Friday, March 19, 2010

Thoughts On Washington

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?

Tourney Time

We're not big basketball fans here at Fack Youk, but it's hard to ignore the magnetism of the NCAA Tournament. If nothing else, it's a good excuse to waste time at work during the early games and fill out a bracket (strictly for bragging rights of course). It's nice to have something in the sporting landscape to waste our time until baseball starts, as the remainder of the tournament will carry us clear through to Opening Day.

We're smack in the middle of two of the best days of the sporting year, with sixteen more games on tap for today and tonight. D.J. Mitchell's Clemson faces Chad Jenning's Missouri at 2:35, Mark Teixeira's Georgia Tech has prospect Neil Medchill's Oklahoma State at 7:15, and Nick Swisher's Ohio St. tips off against UC Santa Barbara at 9:35. And of course Big Willie Style's beloved "Sycasuse" plays Vermont at 9:30.

Not wanting to expose how little we know about college hoops, Jay and I decided against having a public pool here. But we are both in a pool with some friends of mine, and we both had a rough first day. I went a measley 9 for 16 yesterday, good for a three way tie for fourth place, while Jay (and his aptly-named 'Aggressively Mediocre' bracket) hit just .500, is in last place, and lost one of his Final Four teams when Georgetown spit the bit last night. I narrowly avoided the same fate when 'Nova pulled it out against the Robert Morris School of Cosmetology and Hair Dressing.

How about the rest of you Fackers out there? Anyone go perfect yesterday? Anyone's bracket completely busted already? Did anyone else spell "Syracuse" incorrectly?

Meanwhile, at 5 PM tonight a tournament in which I am far more interested will continue, as the Hockey East semi-finals take place at Boston's TD Bank Garden. In the early game, two seed BC will take on eight seed Vermont. The Catamounts upset number one seed New Hampshire in a best of three series last weekend. Last month, Vermont dismissed second leading scoring Justin Milo, who happens to be a 2009 Yankee draft pick and turned in a decent season at Staten Island last summer. In the nightcap three seed BU will take on four seed Maine. You all know who I'll be pulling for in the first game. A meteor could drop on center ice in the second game for all I care; I can't decide which of those teams I like less.

Whichever your sport, enjoy the games.

The Most Undah-rated Linkaround Evah!

Here are a few things to check out before you really begin hoarding your company's bandwidth and submarining its productivity:
Alex Speir of WEEI wants to know why the rest of the country doesn't appreciate Kevin Youkilis for the haaahd-working, ovah-achieving supahstah he is. WHEN WILL YOU FACKS EVAH GIVE YOUK THE CREDIT HE IS DUE??!

If you are planning on buying Yankee tickets when they go on sale at noon today, be sure to check out the Ticketmaster tips from Ross at NYY Stadium Insider.

Nate Silver's projections say that Jeter will hit .286 this year and Allen Barra of the Village Voice infers that the Yanks are doomed if he's right... CRUCIFY THEM BOTH!

Speaking of the Captain, it appeared that he might have tweaked his throwing hand on a diving stop last night night, but according to him, it's fine and he'll play today against the Tigers at 1:05.

Joel Sherman says that it's "almost certain" that the Yankees will trade either Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin before the season begins. Gaudin seems to have more value as a swingman but also has a higher salary. Just depends on who they select as a trading partner, I suppose.

Patrick Sullivan over at The Baseball Analysts continues their Stakeholders series with five questions for Bronx Banter's Cliff Corcoran about the Yankees.

Greg Fertel from Pending Pinstripes did the math on the concept of bullpen chaining I brought up in my post about the 5th starer. Click through to see how much sending Joba to AAA would cost the MLB club.

Mike Vaccaro of the Post talked to Mark Teixeira about the pressures of playing in New York. It's the typical "playing in New York is so much more difficult and important that playing anywhere else" piece, but I still enjoyed this line:
Nobody ever wonders if a linebacker "has the makeup to make it in New Orleans." No one ever ponders if a power forward can become "a Portland guy." Or if a goalie has what it takes to make it in Buffalo.
Prospect maven John Sickels interviewed Yankees Senior Vice President Mark Newman. Topics include Slade Heathcott, Andrew Brackman, Jesus Montero, Pat Venditte, and Jeremy Bleich (pronounced "Bleish").

