Now that Manny Ramirez has joined Mark McGuire and Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi and Roger Clemons and Alex Rodriguez and probably every other superstar in the game in testing positive (allegedly or proven) for a banned substance (steroids, HGH or any form of performance enhancer)—where do the fans go from here?
Will they even stay here? If they do, God knows why.
Baseball is the one team sport built on purity. The cornerstones from which the game was built upon weren’t bricks, they were names. Names like Ruth, Gehrig, Cobb, Cy, Jackie, Mantle, Mays—maybe CSPAN wasn’t as popular back then, but I don’t remember their congressional trials and pointing their fingers at congressman.
Those names are shrouded in gold. In essence, they’re perfect. Like that first popsicle in summer at age five—it’ll never have that same magic again.
That’s what baseball has become: a cheery popsicle when you wanted grape. When you needed grape.
The good ole’ days are enshrined forever. But those untouched and untainted days of America’s Pastime are forever stuck behind a pane of glass in Cooperstown—for all intensive purposes, they’re gone.
The majority of baseball fans—the ones still clinging onto hope that the game their dad taught them in the backyard isn’t lost forever—were relieved after the Mitchell Report.
“Ok, it’s finally done with. Those are the guys who cheated, let’s move forward.”
Alex Rodriguez and Manny Rameriz—arguably two of the best right-handed hitters in history and probably the two most talked about players the last six months—Manny tests positive, and the story comes out that A-Rod cheated while in Texas.
What if Albert Pujols (now considered to be the best in baseball) Grady Sizemore, or Derek Jeter tested positive tomorrow?
There are still 103 names yet to be released to the press that are believed to have used some form of illegal performance enhancer. What are the odds that one of those golden boys are on it?
Those are “our” golden boys—what happens when they’re taken away too?
Look in Cleveland’s own backyard. Rafael Betancourt tested positive for HGH and was suspended for 10 games. Since coming off the juice, he’s had a hard time lowering his ERA to single digits.
Former Indians outfielder David Justice was named on the Mitchell Report, and while his argument is oddly convincing, it’s also hardly believable.
Ryan Ludwick (yeah, the guy who could barely stay in the majors for a full weekend—let alone a full season—without getting sent back down to AAA) goes to St. Louis and slams 30 home runs. Maybe it was the change of scenery, maybe someone tweaked his swing—but maybe not.
That’s what everyone said about Clemens: “He just needed a change of scenery.”
Whoops...Turns out that change of scenery came with a box full of syringes as a house warming present.
Even look at ace Cliff Lee. He loses his control and movement on his breaking ball, gets booed off the field, returns to the team a couple months later and wins the Cy Young award.
What are the odds he’s juicing right now? I am not saying he is on steroids, the point is that the odds have now flipped in favor of “yes, he is.”
It’s a great story—even in Ludwick’s part with the Cardinals—the kind of story that reminds us of why we really love sport. But is there credibility attached to it as well?
And just to make sure this sinks in for Indians fans (sorry to you non-tribesmen), what if Manny wasn’t on the Red Sox in 2007? Cleveland up three games to one, one game from the World Series and probably their first title since 1948—what if ‘roided up Manny wasn’t on the roster? Rameriz hit two home runs and drove in 10 in that series alone.
Talk to a grandfather or dad or mother or uncle, and hear the stories of Mantle, DiMaggio, Mays and Koufax. The look in their eyes as those great reminiscing child-hood thoughts overtake them is goose-bump worthy. They tell the stories like those names were names of Gods—perfect beings dipped in golden waters.
When our generation talks about the greats today—Bonds, A-Rod, Clemens, Manny—will we have that same smile on our face? Will our eyes glaze over for a second and get lost in the memories? Will we have to put a footnote at the end of each story that explains the proven or possible use of banned substances?
It’s a shame Cal Ripkin Jr and his baby blue eyes can’t come back and be the face of a second generation. If he was clean.
Baseball is getting dangerously close to losing a permanent part of it’s once great fan base. The penalties of cheating aren’t nearly severe enough to warrant any real fear in the players eyes.
And all the while we’re being robbed of our golden and perfect memories.
Bonds and A-Rod and Clemens and now Manny all owe us an IOU that they cannot repay.