What they're saying about Ron Washington

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Ron Washington headshot.jpgSome assorted Internet, newspaper and Texas Ranger player reaction to the Ron Washington cocaine news:

  • Jeff Passan: “By treating Washington’s incident as a slip-up and allowing MLB to
    investigate whether he had any sort of a drug problem, the Rangers did
    a disservice to their players, fans and anyone else with a vested
    interest in the franchise. Texas allowed a third party to chart the
    course for its discipline . . . Rehabilitation does not, however, necessitate employment, no matter how
    compromised the Rangers organization finds itself. Though the backlash
    of changing managers would have been severe, the tone sent by the
    message – drug use of any kind will not be tolerated – would resonate
    for much longer.”
  • Jean-Jacques Taylor: “The Rangers should’ve fired Ron Washington the day he admitted using cocaine during last year’s All-Star break. No questions asked.”
  • Rob Neyer: “I won’t begin to argue that Ron Washington is a bad guy. Baseball
    managers have been self-medicating for a long time, usually with
    alcohol but occasionally with other things. Is an occasional (or
    “one-time”) cocaine user more ethically or morally deficient than a
    functioning alcoholic?”
  • Lookout Landing: “Ron Washington has a lot going on. More, I imagine, than we could ever
    know. This, of course, is all speculation on my part, and I could be
    totally off-base, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Washington got to the
    All-Star Break, recognized a limited window of opportunity to unwind a
    little bit, and seized it by the balls. That he was so up-front about
    it before results came back suggests that he was aware he made a
    mistake and doesn’t do this all the time. And, in the end, that renders
    this sort of an insignificant story. The only lesson to be learned here
    is that maybe next time Washington should smoke weed like everybody
    else.”
  • Babes Love Baseball: “Ron Washington wins the 2010 Shocker Award. Already. Seriously, who saw this one coming?
  • Ken Rosenthal: “To be sure, people have come back from more trying circumstances, but
    as Ryan said, the news of Washington’s drug use only increases the
    pressure that he is under. That pressure existed before, exists every
    day for every major-league manager. But a revelation of cocaine use
    takes it to another level. Now more than ever, Ron Washington needs to win.”
  • Jim Reeves: “Yes, the Texas Rangers should have fired Ron Washington on the spot in July. That, I suspect,
    is what most teams or companies would have done. You or I probably
    would not have survived such a transparently self-serving confession of
    “one time” cocaine use. I’m glad they didn’t, but that’s personal; that’s because I know and
    like Washington and have grown to appreciate his managerial style more
    than I did in 2007, his first year in Texas. That doesn’t excuse his behavior. This goes beyond stupid. This begs
    the question: How can Washington manage others when he can’t manage
    himself?”
  • Michael Young: “Going forward, I don’t see it being a big issue at all. He made a mistake. He admitted it. He talked to the team about it.
    Guys were able to say their piece. He gave an open-door policy for guys
    to answer whatever question they wanted. You can’t ask for much more
    than that. It won’t be a distraction for the guys. We’ll get ready for
    the season.”
  • Darren Oliver: “If you’re on the outside looking in, it looks really bad if you don’t
    know Washington as a person. But we all know him. He’s a
    good man. I haven’t heard anything bad about him. You could tell it
    hurt him. He was sincere.”
  • Josh Hamilton: “I was an addict. All I cared about was getting more and using more
    drugs. I didn’t care who I hurt. He made a mistake one time.
    Our stories are nothing alike. He came forward. He took it like a man.
    I think Wash handled it well. It’s a privilege to be a spokesman for
    him. I feel nothing less about Wash. He’s learned from this.”

Just to reiterate my opinion, which I’ve now had a chance to sleep on and with which I remain comfortable:  The Rangers moment of truth was last summer. If, at the time, their conversations and intuition with respect to Washington gave them a bad vibe, yes, they would have been OK to fire him. I’ve worked with drug users before, and it can be a really bad scene. And while giving second chances is always something that should be strongly considered, you’re under no obligation to give one if you don’t think it will be used properly and if you think doing so will be detrimental to the organization as a whole.

But if you trust Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels to run your team — and there is absolutely no reason to doubt their judgment based on anything they’ve done with the Rangers — you have to trust their judgment not to fire Washington. They talked to him. They considered the situation. And based on everything they knew about both the situation and the man, they decided to stick with him. I think that decision should be respected and that Washington should be allowed to do what every other manager gets to do: get fired for losing ballgames one day.

