What else are they hiding?"
"There will be some criticism and disagreement with how this was handled with Ron and some of that is fair," Daniels said. "But moving forward we're convinced Ron will do all the right things, and hopefully our fans will agree we made the correct decisions."
During spring training a couple weeks ago, I encountered sunshine and rainbows and optimism. The feel-good thread of Rangers' camp flowed through new centerfielder Julio Borbon and new owner Chuck Greenberg and into Ryan's prediction of 92 wins and the team's first playoff berth this millennium.
But now we're left to question Washington (the day after his cocaine revelation he admitted to using marijuana and amphetamines as a player). We're pondering whether to boo our own manager on Opening Day April 5 in Arlington. We're guffawing at departing owner Tom Hicks' promise of "zero tolerance" moving forward with the manager. And we're scratching our head at how almost every upper-level manager in America would lose his job over this, save Washington.
Said Hamilton, "I don't think any less of the man or his character. I'm not worried about him. I got a little more respect for him today. To stand up there and admit to that in front of everybody is admirable."
Washington is guilty. But are Rangers fans really that gullible?
Seems what would be truly admirable would be Washington diligently, competently doing his job without the use of drugs. Take a bow, Wade Phillips, Rick Carlisle and Marc Crawford, for you toil away at your head-coaching job...sans cocaine.
Amazingly, the same cannot be said for Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington.
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