In an effort to improve their moribund offense, the Oakland Athletics announced earlier this week that they had signed Manny Ramirez to a minor-league contract valued at around $500k. One of the most enigmatic characters in the game, Ramirez is widely regarded as one of the finest pure hitters in MLB history. However, his reputation has taken a serious beating over the past few years thanks to a pair of positive tests for PEDs.
Some viewed this as a low-risk, high-reward move that could give Oakland an effective DH at a very low cost. Others believe that the Athletics—or any MLB team, for that matter—made a huge mistake and should want no part of a potential clubhouse cancer with known PED issues. My initial reaction, however, falls under neither category:
Why in the world would Manny Ramirez further tempt fate with his Hall of Fame chances?
As it stands right now, it would seem that Ramirez has no shot at the Hall of Fame thanks to his prior PED usage. Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, who are the two most prominent PED users on the ballot, have come nowhere close to induction, and there are real questions about whether or not the prominent PED users joining the ballot next year (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, etc) will be able to generate enough support despite their impressive resumes.
But at least all of these players are at least eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot. Manny Ramirez, however, might be putting that very thing at risk by trying to extend his career.
One of the aspects of MLB’s steroid testing program that has gone largely unnoticed is the potential for a player to be banned for life if a they test positive on three different occasions. It seemed like a rather unlikely outcome, as the only players who would qualify would have to fail two previous steroid tests and already been suspended for a total of 150 games as a result. The odds did not seem that great that a player would ever get the opportunity to fail a third test.
Ramirez, however, already has two positive tests, though he has not technically served all 100 games for the suspension (he retired instead) and will sit out the first 50 games of this season if he makes the Big League club.
This means that Ramirez is leaving himself open for the very real possibility of a lifetime ban from the game—which is the exact thing that is keeping the likes of Pete Rose and Joe Jackson out of the Hall of Fame.
Even if Ramirez is presently clean, his prior usage opens up the door for a false positive. Steroids can be detected in a person’s body years after they are taken; Mike Morse made this exact claim back in 2005, when he tested positive for steroids that he had taken (and already been punished for) two years earlier.
Despite this claim, Morse was still suspended at the MLB level. Ramirez, however, would stand to lose much more if he tests positive again.
There is reason to believe that the hysteria surrounding the issue of PEDs will eventually die down, allowing the best players from the era to enter the Hall of Fame. Manny Ramirez qualifies as one of the best players, but a third positive test would make it so he had no chance of even getting on the ballot.
Seems like an awfully big risk for a half-million dollars.