Major League Baseball has a real knack for standing under black clouds and refusing umbrellas.
Just when the nation was beginning to think the league drug-testing policy was working, a story breaks about Ron Washington testing positive for cocaine in 2009 and receiving no punishment.
The Texas Rangers manager says that as soon as he found out he would be drug-tested last July, he informed league officials and team ownership that he had made a “mistake.”
He offered to tender his resignation upon meeting with team president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels. However, the league did not discipline Washington, and the team not only declined his offer of resignation, they did not even suspend him.
Instead, they referred Washington to counseling and issued more frequent drug testing on the 57-year-old manager.
He has passed every drug test since his original positive, and he maintains that the cocaine use was a one-time mistake. But around the league community, and on a broader scale nationwide, heads are scratching over the unanswered questions.
Obviously, one major point that has come to light is the fact that cocaine only stays in the human system for a few days after use. A strong suspension of disbelief is required to accept that a 57-year-old happened to try cocaine, for the first time, two days before being randomly tested.
A separate and possibly more imperative issue in this story, which Sports Illustrated broke Wednesday, is the league’s handling (or lack thereof) of the matter.
Still recovering from the residual effects of almost two decades of steroid use coming to light, including the tainting of superstar players and epic records, Bud Selig and the MLB needed drug testing. But they also needed to establish consequences for failed drug tests and carry out those consequences.
Alas, the end result is the ubiquitous apology and admitted stupidity spiel.
Another member of professional sports lied, cheated, or broke the law? Write him a speech. Have him conjure up some tears and tell the world about his carelessness. Audiences will forgive and forget, and young Texas fans will realize the grave mistake made by the manager of their team. Right?
If baseball does not clean up its ugly, enabling reputation, it will end up an eternal punch line in the sports world.
Administering strict testing was only a piece of the proverbial puzzle regarding the proactive prevention of drugs in the league.
Ron Washington should have been suspended for at least the entire season. His redemption story could have waited a year, and it would have had more merit with his punishment and accountability.
The MLB and its drug policy would have gained merit if the league took a stand. Instead, baseball took two steps back after one meager little crawl forward.
Bud Selig will invest in that umbrella one of these days.