I love the Yankees. Idolize Derek Jeter. Went to Old Timers Day for five straight years. Own "Pride Of The Yankees" on DVD (watch it once every 6 months). Cry every time I watch the HBO documentary about the Yankees 2001 season and World Series run.
Yet I love Manny Ramirez.
Or at least I did. He is easily one of the top five most exciting players to watch. He has the purest swing in baseball. He is one of the most widely recognized baseball superstars, and he transcends sports.
Over the past 12 months, Manny Ramirez has transformed into the face of baseball. With the exception of Alex Rodriguez's admission of steroid use earlier this year, Manny Ramirez has dominated the headlines.
As well he should have. "Gas is up, and so am I." Classic.
And the thing that attracts me to Manny Ramirez is the same thing that has rubbed so many others the wrong way. I love his personality. His swagger. The way he truly loves the game.
Don't get me wrong, I love the 110% hustle, leave it all on the field players, too, and it's no secret that Manny Ramirez is not one of those guys, but he plays with pure joy. He doesn't try to cover up any personal flaws. He doesn't care what you think of him.
Man, I love that.
Today, however, changed all of that. I read it on ESPN's bottom line. I couldn't believe the news. I couldn't process it. I spent about four hours watching ESPN trying to. Didn't even get off the couch to go to the bathroom. Just four straight hours of ESPN looping the news over and over.
Why'd this have to happen now? Why'd this have to happen to him?
The Dodgers are the most exciting team in baseball. I find myself rooting for them, in spite of having two other teams that I love. You see, I base my rooting interest on whether or not I can stand to watch a team play for nine innings without losing my interest. That was the 2009 Dodgers.
Then the news broke.
Manny has the purest swing in baseball. He would have gone down as one the greatest if not the greatest right handed hitters of all time. He didn't need to take anything.
This simply kills baseball.
This kills the young Dodgers line up. The confidence, the swagger, the team identity, that was all Manny. This kills any trust baseball had regained from it's fans since the BALCO incident and the subsequent events. Sure, A-Rod took steroids, but most people were already suspicious of him and were already alienated by his public image.
Manny was the one guy from the steroid era that we all knew was clean, that we all knew was pure. We were so sure of it. It was unreasonable to think otherwise. Look at the 2004 Red Sox. You can make a strong case that most of those players were taking something. But not Manny. No not Manny.
Was it denial? Or did we genuinely believe that Manny wasn't using?
Who knows. What I do know is that this kills baseball. This kills anything that has been fixed between the fans and the game. Baseball is done. Can it be fixed?
In due time.
Until that day, when fans can truly say that they trust that the players are honest and can be trusted with our love, I won't ever look at the game again. Not one player will be above my suspicion.
Is it stubbornness? Maybe. Just call it a fan with a broken heart who doesn't want to get hurt again.