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Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Can Rangers' Washington survive revelation?

Ron Washington's latest comments were obviously well-prepared, but I thought his earlier statements were more telling ...

Let's take everyone for their word ... but not completely lose our powers of skepticism.

Without an exact date, let's use July 20 as the date on which Washington previewed the results of his drug test.

On the 20th of July, the Rangers were still very much in the pennant race, trailing the first-place Angels by just two-and-a-half games. Would management have been so forgiving if the club had been, say, 10 games out of first? For that matter, would management have been so forgiving if they hadn't, just a month earlier, picked up the 2010 option on Washington's contract?

As for Washington, I wish him the best. But are we really supposed to believe this was "a one-time transgression?" Are we really supposed to award bonus points for his early admission, when he must have known he was going to get nailed one way or the other? Does it count as not sounding "like excuses" when you go ahead and make excuses two sentences later?

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?

I'm just a baseball writer, but I do understand that one of those things is illegal and one isn't. Whether you consider this an accident of history or not -- 80 years ago, cocaine was legal and alcohol wasn't -- the law really does matter, in terms of credibility and viability if nothing else.

Ron Washington might be able to survive this story; all of those clean tests since last July help him a lot. But he's put himself (and the Rangers) in a tough spot. Washington's contract expires after this season. It's generally assumed that a lame-duck manager has a tougher time controlling his players, but you can understand management's reluctance to offer a new deal to someone who's been clean for only two-and-a-half months of tension-filled, anxiety-inducing baseball.

How the front office -- now apparently led by Nolan Ryan as much as anyone -- handles this situation might tell us a fair bit about the franchise's future.