Legend says that when George Washington was a boy, he chopped down a cherry tree. Papa Washington wasn't too happy to find a felled cherry tree on his land and when he asked little Georgie about it, our founding father sang like a canary. The moral of the legend is that George Washington couldn't tell a lie.
Ron Washington, on the other hand, can tell a lie. At least I think so. Because I can't conceive of a remotely plausible scenario in which a fifty seven year old man decides to try cocaine for the first time in his life. And, according to Washington's explanation, that's exactly what happened last year, leading to his much ballyhooed positive test.
Yet, as Craig Calcaterra pointed out earlier this week, Major League Baseball had a very extensive cocaine problem in the late seventies and early eighties, with the Kansas City Royals being one of the most deeply involved teams. Washington came up through the Royals system in the early seventies. This doesn't make Washington guilty by association, but it does make it very likely that he faced far greater access and temptations during his impressionable youth than he did as grizzled baseball lifer some time last year.
Virtually every Washington story that's filtered through my Google Reader over the past several days has centered on the question of how big of a deal is this? Unscientifically, the majority of what I've read (or my memory of it at least) posits that it's not a very big deal.
I don't want to play the morality police here, but I think this kind of is a big deal. Yes, Washington is a grown man. Yes, he is more than free to make his own decisions. But decisions have consequences, and right or wrong, Washington's decision was in violation of the law and was in violation of his contract with his employer. If I'm Nolan Ryan or Jon Daniels, I'd want to think long and hard about whether Ron Washington is the guy I want running my team.
That isn't to say that Washington doesn't deserve a second chance or that what he did was terribly wrong in the first place. But as I said above, I'm having a hard time believing that this was one time incident. If Washington endeavors to take a risk like that from time to time, I don't know that I want him calling the shots for my club. Managers have very little impact on what happens between the lines anyway, so unless Washington is some sort of managerial genius, why take the risk of continuing to have him steer the ship? Washington is a guy who was within a hair's breadth of getting fired in 2008 anyway.
That said, this all should really be a dead issue at this point. According to his statement to the press Wednesday, Washington offered his resignation when the positive test came in last year. Ryan and Daniels allegedly weighed the situation, decided to keep Washington, and were fully supportive of him as he went through and completed MLB's treatment program. All parties should be commended for their actions as far as all of that is concerned.
So why then is this a story some eight months or so after it happened? If you want to believe one of the more salacious rumors out there, it's because a disgruntled former Rangers employee was trying to blackmail the team and subsequently leaked the story when his demands were not met. If true, it would mark the first time ever that Jon Heyman got a scoop leaked from someone other than Scott Boras.
And I think that is what bothers me most about this whole situation. Far beyond the morality play unfolding, here is yet another instance of where a drug test - essentially a medical record - which is both collectively bargained and federally mandated to be kept confidential, has been leaked to the press for character assassination purposes. Just as it was in the BALCO trial with Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield. And just as it was with the 2003 survey testing that has seen Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz, and others called before the court of public opinion.
No matter which side you're on as it relates to steroids, or cocaine for that matter, I think everyone should be a little uneasy that these stories are made public because someone leaked information that was supposed to be confidential. And I think everyone should be particularly uneasy when that someone, as in the BALCO and Club 103 situations, is about ninety nine percent certain to be a Federal Agent.
And with that, I'm going to double check my income tax filing and make sure everything is in order. Enjoy the weekend Fackers. Who knew managers were subjected to drug testing?
The Big Hurt
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