Major League Baseball is suffering from an epidemic, a problem that could ruin the game as we know it.
No, it's not The Steroid Era, though that is close.
It's a brand new, much more dangerous age in baseball, one spear-headed by the "Hero of Hollywood", Manny Ramirez.
I call it: The Acceptance Age.
Barry Bonds became associated with steroids and no one would sign him.
Roger Clemens was named by the Mitchell Report as a user of performance-enhancers and has rarely been seen in the public eye since.
Rafael Palmeiro, after denying his involvement with PEDs, was disgraced by a public test and retired, never to be heard from again.
He was welcomed back to the league with open arms, the fans of LA greeting him as if he were the Baseball Messiah.
When did it become okay for someone to test positive for steroids? When were our heroes and role models allowed to be let off the hook for such a heinous offense?
At first I thought that the open-arms treatment would be limited only to LA, where he was playing. I thought he would come back, the media would be all over his first day, and that would be that.
Boy, was I wrong.
I didn't want to believe that Manny would be accepted back as if he did nothing wrong, something that his other positive testers couldn't do. What I witnessed during the holiday weekend made me realize just how indifferent the world has become.
Suddenly, something was breaking into the game.
I thought it must have been a milestone I hadn't heard about. Was a pitcher close to win number 300 that I didn't know about? Was a perfect game being thrown?
No. Manny Ramirez was up to bat.
A normal, run-of-the-mill, four times a game at-bat. Because he was Manny, and because he was back from a 50-game STEROID suspension, his at-bat was allowed to break in to my watching my home team play.
Of course, he hit a home run, so I'm sure Fox felt vindicated, but it did not change the fact that my game was interrupted, and my broadcast silenced, for a regular at-bat.
This happened every time he came to the plate. His final offensive day: 1-for-3, HR, two ground-outs, replaced by Juan Pierre in the bottom of the sixth.
All three of those at-bats took up half of my TV screen, the game I wanted to watch relegated to the corner of the television.
All for a man who just returned from a 50-game suspension for steroids.
I know he's a great talent, and I would understand if he was coming back from injury, but all of this hoopla for a return from a steroids suspension proves one thing:
The media has accepted steroids. The fans have accepted steroids. Worst of all, through their inaction, Major League Baseball has accepted steroids.
Where is Bud Selig now? Does he know that the national feed broke Manny's at-bats into the televised game? Is he aware that baseball and steroids are now in the same thought process?
Does he even care?
I'm sure the comments to this will say things like "Leave Manny alone," "dude get over it, Manny rules," "I love Manny, no matter what," and so on.
I cannot share your sentiments. He was found guilty of cheating at his job, something that gets other people in other positions fired. Something that should be unforgivable.
We can't forgive Bonds, Palmeiro, or Clemens. We throw asterisks on McGwire and Sosa's careers.
Manny, though, is just being Manny, and it is that mindset that will eliminate any credibility Major League Baseball has now.
Welcome to the Acceptance Age. I hope you are ready.
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