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David Brown

Washington's drug use led to blackmail, which led to publicity

Big League Stew

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Someone, it turns out, was blackmailing the Texas Rangers and manager Ron Washington.

In his Wednesday column, Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that a person who was fired from the Rangers after the 2009 season "had all the details" of Washington's encounter with cocaine that preceded yesterday's events at Rangers camp.

From the Star-Telegram:

Some of his demands were met, but the club balked at personally giving this person a glowing letter of recommendation and also refused at least one other item. By January, word leaked that the former employee was bad-mouthing Washington around north Arlington.

UPDATE: The Rangers are denying this. Via Evan Grant's blog in the Dallas Morning News:

On Thursday, Daniels was asked via e-mail if:

• A former Rangers employee ever tried to use knowledge of Ron Washington's drug test as leverage to improve a severance package or recommendation for future employment.

• If the club ever felt extorted or blackmailed.

• If police or authorities were consulted about any blackmail attempts or pressure.

Daniels response: "No to all three [questions]."

Regardless, all had been quiet on the Washington front until the Rangers got a call from Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated. Galloway speculates that the blackmailer, unable to squeeze any more out of the Rangers, went to the media to make the story public and embarrass the team.

Well, it's embarrassing, all right.

"We had prepared for this, just in case," team president Nolan Ryan said Wednesday. Asked if he had an opinion on who sprung the leak this week, Nolan's first mention was, interestingly enough, "Disgruntled employee." Or maybe former employee.

No matter how embarrassing for the Rangers or humiliating for Washington, it's good that this became public. Rangers fans have a right to know the manager of their team tested positive for coke.

And Heyman — who did the public right by writing the story — isn't obligated, nor should he be, to reveal who his source was or how he came across the information.

But baseball and journalism, sometimes, can feel just as icky as the illegal drug business.

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