Manny Ramirez: Has the Former Star Reformed Since His Positive Drug Test?
Ramirez's career has generated over 500 career home runs, two World Series titles and a dynamic personality that has brought an extra layer of color to baseball.
Yet all of these highlights have been overshadowed with the news that Ramirez tested positive for human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a women's fertility drug that is used by steroid users to restart their body's natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle. It was also reported that Ramirez also had artificial testosterone in his body at the time of the drug test.
Manny was suspended 50 games after the drug test, and has not been the same player since then. Ramirez found himself on the disabled list three times in 2010, and hit only nine homers with the Dodgers and White Sox.
Last winter, Ramirez signed with the Tampa Bay Rays, but only played five games before getting hit with another positive drug test. Facing a 100-game suspension, Ramirez decided to retire.
This offseason, Manny decided that they wanted to come out of retirement and negotiated a deal that would see the outfielder get reinstated and serve a 50-game suspension, assuming that an MLB team would pick him up.
Yesterday, Ramirez reported to spring training in Arizona, appearing to be a changed person.
Manny looked promising in batting practice and presented a much more mature presence than he ever showed us before.
Throughout his brief time with the media, Ramirez continued to reference his new-found connection to God. One of the most telling quotes Ramirez said was, "Sometimes when you don't got God in your heart, you do stupid things without thinking about it...If you don't have God in your heart, it doesn't mean anything."
Throughout the press conference, Manny was with his wife and child, who continued to give the slugger encouragement.
Ramirez also sounded humble to the press by claiming only God knows if he could still play, along with saying that he was nervous en route to the ballpark.
Obviously Ramirez has a long way to go before he can even play in the majors again. Manny's suspension lasts until at least May 30th (which is Manny's 40th birthday), and we have to see what Ramirez's performance is like in spring training.
But Ramirez's reformed faith can be a major benefit in helping him once again become an effective MLB player.
Ramirez is a special ballplayer and one of the greatest hitters we have ever watched. This season will be hard for Manny, considering he hasn't faced MLB pitching in a competitive game in over a year, and his offensive production was already slowing down before his second drug suspension.
Right now, we don't know how Manny will do in spring training or in the big leagues (assuming that he can earn a call-up once his suspension ends).
If Manny is the reformed individual he has expressed that he has become, Oakland will be a stronger baseball club.
But if Manny gets in trouble again and moves away from the religious message that he has expressed so far this spring, it can be a sad end to a great career.
Manny Ramirez doesn't need to be the superstar he was with the Cleveland Indians or with the Boston Red Sox. Instead, he now needs to be a role model for an A's team that is in the middle of a rebuild.
That is an important feature for veterans to express, and it would be fantastic if Manny can convey a strong message that would help these players develop into better ballplayers.
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