SURPRISE, Ariz. – The Texas Rangers would like to think that the Ron Washington issue will fade into the background, and the season can go on without the cloud of the manager's use of cocaine.
It's not that easy.
Washington's managerial career is over. The only thing that hasn't been decided is the official date of termination.
Washington is an engaging personality. He has developed a strong bond with the Rangers players in his three years on the job. He's even won over most of the critics he once faced in the Dallas-Fort Worth media because of his straightforward approach.
But some things can't be ignored.
Washington crossed that line last July when he dabbled with cocaine.
Washington and the Rangers tried to cover it up. They could not, however, hide it forever.
And it finally came out on Wednesday.
Washington said it was a one-time transgression, that at the age of 57 he had a weak moment and while the team was in Anaheim just before the All-Star break, he gave into the temptation and used cocaine. Yes, last July, he did fess up to the Rangers front office and called Major League Baseball, and voluntarily entered a rehab program, but was it really voluntary?
It wasn't like he woke up the next morning and felt remorse. It wasn't until he found out he was the subject of a random drug testing, which was going to expose his use of cocaine, that he found religion and turned himself in.
He offered to resign at the time. The Rangers told him it wasn't necessary.
All, however, wasn't well and it still isn't.
Face it, there was enough concern over what Washington did that the manager and the team tried to hide it. They were exposed this week and tried to put on a happy face.
It's called whistling in the dark.
Washington's leadership ability has been compromised. At the age of 57, in a sport where the drug issue is an ongoing public debate, he makes the decision to cross the line with cocaine. Is that the thought process an organization wants from a man whose split-second, decision-making ability is critical to the success of the franchise?
Ozzie wants twerps to lay off him about tweets
When Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen's boys came up with the idea that pop should open a Twitter account, Guillen figured it was a good idea.
Tony La Russa, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, were tweeting, so Guillen figured it was no big deal.
And it wasn't. ... at least not until Guillen decided to join the world of the uncensored.
Suddenly, the media, which flocks to Guillen because he is so willing to say what's on his mind, was aghast that such a free spirit would be given an open forum to say what he wants when he wants.
White Sox general manager Kenny Williams shrugged at questions about concerns over Guillen uncensored.
White Sox players laughed off questions about their concerns.
"Ozzie speaks his mind and sometimes it gets him in trouble," said White Sox left-hander Mark Buehrle. "He deals with that. He doesn't need our help. He has a Twitter account? Who cares? Doesn't everybody have a Twitter account."
Not everybody, however, is Guillen.
He is the manager who will call out the rival Cubs and their fans. He wonders why the White Sox can be the second team in the Second City when they are the team that won a World Series five years ago and it's the Cubs who haven't celebrated in 102 years. And he doesn't hesitate to lecture the media in defense of owner Jerry Reinsdorf.
So far, however, he has avoided any inside information spilling onto Twitter, although the Venezuelan native did raise a few eyebrows when he challenged actor Sean Penn's endorsement of Venezuela president Hugo Chavez.
Guillen's actual tweet on Friday: "Sean penn defended chavez is easy when you have money and no leave in out country shame on you mr penn''
Now he is defending himself for having a Twitter account.
"I guess I can't have fun,'' Guillen said. "I flunked in school five times, and I never had as much trouble as I'm having right now. Why do I have to explain to people why I'm doing this? Like I said, I talked to Kenny about it, it's not anything that involves the club."
Besides, the White Sox are always looking for ways to increase their visibility. It's why their media relations department has its own blog, where the Sox often counter what the franchise feels is unfair media coverage, and it's why the Sox were willing to agree to be the subject for MLB Network's docu-drama this summer in which it will trace the front office's approach leading up to the July 31 trading deadline.
And now it has Ozzie on Twitter, where all the fuss about what he might say has obviously caught the public's fancy. On Thursday morning, La Russa's Twitter account showed he had 6,579 followers. Maddon had 7,817. They were bugs on the windshield compared to Guillen, whose account boasted 42,378 followers.
"Ozzie protects us," said outfielder Juan Pierre, an off-season addition from the Dodgers who played for Florida when Guillen was the Marlins' third base coach. "The more he has to say the less we have to say. I got a taste of Ozzie in Florida. He speaks the truth. When you ask Ozzie a question you better be ready for the truth because he's going to speak his mind.
"Baseball needs to have a thicker skin."
Picking on the Mariners?
Has Seattle become a target of Major League Baseball because it has opened its door to troubled Milton Bradley?
On Wednesday afternoon, pitcher Cliff Lee was given a suspension for the first five games of the regular season because he threw a pitch near the head of Arizona catcher Chris Snyder on Tuesday. Snyder charged the mound, but wasn't ejected, and he also avoided a suspension while Lee not only was ejected but was also suspended. Meanwhile, San Francisco lefthander Barry Zito drilled Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder in the back with a pitch, a retaliation from last September when the Giants took umbrage at Fielder's game-winning home run celebration and Zito wasn't given a warning, much less an ejection or suspension.
And then, on Wednesday night, umpire Dan Bellino ejected Bradley from an exhibitiion game against Texas without Bradley uttering a word. Called out on strikes, Bradley calmly dropped his bat at the plate, took off his batting gloves, and then picked up the bat and walked back to the dugout while Bellino was ejecting the outfielder.
Rockies worried about bullpen
The bullpen, which appeared to be a strength for the Rockies entering the spring, has now become Colorado's biggest question.
The Rockies made sure during the off-season the backend of the bullpen was in order.
Midway into the exhibition season, however, the Rockies are scrambling to figure out how the bullpen will align on Opening Day. Both are sidelined with right shoulder stiffness. Street was believed to be on course to get in enough work to be ready for the start of the season, but a reoccurrence of the shoulder stiffness on Wednesday led to him being scratched from the weekend pitching plans. Instead he will undergo an MRI.
Betancourt, meanwhile, is encouraged by his recent bullpen sessions, but he isn't even on the schedule to pitch in a game, yet.
The first mentioned candidates to step into the closer role are lefty Franklin Morales, who ran off six consecutive saves last September when Street was sidelined, and Manny Corpas, who emerged as the team's closer in the second half of the 2007 season in which the Rockies made their World Series debut. Both, however, struggle with command, and have suffered concerning meltdowns in the closer role.
A sleeper in camp could be Matt Belisle, who responded to the teachings of minor-league pitching coach Chuck Kniffin last summer and was a key bullpen factor last September when the Rockies claimed the NL wild-card.