Friday, March 19, 2010

Between the White Lines

Show of hands - who knew that Major League Baseball conducted random drug tests on managers of the teams? Ron Washington - put your hand down. Your ignorance on the issue was presumed. At the very least, it was hoped for anyway but for no other reason than to foster the belief that you are not reckless but simply clueless.

Apparently at or about the All-Star break last season Washington either failed a drug test or found out that he had. He then did something that is as least sort of intriguing - he finked himself out to his bosses at the Rangers. Considering one of those bosses is Nolan Ryan, a fellow who has been known to throw hard-covered, spherical objects at the head of those who disappoint him or otherwise chafe him, Washington's self-reporting is something. Commendable? Perhaps. Interesting? Certainly.

The way I understood the story is that Washington told his bosses that his dalliance with cocaine was a one-time thing; behavior that he regretted and that he would never engage in again. Methinks that his story carried more weight before he followed up his initial confession with the inevitable corollary, which amounted to, "new drug but not necessarily new behavior." It turns out that years ago - when Washington the manager was Washington the player - he occasionally turned two. Unfortunately the double play in question was speed and weed.

Everything I have ever read about Washington - whether attributed to the players he coached in Oakland or those he manages in Texas - indicates that he is a good man who possesses a high baseball acumen and who treats his players like men. One cannot help but wonder though if he can survive in Texas in light of his recent disclosures. Among his players after all is Josh Hamilton - who MLB suspended for the entire 2004 season due to his own violation of its drug policy. Hamilton - who from afar seems to be a stand-up guy - has come out in support of his skipper. "I told him I loved him," Hamilton said. "Everybody makes mistakes. I respect him as a man, as a coach and as a man of high integrity. When he was speaking to us in here, you could tell he was broken and really felt remorse about it."

I root for the Yankees, which means that I cannot as a matter of course root for any other American League team. Yet this season I find myself compelled to root a little less vigorously against the Rangers than I have in past years. I find myself pulling for Ron Washington. I find myself hoping that Hamilton's assessment of him is spot on - not simply for the sake of the team he is paid to manage but for his own. If Hamilton is wrong, then it would stand to reason that Washington will lose his job. For one who cannot manage his own life cannot be expect to manage twenty-five other lives. And it is reasonable to presume that he will not be given the chance at the latter if he fails at the former.

A fun fact for you to chew on as you go through your day. Guess the name of the town in Arizona that is the Rangers' spring training home. Who was it who asked, "What's in a name?" In the case of the Rangers, the answer apparently is "everything".


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