While sitting on top of the National League West, the National League, and all of Major League Baseball with a record of 35-17, there are many questions that continue to be asked of the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans.
One of these is in regards to the All-Star eligibility of suspended outfielder Manny Ramirez. This is a question with various layers; a question that's not as simple as some would like it to be.
Manny’s suspension extends to July 3, assuming no games are postponed. The All-Star Game will be played on July 14 in St. Louis. Thus, Manny will be eligible to be on the Dodgers active roster before the All-Star Game rolls around.
While considering this question, it is possible for me to answer "yes," "no," and "maybe"—depending on what element one considers being the most important aspect in this equation.
If one believes using steroids to be cheating, worthy of punishment as well as the denial of accolades, then the answer is obviously "no." It is a simple black and white situation.
The only problem is Major League Baseball has no such rule in place to legally prevent Manny or any other player from being held out of the All-Star Game for steroid usage suspension.
If one holds to the theory an All-Star Game starting spot is awarded in consideration to how the players have performed in the current season only, the results are mixed.
Manny has played 27 games this season; his average is .348 with a slugging percentage of .641 and an on-base-plus-slugging mark of 1.133. He has six home runs and 20 RBI in 92 at-bats, drawing 26 walks while striking out 17 times.
These can not be considered bad numbers, but do not represent the number of opportunities afforded a healthy starting field player. The All-Star Game has seen many starters with sub-.250 averages, even a few that dip below the Mendoza line. The reason this exists dovetails nicely into the final major factor.
Many votes cast for All-Stars are cumulative over the career of a player, particularly for the exploits from the previous season or two. Manny is one of the best players in the game, particularly while at the plate. His career numbers are Hall of Fame-worthy, if not slightly tainted by this current trouble.
The value of 533 homers, 1,745 RBI, .315 average, .594 slugging can not be ignored; particularly since baseball’s commissioner decided to turn an exhibition game into the determination for home field in the World Series.
While the wisdom of this decision is highly debatable, the fact it is in place makes a strong argument for finding room for such a devastating bat.
I decided to survey 30 of Bleacher Report’s more knowledgeable baseball fans to gauge their reaction to the question of Manny as an All-Star. I had expected a strong negative reaction and was surprised to see the response was almost even, with the denial of eligibly side taking it by three votes.
I asked Dodger fans, Giant fans, and Red Sox fans, as well as fans of various other teams, in an effort to get a more rounded point of view.
From the cheaters shouldn’t prosper camp comes the following: Reds fan and baseball historian Cliff Eastham said, “I say disqualify them and if he should win, the runner-up should start…His refusal to protest pretty well tells the tale.”
Eloquent Dodger fan Leroy Watson observed, “It’s so clear to me that he doesn’t belong...sending a player to the All-Star Game is a reward for excellence, for playing by the rules. Don’t we think its one hell of a mixed signal to combine the two?”
Noted chef and Bleacher savant L.J. Burgess caps off this section by saying, “From the heart...he's a cheater...and the odds are that he's been a cheater for a looong time. I despise cheaters in Baseball”
Now for a few words from the folks who believe strongly how the starting lineup should be a reward for the current season only: Leading off with kensai, of firenedcollettinow.com, who checked in with a couple of salient points, “1) he doesn't deserve it based on his performance 2) he should concentrate on keeping in shape instead of playing and making it a media nightmare.”
Tiger and Cub fan Paul Swaney represents for the Midwest, “It bothers me that he is currently fourth in voting for NL outfielders, but it also shows just how numb people have gotten to the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs...would love to see him decline the offer...he'll earn my forgiveness.”
Loyal Yankee fan Marisa Scolamiero offered, “Despite the whole steroid thing I don't think he should get voted to the team because he hasn't put up numbers this season worthy of being selected to the game. Manny typically gets voted in and then comes up with some bogus reason about why he can't attend so he really doesn't deserve the vote.”
Mets fan and noted Shrek double Richard Marsh chimed in, “Since Manny missed most of the first half I don't think he is deserving...I realize that the all star game became a popularity contest and now with Internet voting it will certainly get out of hand. Florida voting machines have nothing on the MLB.”
Now for a word from those who think Manny should not be prohibited from playing. Starting with one of Bleacher Reports' top editors and Boston stalwart Tim Coughlin, “...it's about time the system changed so that the official ballot can adapt (after the season begins) to be more accurate...but if people vote for him and he's not suspended when the game takes place, he should be eligible...I think the onus is on the voters to vote for other players. That's the only way to send the right message.”
Giant fan Andrew, after taking his customary shot at Dodger fans, accurately pointed out, “It'll emphasize how ridiculous the claims by Selig are that they're seriously addressing the issue...why wasn't one of the first moves to invalidate for all chances at major awards/honors for those players who test positive? "This loophole shows they aren't being proactive, which is HEAVY indication the only problem MLB powers-that-be see is one of public perception. NOT one of substance abuse.”
University professor and admitted baseball addict Strike 3 observed, “He is clearly one of the most talented and exciting players in the league. The All Star game allows me to vote for the players I am most interested in watching, and he belongs on that list. Having him in the game would also make for great drama.”
Writer and radio host Patrick Mauro gets the last word in this segment, “The All-Star Game belongs to the fans. If he's voted as starter, he should start. Especially considering his suspension will be done with...If the fans want him, MLB has no right to prevent Manny from being a part of it.”
I want to thank all these folks for their wonderful comments, along with the other Bleacher Creatures who contributed their opinions to the survey.
Now, I’ll close with my final word on the subject. Manny should be eligible, but, if elected, should have Juan Pierre replace him in the starting lineup, just as Pierre has done for the Dodgers after the suspension came down.