- Echoes of Tim Johnson:
Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington tested positive for cocaine last season and the news was reported yesterday by Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman----Story.
Washington offered to resign when the Rangers were informed; the club allowed him to stay as they said they were convinced by Washington's assertion that he only used the drug once----ESPN Story. The Rangers are standing by Washington and have said he will not be fired.
Ron Washington must be fired.
This is not going away. It will follow a young, up-and-coming club poised to take the next step into possible championship contention; it will haunt them throughout the season no matter how they play. It's a distraction that the Rangers did not need. Already having had a tumultuous off-season including a desperation sale from former owner Tom Hicks to a group including team president Nolan Ryan, things had quieted down off the field so the Rangers could focus on moving forward.
Drug use by the manager and the resulting controversy could sabotage the whole season.
He has to go.
There are things you tolerate from a manager in terms of off-field behavior as long as it doesn't cause lasting damage to the organization. While in a slightly different context, this undermining of Washington's credibility is startlingly similar to what happened to the Toronto Blue Jays several years ago resulting in rare spring training a managerial change.
Do you remember Tim Johnson?
Johnson was a longtime coach who was hired by the Blue Jays to replace Cito Gaston in 1998 and managed the Blue Jays to a surprising 88-74 finish. During his time as a coach and manager, he used his experiences as a veteran of the Vietnam War to inspire and teach his players, getting them to follow his lead as a true hero; someone who'd put his life on the line for the United States.
It was all very heartwarming.
And it was all a lie.
Tim Johnson had never served in combat in the Marine Corps as he claimed.
Like something out of Tropic Thunder, Johnson promulgated this myth for years, undoubtedly increasing the amount of action he supposedly saw in the stories he told to save face and maintain an aura of something more than a baseball player and coach. The breadth of experience that comes from service in a war theater could only make Johnson more attractive to a team looking for a manager and it worked as he got the job to manage the Blue Jays.
What made things worse was how Johnson not only falsified his service record (he was in the Marines teaching mortar training to recruits heading to Vietnam), but used his faux "experiences" in meetings with players. The Blue Jays initially stood by Johnson, but as the questions and ridicule followed him everywhere; the players rightfully tuned him out; the public was enraged; and Johnson was fired and replaced by Jim Fregosi in spring training.
The Blue Jays had no choice then because there was no end in sight to the mess; no chance of letting things settle and hope that Johnson would repeat his 1998 success.
The Rangers have no choice now.
How is it possible for Washington to maintain his credibility as the field leader of a young club when he was using drugs and has come up with the oft-heard and utterly preposterous excuse of "it was the first time"?
There are circumstances in which a manager might be allowed to endure the controversy of an off-field incident. In 1995, Bobby Cox was accused of domestic violence by his wife and charged with simple battery. In 2007, Tony La Russa was busted for driving drunk. Billy Martin was always getting into off-field trouble.
As bad as the above cases are, they're easier to endure the firestorm because: A) the managers in question were at the top of the heap in terms of doing their jobs on the field; and B) the incidents weren't so heinous that they risked losing credibility with the players. People don't want to hear this truth, but the players would be able to explain away the domestic violence; drunk driving; and whatever it was that Billy Martin used to do more readily than they'll accept a manager lying about war service or using cocaine.
That's not to imply players didn't and don't use recreational drugs on their own (of course they do), but to have the manager of the team using narcotics and still appearing to deny the extent of what it was he did as a 57-year-old man claiming to have used the drug once makes Washington a dead man walking.
How can they take him seriously?
The young players emerging now must, must, must have respect and, more importantly, fear of their manager to keep them in line on and off the field. What message does it send to Elvis Andrus; Chris Davis; Julio Borbon; Neftali Feliz; Matt Harrison; Derek Holland and others if their manager----the supposed leader of the club----is using recreational drugs?
The Rangers are a very young and super-talented team playing in a state that is so conservative that their governor has suggested secession from the union. Nolan Ryan himself is a conservative hard-liner who very seriously considered running for governor of Texas as a Republican. He's going to hear how bad of an example Washington set; that he can't be allowed to skate through and stay on as manager of the club; that the manager has to be replaced. It's never going to end.
In a bit of cold-blooded reality, Washington isn't a very good strategic manager to begin with. I joked on Twitter yesterday that his being high would explain some of the bizarre moves he makes during games. The saving grace for Washington----who was days away from being fired in 2008 before the club had a drastic turnaround and saved his job----has been that the players always played hard for him. Sometimes that overrides the sins of repeated and inexplicable errors. But this is too great an obstacle to overcome.
