No Sympathy for Manny Ramirez; Plenty for Dodger Fans

Matt DolloffCorrespondent IMay 8, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 30:  Portrait of Manny Ramirez #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers during batting practice before the game between the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on April 30, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Right now, I could not feel worse for Dodger fans. In the past, I’d almost go out of my way not to feel sorry for them. With the way that at least half would leave games by the seventh inning (I have witnessed this myself; I attended two Dodger games on a trip to California last August) and not really follow their team as seriously as they may convince themselves they do, sympathy was the last thing on my mind.

I felt slightly sorry for them when they acquired Manny Ramirez last July 31, but that quickly fizzled out after my vacation and the Dodgers’ great run in the playoffs. But I started to feel truly sorry when I saw the faces of Dodger fans light up whenever Ramirez stepped to the plate.

They had a look of “This guy is such a great hitter! Sure, he dogged it a bit sometimes but what’s the big deal? Why were Red Sox fans so hard on him?” about them. I thought to myself, wait until they start seeing the dark side of Manny.

The Manny who doesn’t run out ground balls, makes lazy decisions in the outfield, lets losses roll off his back to an extreme and sometimes exasperating degree, makes up injuries and lies about relatives’ deaths to get some time off.

Those who really care about the Dodgers will be severely disappointed. I am anticipating those days in August and September when Manny will likely pull these same stunts, because he no longer has a contract to play for.

There’s absolutely no way Manny will opt out of his one-year option for 2010 with the Dodgers after his latest debacle. He’ll take his $23 million and be happy.

After he couldn’t find a job with any team besides the Dodgers when he was perceived to be “clean,” how could he find a job elsewhere now? For anyone who feels in any way sympathetic toward Ramirez, just realize that he brought all this on himself.

As a Red Sox fan who watched Manny smack over 300 home runs in his seven-and-a-half-year tenure, I could easily give him the benefit of the doubt. But in this era of baseball, “benefit of the doubt” is a non-existent phrase.

You are guilty until proven innocent. Too many big-name stars have been caught and/or questioned, and too many anonymous positive tests have been taken place to suspect anything less than every single player.

What needs to be made clear here, though, is that Ramirez is legitimately one of the game’s all-time great hitters. His balance is unparalleled. His fluid swing has allowed him to spray the ball to all fields throughout his career.

His patience has allowed him to attack pitchers’ mistakes, or take the occasional walk, leading to his prodigious on-base percentages.

He has been a model of consistency and predictability as far as offensive production goes. There was never a sudden spike or drop in his production.

But all this still doesn’t mean he never cheated. He has stated that he never failed a steroid test, which may be true. But his name could also be among the 103 names who tested positive in 2003, and he could just be confident his name will never come out into the public like Alex Rodriguez’s did.

He could also have access to undetectable substances. Whatever Manny did, he’s not taking responsibility for it, so I don’t feel sorry for him now that he has to serve a 50-game suspension.

So what does this do for the Red Sox and their two World Series titles they won with Ramirez, one of which he won MVP for (2004)? Go ahead and accuse me of bias if you want, but I don’t see any taint here.

I never even believed Ramirez deserved the MVP in that series; Keith Foulke was dominant in closing out all four games, all of which were pretty close.

The playoff run by the Red Sox that season was still a 25-man effort. Whether or not the Red Sox could have won that series and the 2007 World Series is impossible to answer, so it doesn’t even need to be asked. Would the

Yankees have won the World Series in 1999 and 2000 without Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte? Maybe, maybe not, but I still wouldn’t place an asterisk next to it. Despite the existence of MVP awards, one player does not make a team.

But sympathy is still not the card to play with Ramirez. He took a banned substance, and he did it in such a shady way, he deserves all the blame and all the skepticism about his entire career.

I am of the belief that Ramirez could have been a great hitter without using any illegal means, so if he really did use PEDs then words can’t describe my level of disappointment with him.

Ramirez’s case is just as bizarre as about anything else he’s done in his eccentric career. Why should we have expected anything less?

According to reports, he visited not the team doctor for the Dodgers, but another doctor in Florida, who prescribed him human chorionic gonadotropin (guess we can call it HCG now), a female fertility drug similar to another called Clomid. Apparently, it is occasionally used to treat male infertility as well.

Jayson Stark was able to dig up as much information as he could on the drugs, and found the report that “The FDA has not approved the use of Clomid in men, nor has it been found to be especially effective.”

So what we know for now is that Ramirez flew 2,000 miles across the country to visit a non-team doctor who prescribed him a drug for a “personal health issue” that isn’t approved by the FDA to handle impotence. Like Stark said, what credible doctor would do that to a professional athlete?

It makes me wonder why, if Ramirez was really having sexual issues, he didn’t just take Cialis and hope his erection doesn’t get beaned with the ball. Or take Enzyte and end up grinning ear-to-ear 24/7 like the guy in the commercial.

The best speculation we can make is that he was suffering a loss of testosterone from using something else. Something that could possibly be undetectable?

Whatever the case, Ramirez did all this and then threw the doctor right under the bus. He’s not exactly known as a great friend or teammate, so it should come as no surprise that he did that. But all he did was add fuel to his own fire, and what he’s burning is his reputation and maybe even his Hall of Fame chances.

Ramirez is just another notch in the belt for this dark era for baseball. And because of his actions, and the way he’s conducted himself over his career, he doesn’t deserve any sympathy. Nor should he expect any.


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