“Manny is like a family member at this point, he really is. I can't imagine life without him. He's like having a dog—you have him for 10 years, he does strange things, you always end up forgiving him, he always comes through when you least expect it, and then when it's over, you remember him fondly.”—ESPN.com Page 2 Columnist Bill Simmons on Manny Ramirez
“Being suspended is like getting a paid vacation. Why do they think it's a punishment? It's like your dog pees on the carpet and you give him a treat.”—Tammy Metzler, from the movie Election
Haven't these 50 games felt like FOREVERRRRRRR, you guys?!
When Manny Ramirez was first suspended for being prescribed one of MLB's banned substances, Star Trek was still uncool. Iran was just a moderately dangerous country located in the Middle East. David Carradine, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, Karl Malden, and Billy Mays were all still alive.
That's 56 calendar days.
Practically two whole months.
With such a severe penalty in place, I'm sure no one in baseball will use a PED or other untoward means to get ahead in the game ever again. After having all that time to think, I bet Manny really regrets how he let his team, his fans, and himself down.
Well, what exactly did he do during all that time?
We've used newswire reports, eyewitness accounts, Twitter feeds, and absconded journal entries to construct the following timeline of how Manny spent his time in absentia.
A day-by-day summary:
Day 1—Attempts to fire doctor and pharmacist. Is told that is, “not how it works.”
Day 2—Wakes up at noon. Scours Craigslist for jobs. Every posting requests utmost punctuality and an exacting eye for detail. Decides he can float by on $14 million just this one season.
Day 3—Having resolved to not look for temp work during his sabbatical, calls up Scott Boras to ask how suspension will affect negotiations with the Dodgers and other teams this winter. Does Rod Tidwell impersonation. Boras does not laugh.
Day 4—Adds Juan Pierre to fantasy baseball team.
Day 5—Decides to try just being Manny. Finds experience slightly overrated.
Day 6—Hangs out in South Beach. Attractive women provoke feelings of both arousal and breast envy.
Day 7—Starts doing crosswords a day later than publication after realizing that is when they publish the answers.
Day 8—Decides to take this opportunity to brush up on news he normally doesn't get a chance to read. Shocked to learn America elected an African American President last November and that the Red Sox traded him to the Dodgers last July.
Day 9—Burns “Mannywood” shirt. Flame only a fraction as hot as the fire of anger Manny feels in own heart over Manny Betraying Manny.
Day 10—Goes to Venice Beach dispensary to pick up some more “medication.” Is told that he needs a prescription. Immediately regrets firing doctor and pharmacist.
Day 11—Crank calls David Ortiz. Claims to be complete stranger who saw number on Amber Alert regarding Ortiz's missing power stroke. Ortiz does not laugh.
Day 12—New York Times “Ethicist-in-Chief” Randy Cohen makes argument that Manny's behavior has not necessarily been “unethical.” Skip Bayless's head explodes with fragments landing in seven different U.S. states.
Days 13-23—Takes vacation to Las Vegas to try and forget about problems. Blacks out for 11 days. Wakes up on top of Green Monster with a baby, a tiger, Mike Tyson, and Zach Galifianakis.
Day 24—Watches the MTV Movie Awards. Finds the Bruno-Eminem fight completely credible and realistic.
Day 25—Cycles off amounts of testosterone naturally produced in a 37-year-old male's body. Settles in for the night by watching the Sex And The City movie and getting drunk on Cosmos.
Day 26—Drunk dials Peter Gammons. Phone rings twice before Manny hangs up.
Day 27—Re-reads Simmons's columns during the 2004 Red Sox championship run. Is it just Manny, or is it a little dusty in Manny's house?
Day 28—Watches The Natural on TNT. Enjoys the movie, but wonders what that title's about.
Day 29—Watches The Program on TBS. Admires Lattimer's dedication to his craft.
Day 30—Hits game-winning home run in MLB 2K9. Hits self in face with shaving cream pie.
Day 31—Briefly considers becoming egg donor. Manny is told that is, “not how it works.”
Day 32—Snaps at wife. She mutters under her breath, “Must be that time of the month.”
