My, how things have changed in baseball with fan perception of players using performance-enhancing drugs. In a span of less than a decade, we have gone from running players out of the game completely to adapting to the situation.
Friday night’s return of Manny Ramirez from a 50-game suspension due to testing positive of banned substances was a sign of the times where a majority of baseball fans have collectively said, “I love the game and this is what it is, Play Ball!“
Ramirez had the luxury of playing in San Diego where Dodger fans from all over southern California could show up and support their star left fielder.
Things might have been different in New York or Philadelphia, but the fact that a park like Petco that averages 24,000 a game was nearly sold to a capacity of 48,000 is a testament to just how forgiving we have become.
The excessive crowd was also a further example of how likeable a baseball character Ramirez is. But what about the other superstars of the game who have been ripped and crucified? Is it all about being likeable and fun loving, which means you get a free pass?
We started to see the community of baseball fans be forgiving with players like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte when they came forward and admitted their use of PED’s. It was like the fans just didn’t want to be lied to. Come forward and tell the truth, and all will be okay.
At the same time, we still held grudges against greats like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and recently Alex Rodriguez. Is it because they weren’t likeable guys? Possibly, Bonds was very private and said a lot of things that rubbed fans wrong.
Bonds also has doubt in fans minds with his claims that he unwillingly took the PED cream, which fans don’t like because they feel their being lied to.
McGwire had the baseball world in his hands just a decade ago, but his decision to not talk about the past under oath in a nationally televised forum stamped him a user in the fans minds.
Maybe if had just admitted it, the fans may have given him a pass, but it was still early in the media‘s game of investigative journalism that news rooms everywhere thought we wanted to hear.
Rodriguez has the handicap of not being a likeable guy to many because of his overall attitude. Beyond being a prima donna, he has his show-pony home run trot, doesn’t perform in the postseason, and then when finally coming clean with his use of PED’s it only after he was caught and the news was going public.
His time frame of claimed usage also raised brows. He just happened to get tested positive in the only session they tested. Okay? Just tell the truth and get a pass.
Manny Ramirez however, gets that automatic pass. He hasn’t said anything about what he did and says he’s moving on, and we all have said, “Okay Manny, great to have you back, go mash the ball.”
And that’s it! There is no outcry, and for some reason I’m okay with that, time to move on just like Manny.
The media crammed everything down our throats so much over the last decade and turned a story into a sensationalized national phenomenon that grew more and more to the point that our National Government got involved. Are you kidding? A hearing for steroids in baseball?
A situation that should have been addressed by Major League Baseball in it’s rules years before McGwire bashed 49 home runs as a skinny rookie in 1987, was not addressed because MLB loved the power source and surge in the aftermath of the disastrous strike that cancelled the World Series. Not even World Wars cancelled the Series, but greed could.
Baseball looked the other way, and then took action when forced to but still cowardly put the blame on the players. Watching Bud Selig cringe at Barry Bonds chasing Hank Aaron’s record when he was just as guilty was a perfect portrait of who Selig really is. Silently black-balling Bonds really showed what kind of character Bud Selig truly has.
I believe many of us have all come to a time where we’re just tired of it and Manny, along with his likeable personality, is the beneficiary of our weakened, exhausted state of anger.