Geoff Baker did an interesting video interview with Bill James which included some reader/viewer questions. As always, James gives frank and interesting answers but this time you have visual confirmation that he is not a robot.

DRay's Bay wonders if the number of batters hit by pitches is in decline.

Is the hype around Aroldis Chapman enhanced by the fact he comes from the magical and mysterious island of Cuba? Tim Marchman believes so. Marchman also believes that it's ridiculous for baseball to be drug testing it's managers. We may or may not have some more thoughts on the Ron Washington Saga in the near future.

Jeff Zimmerman at Beyond the Box Score used spray charts as a way of examining wrist injuries. If nothing else, it's a nice reminder of how much David Ortiz sucked at the beginning of last year.
We'll be back with more in a little bit.

A Bronx Tale For Dukes?

Good morning Fackers. Just two weeks and two days until Opening Night. Spring Training is starting to wind down. The guys with the defensive end numbers are getting shipped off to minor league camp; the regulars are sticking around a little longer in the games; Joe Girardi has said that results are starting to matter, and The Most Important Fifth Starter Competition In The History Of Mankind could be decided as early as Sunday.

As we've mentioned a few other times this Spring, aside from that fifth starter spot there are really just two competitions in camp: the utility infielder spot and the fifth outfielder spot. The former is being fought out amongst four young infielders on the Yankees' forty man roster while the latter is being contested between Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffmann and non-roster invitee Marcus Thames.

On Wednesday, an interesting wrinkle emerged in the fifth outfielder spot storyline, as the Washington Nationals released Elijah Dukes. Before I could dig myself out from under a mountain of work or tear myself away from a plate of corned beef, our friends at RAB, TYU*, BBD, and the Yankeeist all asked the obvious question for us Yankee fans: should the Yankees consider Dukes?

*Bonus points to TYU for the outstanding Dukes of Hazzard reference.

Rather than cover the same ground that our esteemed colleagues have already touched upon, allow me to give a brief overview like the one Rob Neyer did:
Dukes will turn just 26 this year; is cost controlled; has an option left; is immensely talented; is capable of playing all three outfield positions; is the type of right handed bat the Yankees are seeking for a reserve outfield role, and turned in an outstanding half season for Washington in 2008.

His off the field problems have been well-documented; is quite possibly bat-shit crazy; has been dumped by two talent-poor teams over the past 27 months; had a poor 2009, and outside of his 2008 season has been rather unremarkable over the course of his three year Big League career.
Do the assets outweigh the liabilities? I don't know. My gut feeling is that the potential upside for Dukes is not worth the risk involved. Between the lines, he appears to be a more compelling option than both Hoffmann and Thames, not to mention Randy Winn and potentially even Brett Gardner. But should the Yankees be willing to take on Dukes and his baggage to fill what amounts to the 24th or 25th spot on the roster?

And why should we assume that Dukes, who has seemingly reached the make or break point of his career before his twenty sixth birthday, would be willing to accept a bench role with the Yankees at a time when his career appears to be on the line? For that matter, why should we assume, in spite of what the Nats are saying, that if Dukes' act had worn too thin for the Major Leagues' worst club that he would pass muster with any other club?

Whether the next chapter of Dukes' tale unfolds in the Bronx or not, situations like this always cause me to think of A Bronx Tale: the saddest thing in life is wasted talent. Dukes has a load of talent, but he's running out of chances to develop and showcase it. If he ends up being remembered for what he could have been rather than what he was, it would be a very poor story indeed.

(Yes, this post was in large part a vehicle to embed a sweet black and white video of Delaney and Bonnie with Eric Clapton. You can see a more complete version, featuring Traffic's Dave Mason and Derek and the Dominoes' Bobby Whitlock, here. And of course I'd be remiss if I also didn't include a link to the Black Crowes' version as well.)