There's only so much leadership the stand-up guys in the Rangers clubhouse----captain Michael Young; Ian Kinsler; Vladimir Guerrero----can dole out. In the end, it comes down to the manager and steering the club through the wilderness; and young teams need someone they can look up to or at least respect. They may shrug and stand by Washington, saying he made a mistake and owned up to it as a man; but the underlying sense will reduce Washington's stature to an untenable level for him to stay.
The Rangers are moving forward this charade with excuses of having been angry but accepting Washington's apology and explanation; of letting Washington's body-of-work overcome the misstep; that they're standing by him.
It won't work because in every possible machination, it can't work.
Washington will be under managerial death watch until the axe is swung. If the Rangers start the season 3-6; or even if they play poorly in spring training, the queries of Washington's self-created distraction and tenuous job status will become deafening and possibly sabotage a season in which the Rangers are legitimate playoff contenders.
On the field, the American League West is so tough that the Rangers can't afford to leave anything to chance. One game lost because of this may well keep them from the playoffs. Off the field, the roar for Washington's dismissal to set an example will be so loud that Ryan (probably already under siege from conservative cronies) can't ignore it.
Washington has to go sooner rather than later.
He has to be fired.
- Viewer Mail 3.18.2010:
Jeff (Street Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE Fausto Carmona:
"Fausto Carmona (the right-handed Oliver Perez)"
AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I can't stop laughing at the truth of this statement!
Carmona's actually been worse than Perez in the last two years after winning 19 games in 2007, looking like----and getting paid----like a rising star.
Larry writes RE the dichotomy of me:
So if my twitter persona, HeartyLarry, sees the Prince as a borderline psychotic whom HeartyLarry likes to tweak and provoke and play with, my Larry persona, a lifelong baseball fan who loves watching the game, loves in-game strategy but has never had the time or patience to follow every team closely enough to have a considered understanding or opinion about teams other than the NYY, respects and enjoys your blog about it. No shit, Sherlock; no punchline here (except maybe that I'll pay attention to you even though you are a Mets fan). Thanks!
Larry, it's difficult to put you in your place as a habitual line-stepper when you say such nice things about me and promote me so enthusiastically.
I told you, the borderline psychotic and rational, sometimes ruthless, analyst go hand-in-hand; one cannot exist without the other. A Prince divided against himself, cannot stand. Plus, it makes me interesting. In certain cases, it seems to be an irresistible attraction through not intent of my own. I'm either going to blow up into the public consciousness of explode like comet.
Even I can't tell you which and I'm just as curious to see as everyone else.
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Milton Bradley:
I think it'll be interesting to see which Milton Bradley shows up. Maybe he's had therapy in the off season. On second thought, probably not.
Almost on cue, hours after I published that posting, Bradley got ejected from a spring training game after a called third strike. In fairness to Bradley, all he supposedly did was drop his bat at the plate after the call; he didn't look at, nor did he say anything to umpire Dan Bellino.
One problem that will follow Bradley forever is this perception that he's a deranged maniac ready to flip out at a moment's notice. Because of that and the huge argument he had with umpire Mike Winters in 2007, the umps do----intentionally or not----have an eye and zero tolerance attitude with Bradley.
Because Bradley's over-the-edge and paranoid doesn't mean he's wrong about the umpires provoking him.
Gabriel (Capo) writes RE Milton Bradley and Cliff (Stone Cold Killer) Lee:
How do you think Lee's presence in the clubhouse will affect Bradley? Will he beat the crap out of him and tell him to behave, or cause a major breach on the clubhouse damaging the club?
Lee and Bradley were teammates with the Indians when Lee first came up to the big leagues; but I don't know the nature of their relationship. Bradley doesn't appear to listen to many people and his outbursts are related to his short temper than anything. I dunno if a fistfight is the solution nor do I know if Lee can actually fight. Because he throws at people and is an assassin on the mound doesn't mean he can throw hands.
I'd be reluctant to take on Bradley in a fight. You can go up against a loudmouth; someone bigger; or a person who has a rep, but if you get into it with someone who might be certifiably crazy, you're taking your life in your hands and it's something to consider before taking that step.
The interesting thing about Bradley is that the majority of his former teammates have rarely had anything bad to say about him. Well, there's Jeff Kent; but Jeff Kent was loathed everywhere he went----and it was personal because Kent was an acknowledged jerk.