His numbers are indisputable; on paper Manny Ramirez is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Manny announced his retirement today, ending a career in which he hit .312 on 2,574 career hits. Manny hit 555 career home runs and drove in 1,831 runs. He also helped the Red Sox win two World Series championships in 2004 and 2007.
Ramirez's retirement was announced in a press release from Major League Baseball:
"Major League Baseball recently notified Manny Ramirez of an issue under Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Rather than continue with the process under the Program, Ramirez has informed MLB that he is retiring as an active player. If Ramirez seeks reinstatement in the future, the process under the Drug Program will be completed. MLB will not have any further comment on this matter."
Ramirez, who failed a drug test in 2009 and was suspended for 50 games, reportedly failed a drug test in spring training according to USA Today. Ramirez chose to retire rather than face the 100-game suspension he would have been forced to accept as a second-time offender of MLB's drug enforcement policy.
This latest allegation of performance-enhancing drug usage marks the third time that Ramirez has reportedly been linked with PEDs. In addition to his 2009 suspension for the use of a female fertility drug used for masking steroid use, Ramirez was also reported to be on a 2003 list of 104 players who tested positive for steroid use according to the New York Times.
Manny was named to 12 All-Star games, he played in four World Series and he won the World Series MVP in 2004, leading Boston to its first title in 86 years. Ramirez also won nine Silver Slugger awards. During his 16-year career (not counting the strike-shortened 1994 season), he played in 11 postseasons. Ramirez was an impact player who knew how to help his team win.
Ramirez's 555 career home runs rank him 14th all time. His 1,831 RBI rank him 18th all time. Ramirez also ranks ninth all time in slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). These are numbers that deserve a plaque in Cooperstown.
Throughout his career, he was one the most dominant right-handed hitters in the game. For a long time, there was little doubt that Ramirez was deserving of a place alongside the legends.
Even those within the game now have their doubts where Manny's place in history will ultimately be.
"Up until the past couple of years, I thought he was on his way to the Hall of Fame," Rangers manager Ron Washington told MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez. "I can't think of a guy who got as many big hits as he did in his career. There are not many guys who could make a difference in a ballgame like him. You hate to see greatness all of a sudden fade. I thought he was a great player."
The precedent has been set, with the exclusion of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro by the baseball writers from baseball's highest honor. McGwire ranks above Manny on the career home run list with 583 long balls. Palmeiro is one of only four players in history with both 3,000 career hits and 500 career home runs.
McGwire admitted his steroid use and listed different dates in which he used, but his name never appeared on a failed drug test during his playing career.
Palmeiro did fail a drug test during his final season in 2005, however, prior to that season, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing (aside from allegations by Jose Canseco).
With regards to Manny, we know that he was suspended 50 games for violating the drug policy in 2009, and we know that he was about to be suspended for 100 games for a failed test this spring. Regardless of whether the allegation that his name is on the 2003 list is true or not, Manny Ramirez is a repeat offender.
It's sad because there are very rarely players that come along with Ramirez's talent and consistency at the plate throughout his career.
Three strikes in the minds of the baseball writers when it comes time to vote on his Hall of Fame candidacy will tarnish all of his numbers, and rather than joining baseball's most honored club, Ramirez will be on the outside looking in.
Brandon McClintock covers Major League Baseball for BleacherReport.com You can follow Brandon on Twitter: @BMcClintock_BR.