So, Manny being Manny included Manny being on the Juice.
Now it’s Manny being suspended.
If we aren’t going to demand that accountability for this fall at the feet of someone that can do something about this, then what does it matter?
So let me start with us, the fans. In all honesty, so far we have been complacent in the destruction of the records and numbers that mean something in our game. That’s right, I said it.
I’ve written about wanting to pass along the game of baseball to another generation in the condition we found it. Instead of looking for changes to the game that benefit us as well as others, we have looked to it to be bigger, faster and stronger. We marveled at 500-foot home runs.
We turned our eyes blindly to the chase of Maris. Why? Because it allowed children to talk about McGwire, father’s about Maris and grandfather’s about Ruth. It was a single strand—a lineage that connected generations.
From the Model T to the Bentley, from the Prop plane to the Lear Jet, from the AM Radio to the HI-DEF plasma, we spanned generations. From an era when 60 and then 61 seemed untouchable to one where 70 was quickly replaced by 73, we didn’t ask any questions.
We simply lived in the naïve bubble where men were super human and that was fine.
We then acted outraged and indignant when we found out that the numbers being produced by chemically enhanced athletes.
Really, were we that mad? I don’t think so.
If we were, we would have demanded more than the half—hearted effort by the house competition committee and later Senator George Mitchell that did little to expose the depth of the problem and less to address and correct the issue.
Let me address that for a minute.
George Mitchell spent months upon months compiling names, digging into the deepest cracks and darkest corners of baseball. What did he come up with?
Gregg "with three G’s" Zaun, Chuck Knoblauch and Ron Villone?
Are you kidding me?
Sure he came up with Roger Clemens, but he managed to whiff on A-Rod and Manny Ramirez. As fans we waited 20 months and let baseball spend in the neighbor of $20 million dollars to compile the results and Senator George Mitchell managed to miss out of on two guys that have launched over 1,000 (that’s right, 1000) home runs combined.
So what are our options?
Your option is to be a better fan. Don’t fall in love. If you never fall in love, you never get hurt. Love your wife, love your parents, love your kids, and your pets. Like your team but be a smarter fan, a better consumer. Your other option is to fall in love with baseball, not the home run, but baseball.
Debate the designated hitter, marvel at a player taking an extra base, get excited about a steal of home, a well executed bunt or a flawlessly turned double play. Learn to enjoy the finer points of the game like a pitcher that can get a much needed ground ball or a relay to the plate that gets the runner by a step.
As a fan is a fan of the entire game and not the long ball, quit trying to break down baseball into the simple act of the home run and make it about what it is, which is so much more.
THE PLAYERS' ASSOCIATION
Let's talk players' association for a minute. The group that, for its part, allowed a generation of players to take, inject and ingest whatever it took to raise the pay checks of baseball players everywhere.
The players association, through pure greed, was allowed to distort the priorities of players across baseball. As the steroid scandal reached a fever pitch, the players association did nothing but bury their head in the sand and deny that the problem existed.
No one person is responsible for the issues of baseball, but the players association are certainly one of two groups that have the power to impose real change on the game. Instead, they have opted to ignore the issues in favor of fat pay checks.
They don’t act remotely embarrassed when their largest stars are outted. They simply don’t care and refuse to do anything about the problem. So what is a fan to do?
It is clear to me that 50 percent of the power in this debate lay in their hands and they don’t recognize there is any problem. I am starting to believe we will continue to follow the game as they see fit.
Just as culpable in all of this are the owners. When Mark McGwire blew up to the size of an NFL linebacker, nobody brought it up. When Barry Bonds allowed his head to expand from melon to basketball-size, their only concern was how many could he hit into McCovey’s Cove.
That number translated into butts in seats and “saved” the game of baseball. The owners would promote these juiced-up behemoths on posters, magazines and cereal boxes.
Instead of wondering why, the owners blindly dolled out the fattest paychecks to the worst offenders and now in some sense of bonus self-righteousness, are acting like the guardians of the game.
Where does Manny fall in all of this?
Well I have said before, A-Rod doing steroids was like your girlfriend cheating on you and then you taking her back. You have given up the right to be shocked by any level of disrespectful behavior she displays from that point on.
So save me your anger because it makes you look stupid.
Manny Ramirez is responsible for what he took, and his 533 home runs certainly are tainted in my eyes. I will say this as someone who has defended Manny: I am, at worst, disappointed.
But who do we believe is clean?
Pujols? I’ll believe it because there is no evidence to the contrary. But I certainly won’t be “blinded sided” or “flabbergasted” if that is not the case.
Manny’s job is to perform at the highest level and if steroids are part of that performance I can honestly say I am not bent out of shape about it.
Did he break the rules? Yes. Did he know he broke the rules? Yes (He may say he didn’t, but his withdrawal of his appeal tells me something very different). As it says in the rules, Manny will now serve 50 games.
SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Well, I go back to the fans perspective through our jaded view of the world. Let's look at some of the guys that may have been forgotten and marvel at just how good they are. I am not talking about Willie Mays or Roberto Clemente. We know how good they were.
But how about...
Some of them are already all-time greats and hall of famers. Some of them become more and more deserving of our admiration and respect as it becomes obvious that they must be compared to their peers and not a generation of athletes with clearly inflated egos and pay checks.
For a generation we lost our grip on reality.
Fans once celebrated Tony Gywnn, and Cal Ripken Jr. with as much zeal as George Bell and Kirk Gibson. I am not interested in the Manny story because it holds zero new information for me. It once again shows that we haven’t learned our lesson.
In the end, ratings were up, gates were up, profits were up. Not just chicks were digging the long ball.
I'll leave you with this and maybe it helps you to reframe what is important as a fan:
"I believe in the soul. The c***, the p****, the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curveball, high-fiver, good Scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap, I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, I believe there oughta be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days. Good night."
– Crash Davis Bull Durham
It’s time again to be a kid—to throw your hands over your ears and scream, "NA NA NA NA NA, I’m not listening." Maybe it’s time to BELIEVE.
Not in Manny or A-Rod, but in baseball.
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