Does Testing Baseball Managers Like Ron Washington Pass the Sniff Test?

Does Testing Baseball Managers Like Ron Washington Pass the Sniff Test?Maybe it’s the heat. How else to explain why Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington would try cocaine – allegedly for the first time – at the age of 57? And that’s not even the weirdest part of this story.

Hey, the horrible Texas heat has been used as an excuse before. When former Texas Ranger shortstop Alex Rodriguez admitted to taking steroids, he blamed the heat – and the Rangers’ “loosey-goosey” clubhouse – in part for his PED use.

As for Washington’s own explanation, he told reporters, “Any attempt to try to explain it is going to sound like excuses. There is no right way to explain something wrong, and I did wrong,” he said. “Was it tension? Maybe. Anxiety?”

I have a lot of questions about this whole story, and the least of it is why a middle-aged manager would think trying cocaine for the first time would be a fun thing. If you buy Washington’s claim, that is. I’ve watched enough “Intervention” episodes to think it’s unlikely, although it did turn out that Greg, the gullible man in his fifties addicted to pain meds – and falling for internet scams – also had a problem with cocaine.

But I digress. The most surprising thing to me about this whole story is the news that MLB managers, coaches and clubhouse personnel get tested for drugs once a year. The idea for this “mandatory, random, unannounced drug testing for clubhouse personnel” came from the Mitchell Report.

“Sports Illustrated” explained who is tested, and what happens if they test positive:

MLB mandates that any non-playing personnel who either fail a test or admit to drug use be subject to counseling and a substance-abuse program developed by a doctor approved by baseball. First-time offenders are generally not subject to punitive measures such as a suspension, pending the commissioner’s discretion, and their names are not made public. (Tests are administered randomly once a year to all non-playing personnel who work around the clubhouse, which also includes trainers, clubhouse and equipment managers, massage therapists and traveling secretaries.)

Hmmm. George Costanza was an assistant to the Yankee traveling secretary; would the “Seinfeld” character have gotten tested as well?

Seriously, I don’t understand why having managers and massage therapists pee into a cup is going to prevent ballplayers from using performance-enhancing drugs. Will the test screen for Cialis and Minoxidil, too, in case manager try to enhance themselves chemically in other ways? And how did a test for recreational drugs get put into this screen, anyway?

Besides, what is the logic behind this? That testing clubhouse personnel will somehow ferret out the steroid suppliers in the clubhouse? Of course, this won’t prove anything if PED dealers in the locker room heed N.W.A.’s advice in the song “Dopeman” about how you “don’t get high off your own supply”!

And none of these tests address the incongruity of having steroid poster boy Mark McGwire as the St. Louis Cardinals’ hitting coach. All the tests in the world can’t combat that symbolism.

As for Washington, he seems like a good guy who did a bad thing. Anybody who was able to make Milton Bradley a team player, as he did with the Texas Rangers, deserves some respect. The manager didn’t have an easy road to being a manager – he worked his way up through the ranks over the last 20 years. And he has gone through some rough times personally – he lost his New Orleans home to Hurricane Katrina.

While it still boggles my mind why Washington would sample cocaine, he handled everything like a stand-up guy ever since he took the drug test last summer. He went straight to the Rangers front office, and to MLB’s front office, and fessed up before the test results were even known. He went through MLB’s treatment program with no further incidents. And none of this would have been public knowledge if it weren’t for somebody snitching to Jon Heyman of SI.com.

So who was the source? Reporter Randy Galloway suggests it could have been a fired Rangers staffer who tried to “blackmail” the club. While the Rangers denied that anybody was blackmailing them, it’s also worth noting that when team president Nolan Ryan was asked who leaked this news, his first thought on who it could have been was a “disgruntled employee.”

At any rate, it remains to be seen as to whether Washington will continue to have the respect of his players, although the team – including recovering addict Josh Hamilton - seem to have his back so far. But given that St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa continues to have his team respect him, even though he was arrested for DUI last spring – and caught on video – Washington could very well still be a well-respected manager despite his dopey dalliance with cocaine.

Photo by Keith Allison

Lisa Swan, a lifelong Yankee fan, grew up in Passaic, N.J., where her favorite player was the talented but insecure Reggie Jackson. Today she lives on Staten Island, where her favorite player is the t ...read more

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