The Blue Jays will . . . not be blue some days next year

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The Toronto Blue Jays, like a lot of teams, will wear an alternate jersey next year. It’ll be for Sunday home games. They call it their “Canadiana,” uniforms. Which, hey, let’s hear it for national pride.

(question to Canada: my grandmother and my three of my four maternal great-grandparents were Canadian. Does that give me any rights to emigrate? You know, just in case? No reason for asking that today. Just curious!).

Anyway, these are the uniforms:

More like RED Jays, am I right?

OK, I am not going to leave this country. I’m going to stay here and fight for what’s right: a Major League Baseball-wide ban on all red alternate jerseys for anyone except the Cincinnati Reds, who make theirs work somehow. All of the rest of them look terrible.

Oh, Canada indeed.

Sports and politics share some of their worst excesses

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19:  Montana alternative delegate Susan Reneau shouts "guilty" as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie speaks on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes a column today — likely part of the Post’s overall Inauguration coverage — about how the world of sports and sports fandom is a refreshing change from the world of politics. It’s a place where “facts are still facts,” he says. Where  “debates, though sometimes loud, are surrounded by oceans of substantiated facts and often informed by respected experts who depend on rational analysis to make their points.” Contrasted with politics, of course, where objective fact has turned into opinion and vice-versa.

I get what he’s trying to say and I think he’s well-intentioned. But I also think he badly misreads both sports discourse and political discourse, each of which have borrowed the worst excesses from the other. And by this I do not mean the extent to which the substance of sports and politics overlap, which we have often argued about in this space. This is not a “stick to sports” point. I’m talking about the way in which sports fans interact with sports and political people interact with politics, even in a relative vacuum.

Politics has coopted sports discourse in the most toxic and wrongheaded of ways. The idea that “scoreboard!” is all that matters. The belief that winning is the only objective as opposed to a means to an end. Notions of rooting and tribalism, and that “our team” and “the opposing team” is the proper way to view the parties to the contest. All of those things — each of which make sense to varying degrees in a sports context — have been imported into politics and have served to degrade them.

Likewise, contrary to what Boswell says, sports fans and commentators have eagerly begun to traffic in political-style reality creation, distortion and spin. He takes an oblique swipe at the “hot takers” like Skip Bayless and talk radio shouters, but he’s deluded if he thinks that they do not have more influence over sports fans than do than “the respected experts who depend on rational analysis to make their points” which he describes. Bayless and his crowd are a direct aping of “Crossfire”-style political shows.

Likewise, the concept of fan loyalty is increasingly discussed and routinely encouraged by sports leagues and teams in terms that were once reserved for party politics. The notion that those who have succeeded have done so because they are worthy and all of those who are worthy have succeeded is likewise fully believed by both sports fans and political actors. The idea that validation of one sort — electoral or competitive — justifies overlooking the political or athletic actor’s real life transgressions likewise crosses political and athletic lines. How much do sports fans and citizens overlook crimes and misdemeanors if there is a sufficient redemption or comeback narrative to cloak them?

Yet Boswell believes there to be a fundamental gap between how sports and politics are practiced and consumed. To explain it, he says this:

One partial explanation for the gap between the way we talk about sports and the way we talk about some other subjects may be the distorting force field of ideology. When we have a deep attachment to unprovable beliefs, ideas and emotions get intertwined. The psychological cost of disentangling them can be profound.

Tell me that you have not witnessed that dynamic among people whose identities have become far too wound up in the sports teams for which they root. There is ideology among sports fans just as much as there is among political partisans, even if the stakes aren’t as high.

He also says this:

For example, Clemson and Alabama have split the past two college football titles. Yet both coaches, in both years, deferred respectfully to the results, didn’t seek scapegoats, didn’t claim the results were invalid and, by their example, encouraged their fans to take pride in the battle — won or lost — and analyze it with enthusiasm but without distortion.

As if sports fans haven’t spent years re-litigating the Tuck Rule, Don Denkinger or Maradona’s Hand of God. As if notions of good sportsmanship and proper perspective are satisfied by merely accepting results. As if cheating scandals, real, imagined or inflated beyond all perspective, have not caused people to question the very legitimacy of the players in question.

As I said at the outset, I get what Boswell is trying to get at. And I find it admirable that he’s looking to sports to find some grace in an increasingly graceless world. Moreover, none of this is to say that sports don’t provide some refuge from raging political storms. They do.

But the world of sports is every bit as susceptible to the reality-denying, magical thinking storms which have increasingly come to characterize politics. And those raging political storms are very much fueled by a type and mode of passion that was first cultivated in sports and repurposed for a larger stage.

I mean, are these things really all that different?

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