Like many Rangers fans I know, I spent the better part of the last week trying to form an opinion about the recent revelation that Rangers manager Ron Washington failed a random drug test last year. Does his admission mitigate his actions? Was his apology sincere? Should I care about any of it?
I'll address the obvious first: There is absolutely no way I believe that the first cocaine that ever entered Washington's body was the same cocaine that ended up in his urine last summer. In fact I'm offended by this assertion. It treats Rangers' fans like morons and calls his character into question more than his drug use. Of course it's possible that I'm wrong, but if I am, that makes Ron Washington the unluckiest guy in baseball at any level and merits his immediate dismissal. I have no tolerance for a jinx.
In the same vein, I have no tolerance for the argument that his admission to the Rangers' brass should enter into consideration. Like his apology, it was clearly self-motivated. I'm sure he was in the front office while his wee was still warm trying to convince whoever would listen that his actions were selfish, had never happened before, and would never happen again. . .promise.
Washington's apology cannot be disregarded immediately for containing that blatant lie though. I believe he is sorry for his actions. Whether he is sorry for the snort (or smoke?) or sorry he got caught may be semantic at this point, but I believe he is sorry, and that counts for something.
I don't care that Washington used cocaine. I don't think it negatively affected his decision making on the field, and I don't think it negatively affected his relationships with players. In short, I don't believe his ability as a manager was ever jeopardized by his off the field activity. I even believe that after it had been made clear to Washington that he would not lose his job because of his indiscretions, he continued to manage the team in much the same way he would have if he'd never been caught. But that all changed when his test was made public last week.
Now that everyone knows about his drug use, questions will dog his every action. Those questions alone wouldn't be a problem for me if it weren't for my questions about Washington's reaction to them. Will Washington do everything he can to avoid looking impulsive or rash on the field? Won't he do whatever he can to keep his detractors from wondering if he's using? I believe he will.
As most fans of the game know, thinking too much will almost certainly destroy performance. Rangers', Cardinals' and Padres' fans have been formally introduced to this reality by Khalil Greene. Impulse is part of the game. The ability to colorfully swear and kick dirt on an ump is a prerequisite for a manager. I believe Washington will question his impulses, not for their propriety but for the reaction they will create among fans and media.
As soon as he begins to second guess the impulses that made him the baseball figure he is, he will have failed. Further, his failure will steal from the team a confident and creative leader and leave them with a public relations train wreck. As a fan of the Rangers during the lean times, I would hate to endure the effect his failure might have on an otherwise promising team.
The 2010 Texas Rangers have, for the last two or three seasons, been the light at the end of a very long, very dark tunnel. They have been the cool drink of water promised to fans during the heat of the second half.
Last season's performance and the team's chance at the playoffs were strangely unfortunate. If the team had let Washington go, presumably creating a firestorm that would have exposed the results of the test during the season, the distraction might have ended the run. Now the 2010 season will bear the weight of this distraction instead. I, for one, have been long looking forward to the promise this season holds for the team, and if my cool drink of water is replaced at the last minute with a warm glass of rot-gut and a line of the white stuff, I'm going to be furious. But what else can you do? Bottoms up and better luck next year!