A Missed Opportunity in Texas

By Jennifer Floyd Engel
Updated: March 21, 2010

TEXAS — So Rangers manager Ron Washington did a little nose candy.

Let’s dispense with all of this righteous indignation, shall we? It is unbecoming and disingenuous. Major League Baseball is littered with illegal — steroids for starters, drugs and drunk driving and God knows what else.

A little cocaine is barely a ripple in this drug stew. What Wash is guilty of is selfish, and stupid. And both should have been fireable offenses.

Does anybody remember the train wreck surrounding the Rangers a year ago? They discover they do not have money to set off the fireworks, much less make payroll. They draft Matt Purke. They do not have money to pay him. They lose Purke. They Family Feud with Vicente Padilla, before finally parting ways.

They have to deal with pics on the Internet of recovering addict Josh Hamilton licking whipped cream from places where he should not be licking whipped cream. Somehow, with all of these distractions, they manage to stay in the pennant race until September.

And yet, Wash decides it would be a good idea to do a little snort snort.

Buh-bye.

Thanks for playing. The problem was not his substance of choice as much as his lack of impulse control in making it. It was the ultimate in selfishness.

I realize confidentiality prevented Nolan Ryan and JD from outing him immediately, and probably from firing him. Bringing him back for another year, a year deemed to have pennant potential, seems so typically Rangers. They cannot get out of their own way.

Hey, let’s taint a beginning to what potentially may be a breakthrough season with talk of coke and blackmail, and have this cloud hanging over this team all year.

They had to know this was going to come out, and should have told Wash to break his own news in November. They also would be wise to edit his emotionally slutty confessions of ’70s dalliances and this “first-time” nonsense.

No way was Wash’s run-in with cocaine a first-time, or a one-time thing, and how would that conversation go, anyway?

“Hey, what is this white line? Let’s try sucking this into my nose. Hey, that was fun. But McGruff the Crime Dog says drugs are bad, so I am never going to do that again.”

Nor was he likely Chris Rock circa New Jack City, because tests began immediately and no way he passes that many, that consistently, if he had a big-time coke problem.

He was probably a guy who did a little blow from time to time, and timed his latest bump poorly. Right before a mandatory league drug test. This, at least, explains how he handled pitchers.

Did Nolan do the right thing by not firing him, considering…?

I don’t know. I tend to think he did not. What I know for sure is he did the hard thing, the unpopular one. It would have been easy to fire Wash, certainly a crowd pleaser.

And when people do the hard thing rather than the easy one, you give them a little latitude.

Nolan certainly has earned the benefit of the doubt.

I was not there for the good old days, nor do I qualify as one of the good old boys. I know Nolan more by reputation, and what I have seen of his time back with Texas. What I learned is he is not a guy who winks at indiscretion. This had to tear at him, and giving Wash a second chance was not entered into lightly.

Nolan did what was right by the man and, by doing so, possibly failed to properly estimate what was best for the team. The Wash-coke story adds another layer to a season that should be about baseball.

This is why I say Wash was selfish, and why this second chance is risky.

Of course, it is difficult to set up a bully pulpit in your outfield bleachers for a repentant, recovering heroin abuser and not give a second chance to your manager.

And anybody who suggests managers are somehow different is lying. Wash is older, but he makes like 10 cents and is easily disposable. They pay players the really big bucks, in part to take care of themselves physically.

Anybody ever seen a before-and-after on those meth guys? They are a hot mess.

And therein lies one of Wash’s biggest hurdles, his substance of choice. Cocaine just sounds too “say hello to my little friend”-ish, whereas a whole lot of those who offer newsprint judgments on such things have been overserved and declined to designate a driver.

So we brush off drinking and driving, which is like shooting a loaded gun into a crowded section of The Ballpark in Arlington. Maybe, you get lucky. Maybe, you miss. Or maybe, you kill somebody.

So Wash’s coke-ing is no bigger problem than Tony La Russa’s drunk driving or Bobby Cox punching his wife. It is just another guy who made a mistake, and we love to give second chances to those guys on every level of the jock spectrum.

Wash is just lucky he is not a Cowboys employee, or he’d really be feeling heat brought on by that ever-present microscope. And God help Jerry Jones if he had covered up cocaine usage by Coach Wade, or Barry Switzer.

Somewhere Quincy Carter and former Maverick Josh Howard, who still carry the scars from being under the intense spotlight, are saying, “Dang, I should have worked for the Rangers.”

Again, Nolan did right by the man. I am not so sure about the team.

We’ll find out soon enough, because as Eric Clapton noted in his very underrated song Cocaine… “she don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie.”