And we’ve already reached the step where the regions closest to Ramirez tear him open and throw him around like a rag doll, murdering the hopes of anyone who believed Ramirez had any sort of reputation to retain in those cities.
The cities in question, of course, are Boston and Los Angeles. The Red Sox had Ramirez for eight years, and put up with all the cons while assuming he would deliver the pros. And for about seven-and-a-half years, they maintained a strong relationship that, like most, had its ups and downs, but would always end up happy.
That all changed when Manny’s behavior got out of control and pushed him into an ugly divorce. Then, into the welcoming arms of Los Angeles he went on July 31, 2008, and those next three months resembled those of a high school relationship, where Manny and L.A. acted like they’d be together and in love forever.
But now, it’s starting to look like Manny needed an extra edge to hit the 17 home runs and 53 RBI in his 53 games in Dodger blue last season. The substance for which he tested positive, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), is very similar to clomid, a substance that has been used to restore players’ bodies after steroid cycles and linked to Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Jason Giambi.
So quick logic would suggest that Manny beefed himself up for those contract months, “earned” his money, then settled down with this HCG stuff.
Obviously, that’s not the explanation we got from him. And now he’s being skewered by the very media that once loved covering him and his hitting, as well as his antics.
That behavior slowly transformed into a childish sideshow act over his Boston tenure, and Manny lost all trust from those around him as soon as his act lost its humor and innocence. And now he’s being ripped to shreds.
The Boston Globe started the fire, with Bob Ryan going the easiest on him, dismissing it as just another act in the sideshow and waiting on more details like doctor’s records before totally tearing Manny down. Tony Massarotti, however, immediately questioned Manny’s innocence on the day the story broke. Eric Wilbur lamented that we now have no choice but to call Manny’s entire career into question.
The Boston Herald was also quick to join the party. This past Friday, Sean McAdam confirmed the fears of Red Sox Nation that their two recent championships would now be tainted because of Manny’s link to possible steroid use, whether or not details are ever revealed.
Manny is getting no more love or support 3,000 miles away in SoCal. Bill Plaschke, one of the more prominent Los Angeles Times columnists and frequent contributor on ESPN’s Around The Horn, has pretty much taken the Manny Ramirez beat since the story broke.
He got the ball rolling by calling for Manny’s “eviction” from the fictional “Mannywood,” which Dodger fans had affectionately named for the slugger in hopes of making him one of their own, and bemoaned the “ghost town” Mannywood has become.
Plaschke then turned his anger and disappointment toward the Dodger fans, who have supported Manny through this and ripped Plaschke for his anti-Manny column, by comparing them to their long-time rivals:
“Goodness, we have become San Francisco. After all these years of ripping Giants fans for supporting the juiced Barry Bonds, we are now them. Two days later, after allowing the rhetoric to settle and my heartbeat to slow, I am even more convinced of this. Fully two-thirds of the approximately 750 e-mails I have received about Manny Ramirez have ripped me for criticizing him. I have been physically threatened, personally insulted and generally despised for having the gall to hold an accomplished, longtime professional athlete accountable for the lives he has touched and the mess he has made.”
If that’s not enough of a wake-up call to the Dodger faithful that they are misguiding themselves, they might be completely helpless. Say what you want about the media in general, but Plaschke speaks the truth here. Kurt Streeter joined Plaschke in his disbelief that Dodger fans are not taking this situation as seriously as they should.
Maybe it will take a couple of months of .500 baseball without Ramirez in the lineup—something similar to their 2008 season before they acquired him—to realize that their “hero” has helped contribute to the seemingly endless tarnishing of America’s pastime with his use of banned drugs. The worst part is, it will probably be longer before Manny is completely honest with us.
It will probably take a Selena Roberts-like investigation for us to get the real details on Manny’s possible steroid use. Whoever tackles this story for a full-length book—and believe me, someone will—should not only interview people from the Dodgers organization after the initial shock wears off, but should go back to Boston and even all the way back to Cleveland to see if any kind of unsightly weeds spurt out of the barren dirt patch that is Manny’s steroid history.
Given the amount of sluggers the Indians employed back in the mid-to-late ’90s—and that Manny’s production peaked in his final years there, with a career-high 165 RBI in 1999 and 38 home runs in only 118 games in 2000—would it come as much of a surprise to anyone if Manny went around for a cycle or two?
In retrospect, it’s almost impossible to believe that Albert Belle wasn’t juicing in his prime, so who knows what kind of impression he could have had on Manny as a 21-year-old rookie?
Whatever happens from here on out, I can at least personally sit here and exhale, relieved that my fellow media members are only making it more difficult for Manny. Baseball is losing its grip on the star players from the steroid era, little by little.
And with each passing day, the legacy of this time for the sport is being packed with more and more dirt, and more nails are being added to the coffin.
I really, really, really hate to bring him into this, but if Albert Pujols ever tested positive for a banned substance or had any possible link to steroid use…well, that would be the final nail. I don’t want to say I’d give up on baseball altogether, because I truly love the game; if I had size and physical tools, I might be preparing for a game as we speak.
But the more I think about how much I would have loved being a professional ballplayer, the more I realize that my time in the sport would be tarnished forever by these men who have straight-up cheated the game. Manny is the latest pillar to fall, and he is a very big one.
Pujols is the last great pillar holding this era up, the last glimmer of hope we have that players can be superstars without gaining an unfair edge.
If Pujols is outed as a user, and that finall pillar falls out from under the structure of America’s pastime, the game would crumble and be reduced to dust and rubble. But before then, the power of the pen would eviscerate Pujols just like they’ve done to Manny. And I would be grateful for it.
I’m thankful that the users (and those convincingly suspected) are not getting any breaks, and we the media are using our outlet to the world to let it be known that cheating the game we love to cover is not condoned.
The next step for Manny is admitting everything he did to everyone. He has apologized to Dodgers owner Ned Colletti, but has yet to do so to the team and the fans.
However, the media does not deserve an apology in return for its attacks, only an explanation. And one that is not in any way vague or ambiguous.
After all, we’re only giving Manny exactly what he deserves.
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