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Manny Ramirez Retirement: Rays OF's Second Offense May Leave Permanent Stain

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 01:  Designated hitter Manny Ramirez #24 of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the Baltimore Orioles during the Opening Day game at Tropicana Field on April 1, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
J. Meric/Getty Images
Drew BonifantAnalyst IIApril 8, 2011

We're still waiting for the details to come out, but what we know may be enough.

Manny Ramirez, the greatest right-handed hitter of our generation, got caught. Drug policy violation. Having violated the performance-enhancing drug policy in 2009, he was set to be punished. Again.

So what did Manny do? He retired. He didn't stick around for the judgment. Can you blame him?

He was out of solutions, out of time, out of a way to get out of the mess. Hey, it's just Manny being Manny.

He violated the drug policy. Everyone knew what that meant from the start. Drugs meant cocaine in the '80s. They mean steroids now. It's the culture.

That's the question. Was it routine? Was Manny in a position where he had to cheat to stick around, to stay feared at the plate? Was doing steroids no longer a question of morality, but a point of necessity?

If Manny talks, he can try to spin it. He might even try to charm us again. Hey, it's just Manny being Manny.

It's not going to work.

Manny has a problem on his hand. Plenty of sluggers have gotten busted. That just speaks of the desire to get an edge. It's wrong, yes, but so widespread that it's hard to fight the ho-hum feeling we get when we learn of the latest dirty 50-home-run hitter.

Twice? That speaks of the need to get an edge. There's a difference.

Barry Bonds' supporters can argue he didn't need steroids. So can Sosa's. And McGwire's. The list goes on and on. Those guys used, yes, but they didn't have to. It's an argument based on opinion, but it's an argument that supporters make.

Manny was in that group. He isn't anymore. He was wearing the scarlet "S," but now it's the scarlet "2," as in second offense, that's the bigger weight to bear.

Perception, fairly or not, can outweigh reality when it comes to the Hall of Fame and a place in baseball history. And the perception is, and will be, that a player who's been caught and does steroids or performance-enhancers again is someone who knows how much he has at stake, and cheats anyway.

Someone who has to, in other words.

Manny's legacy spoke volumes by itself. He was the last man a pitcher wanted up at the plate in a key moment for more than a decade.

Now we'll wonder. We'll question how much of that is real, because we can't forget a second time. We can't forget the thought of a career made, not just aided, by performance-enhancers.

We can't help but wonder if it really did become Manny being Manny.

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