With Manny, Nothing's Cut and Dry

Matt ChapralesCorrespondent IMay 8, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 19:  Manny Ramirez #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers on base against the Colorado Rockies during the game at Dodger Stadium on April 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

I know, it doesn’t look good.

Manny tested positive for a banned substance and is not appealing the automatic 50-game suspension he received as a result.

The statement he issued was opaque and dodgy, which is not a surprise considering it was likely penned by Scott Boras.

The media response has been ferocious, with everyone from hot air extraordinaire Bill Plaschke to revered baseball scribe Jayson Stark sticking their fangs into Manny.

The rest of us, meanwhile, are left to mull over everything that has happened in the last 24 hours and decide if Manny’s a steroid user. I’ve been asked point blank the question a few times in the last day, and my response in each circumstance has been, “I’m not ready to believe that.”

I’m still not, despite all the evidence to the contrary.  Despite the suspect “personal health issue," the peculiarity of the doctor’s Florida location, and the fact that the drug in question is frequently used by steroid users coming off a cycle.

I’m not ready to believe that we can lump Manny in with Steroid Abuser A through Z, because since when was Manny ever lumpable (not sure if that’s a word) with anyone?

The man is a different breed, one of a kind. While that doesn’t exonerate him from present accusations, his situation can’t be sweepingly tied to Palmeiro’s wagging finger or Sosa’s linguistic amnesia.

Could Manny’s statement be a bold face lie? Yes, yes it could.

But be careful not to underestimate Manny’s overly dependent nature. We’re talking about a guy who nearly backed out of a $160 million contract with the Red Sox upon learning that his favorite clubhouse attendant in Cleveland wasn’t ready to uproot himself in order to accompany the slugger to Boston. A guy who on occasion needs to be told how many balls and strikes there are when he’s in the batter’s box.

So is it that far-fetched to think that maybe Manny did actually have a medical problem he wasn’t very proud of and sought treatment outside of the MLB web? That he blindly entrusted a doctor to prescribe him something he assumed would have no ulterior consequences?

The sentiment among baseball people is that’s hogwash. That players have had far too long to adapt to MLB’s drug testing policy and parameters.

They are right, but they’ve also been right about many things in the past that have been applicable to everyone but Manny (like for instance, showing up at Spring Training on time, not faking injuries to get a day off, not holding teams hostage over contract negotiations etc.).

They never got through to Manny then, so why suddenly is the SOP (standard operating procedure) for ballplayers relevant to Manny now?

Like it or not, the murky and mercurial Ramirez has always had a double standard applied to him, and that shouldn’t change just because his latest shady act has gotten him bounced for two months.

As I said, I still don’t know what to think. Manny may or may not be guilty of the crime he’s now paying 50 games and over $7 million for.

But if he wants to begin the arduous task of clearing his name and proving his innocence, it’s going to have to begin with a marked deviation from the Manny SOP. Which is to say murkiness is going to have to give way to transparency.

He says he saw a physician for a personal health issue. Who’s the doc? What was the issue?

He claims to have passed "about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons." Let’s hear more about those.

He issued a written apology to the Dodgers organization and fan base, but has yet to be seen or heard from in the flesh.

Bottom line is Manny must come out of his shell like never before if he’s to stand a chance against an enraged baseball populace.

Until then, I know…it doesn’t look good.

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