Players vow to support Washington
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- In the spring of 1986, when
Washington's answer -- the same as 10 other teammates, all of whom had signed one-year deals in 1986 (and all of whom would rankle the union) -- was yes.
"I don't think we have one ounce of a problem," Washington said then, "but things have gotten so out of hand that we'll prove it to the public by being tested. I don't want to do it but I don't have anything to hide. All they're going to find in me is a couple of beers."
So many years later, of course, they found more. At 10:30 Wednesday morning, following
After the team's clubhouse meeting -- in which a handful of players like veteran All-Star
Washington's prepared remarks before the assembled press might have set a standard for public contrition: "I am not here to make excuses"; "I've learned about myself personally, and I recognize that this episode was an attempt to dodge personal anxieties and personal issues that I needed to confront"; "Right after that test, I told [general manager]
Just two weeks earlier, Washington noted, he had also completed MLB's mandatory drug treatment program -- involving tests at least three times a week -- and then pledged to re-enter it of his own volition, with one hope in mind: that he could cut down any suspicion about perhaps his most vital claim, that he used cocaine "the one and only time," which just so happened to be the time he was randomly caught.
Such a hope is likely too much to ask for now. Yes, Washington is generally well-liked by both players ("We support him 100 percent," says Young, the team's de facto leader) and the media (he was hugged by a few beat writers on his way into the 11 a.m. news conference). Yes, he is a hard-working, blunt and otherwise upstanding baseball man (complete with a ubiquitous red-and-white box of Winstons at the ready). But to see the potential lasting damage of a manager testing positive for cocaine -- the drug once seen as a prime threat to baseball, as Washington himself knows from his playing days -- one need only have heard the searching pauses and seen the awkward grimaces engraved on the faces of Daniels and Ryan, the two men who had in private declined to punish him.
Do the general manager and president really believe that this was the one time Washington, a 57-year-old man, had slipped and used the drug? Said Ryan: "Yes...MLB felt it was a one-time incident."
Does this affect Washington's hope for a contract extension (the one-year option on his contract was exercised shortly before the positive test)? Said Ryan: "Obviously we're concerned, and this is a factor."
Did the team seriously consider changing managers when Washington informed them of the incident last year? Said Daniels: "We're human. We considered all possibilities."
And what did they make of the manager's most suspicious -- and admirably honest -- statement of all, when he was asked if this was the only time he'd used drugs and he replied, "The drug that we are talking about, yes"? Said Daniels, at perhaps the apex of his discomfort: "Any group of people...when you're younger...people make mistakes."
So they do. As Washington spoke,
"Our stories are nothing alike," Hamilton said in the clubhouse this afternoon. "I was addicted to drugs...He made one mistake, and he manned up to it. We're going to love him and support him."
The Rangers players, in fact, have spent the day trying on a new "us against the world" mentality, first broached in that private clubhouse speech by Young on Wednesday and repeated by his teammates since. Just as they did with Hamilton last year -- indeed, just as baseball did in the mid-1980's -- they have all resolved to come out of the shadow of drugs stronger than ever, the well-worn hope that there is nothing more to hide riding on the latest guarantee.