Day 33—For the first time, publicly addresses his suspension by saying, “I didn't kill nobody, I didn't rape nobody, so that's it, I'm just going to come and play the game.” Manny's tenth-grade English teacher adds himself to list of those who feel betrayed.
Day 34—Buys Joe Torre's book.
Day 35—Wonders when companies decided to make toilet paper so abrasive. And so tough to tear off. And when the patterns became so intricate.
Day 36—Calls five different teammates to see if they want to grab some dinner before realizing they're all currently playing a game in Arlington, Texas.
Day 37—Tries to claim www.facebook.com/mannybeingmanny. Disappointed to find that MIT senior claimed it 20 hours earlier.
Day 38—In attempt to maintain female fertility deception, attends West Hollywood's Gay Pride Parade as “Tranny Ramirez.”
Day 39—Attends seventh grandmother's funeral.
Day 40—Visits with old friend from the team last year, Angel Berroa, for lunch. At Berroa's insistence, they eat at Glendale Galleria food court. Berroa waits five minutes until Manny leaves to resume shift at Hot Dog on a Stick.
Day 41—Watches Lakers championship parade. Wonders how millions of people can idolize an athlete who cheated on and deceived his wife.
Day 42—Goes in for his sonogram. Good news, everyone! It's a boy!
Day 43—Changes Twitter icon green to show solidarity with Iranian voters until realizing that inviting comparisons to The Incredible Hulk might not be the best thing at the moment.
Day 44—Naps. Wakes up and briefly considers apologizing to fans. Rolls back over and falls asleep.
Day 45—Lands in Albuquerque. Manny wonders where the skyscrapers went and when the area around Dodger Stadium got so sandy.
Day 46-48—Cheered by Isotopes fans as he begins “rehab” work. Local nuclear power plant owner Monty Burns attends the game and thinks Manny would make an “excellent” addition, along with Jose Canseco and Roger Clemens, to his company softball team.
Day 49—Tells LA Times columnist T.J. Simers that he's lost 11 pounds due to “sickness.” Does not mention that the sickness was caused by an unelevated level of testosterone caused by Manny firing his pharmacist.
Day 50—Distraught over Internet rumors of Jeff Goldblum's passing. Tries to cheer self up by watching cable news.
Day 51—Published reports that the DEA is investigating the doctor that prescribed the female fertility drug (HCG) that got Manny suspended. Manny promises to fully cooperate as long as he gets to play with this guy's gun.
Day 52—The San Bernadino Inland Empire 66ers decide to reschedule “Free HCG Giveaway Night (First 5,000 Female Fans or Male Fans With Doctor's Note).”
Day 53—Manny declines to speak with reporters after playing his final minor league game, saying, “No thank you. Go to YouTube.” Reporters do, and that's where Chris Crocker tells them to LEAVE MANNY ALONE! LEAVE HIM ALONE!!!
Day 54—Returns to Los Angeles. Asks member of entourage, “When did Albuquerque get such tall buildings?”
Day 55—In penultimate day of penance, Manny decides to celebrate with some Hot Dog on a Stick. When he gets there, shakes head in shame at Angel Berroa.
Day 56—Drops Juan Pierre from fantasy team.
But yes, even after all that, I'm no different from my fellow Dodger Blue hypocrites.
I'll be at Dodger Stadium later this month, along with the father who's lectured his child about how cheating is no way to get ahead, or the mother who secretly hopes her son doesn't have his heart that set on playing Division I ball, worried about what others—or even worse, her son—will sacrifice to try living the dream life their "heroes" do.
We'll all give Manny his deserved round of applause for...what, exactly?
Enduring stern lectures from the likes of Skip Bayless and Bill Plaschke?
Losing more money than any of us will see in a lifetime (and yet still being able to make twice that much)?
Being deprived of our adulation for 50 whole games?
Whatever lesson we and Manny have learned over the last 56 days, once a man has done the time for his crime and paid his debt to society, he deserves a second chance even if his name isn't Howe or Strawberry.
What's past is past, and boy, when Manny gets a piece of that ball and sends it into that monument of excess appropriately called the All-You-Can-Eat Pavilion, the present just feels so good.
You know what, if Major League Baseball says 50 games is sufficient punishment, well, that's good enough for me.
What's the difference between morals and ethics anyway?