Manny Tests Positive; Now What?
Today's news that Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez will be suspended for 50 games after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs has come as a shock to just about everyone, or at least to me.
Ramirez always came through in the clutch while with the Red Sox and did his best Roy Hobbs impersonation last season after being traded to the Dodgers, but did anyone suspect Manny was juicing?
Personally, as a baseball fan, Ramirez struck me as a slugging savant. The man can hit -- for power, for average and in the clutch and then of course he would take some games off as he saw fit. I never really suspected it simply because he seemed to be too big of a flake to even stick to a steroid regimen. Even when he was injured it sometimes seemed like ploys to get out of having to play in all-star games or to just give himself a breather.
It was Ramirez's seeming ambivalence to his prodigious talent, his kooky sense of humor and his glaring defensive liabilities that made him an endearing figure in the sport. That shine started to wear last year when he essentially forced Boston's hand and got the Red Sox to trade him.
Suddenly the Clown Prince of the Diamond was just another player that could be put into the category of "overpaid star" (a stigma that seemed to only deepen after his preposterous offseason contract demands). Today's news further cements that. Ramirez has gone from loveable "idiot" and World Series champion to petulant star to steroid user in just three years.
The question about Manny Ramirez had been what would he be remembered for -- would we look back on his career and think about what he did at the plate or his general goofiness and comedy of errors in the outfield? Now you have to add a third option, will he be best remembered as just another great talent revealed to be on steroids?
Ramirez's positive test result raises even more questions beyond Manny himself. He's the first key member of the Boston Red Sox' recent success to be embroiled in the steroids controversy but will more be revealed?
Boston seemed to dodge a bullet as several Red Sox fringe players and past stars were named in the Mitchell Report but none of the team's top players from the 2004 and 2007 World Series teams were fingered. Does this call in to question the Mitchell Report itself or did Ramirez start using in just the past year or two?
Regardless, it's another black eye for a sport that so vigorously prides itself on its history and preservation of its records. With nearly all of this generation's great hitters being linked to steroids, is there any sanctity left in the sport? And to fans, does it even matter? Everyone digs the long ball and for the most cynical fans it's easy to paint with a broad brush and just assume everyone's juicing. Maybe the question now isn't who do you think was/is on steroids but who would you be most surprised to find out was juicing?
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