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 Padres owners try to explain why they aren’t spending money

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There was an interesting article in the San Diego Union-Tribune over the weekend about the Padres, their owners and their finances.

The article purports to be a rare look into the finances of a big league club. And yes, the owners opened their books, to a degree, to the writer of the story, talked about the team’s financial position, its debt and its approach to team payroll, past, present and future. The upshot: the team has had lots of debt, has had to do a lot of work to get out of that situation and now, with some restructuring out of the way, the club looks forward to spending more on players. Eventually. Like, maybe in 2020 or 2021.

On the one hand, yes, it’s actually got some good information in there! Some details about team finances you don’t often see. Which is totally cool as far as that goes. The problem is that the article doesn’t go nearly as far as it may seem and, in the end, is just a far more elaborate than usual excuse from a team about its failure to spend money.

The tell here comes from what is not mentioned as opposed to what is. For example, while it talks about how much is being spent on various things — baseball salaries, operating, marketing, etc. — nowhere does it talk about the owners’ own take. Rather, it leaves you with the impression that the owners haven’t seen a dime from the team in the several years that they’ve owned it. Color me extraordinarily skeptical about that. As we’ve seen with other clubs — most notably the Marlins, but most do it — broad categories such as “baseball operations” or “non baseball operations” often include substantial payments to owners in less-than-obvious line items. Payments to LLCs and partnerships for “consulting” or “management fees” or what have you. Do the Padres have similar expenditures? We can’t tell from this article, but it’s telling to me that they have spent about as much on front office/miscellaneous baseball ops stuff as player salaries over the past several years. A lot of that has been at building a strong minor league development system, but I’m guessing not all.

Similarly, there is an awfully large portion of the article aimed at telling the tale of the clubs’ massive debt and its restructuring. Yes, debt service can be a killer for liquidity, but it doesn’t really talk too much about the debt for its own sake. Such as the fact that (a) the current owners knew full-well of the debt they were inheriting from the previous owner, John Moores, when they bought the team; and (b) that by assuming the debt, their purchase price for the team was lowered, as it always will be in transactions that involve a lot of debt-assumption. The current owners have had the team since 2012. I don’t recall them telling the public then that there would be a near decade’s worth of swimming against the current of debt before they started paying for players. That’s never been in the season ticket brochure.

It’s also worth noting that, for as much as the debt restructuring is talked up in the story, it is saving the Padres only $8 million a year. They’ve been at least $60 million below the luxury tax threshold for several years now. It’s more than the club’s debt keeping them from spending money. It’s largely been a choice.

Again, none of which is to say that the article is not interesting in its own right. It certainly is. There is certainly more information here than one typically sees in an article about a team’s finances. But it is just partial information. Moreover, it seems to be aimed at justifying another year or two of non-contention to fans without satisfactorily explaining all of the many years of non-contention which preceded it. The Padres famously went all-in and spent some money on players in 2015. Why did that make sense then if this debt problem has been there all along? Why did they give Eric Hosmer over $100 million last year? The article wants to portray ownership as sober and responsible and prudent and use that to explain why the Padres have stunk on ice for a good long time, but it is not very convincing in communicating some consistent, rational thread from ownership.

That all of this comes at a time when clubs are being criticized for not spending money is no accident, I suspect. As such, I am choosing to read the piece for some interesting information it conveys while understanding that it has a pretty significant P.R. component to it as well.