Manny Takes 50 Off: Flat Tire or Train Wreck for the Dodgers?

J.C. AyvaziSenior Analyst IMay 10, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 15:  Manny Ramirez #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on with his long hair during batting practice before the game against the San Francisco Giants on April 15, 2009 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.  All Major League Baseball players wore #42 in honor of Jackie Robinson day.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

As the dust starts to settle from the Manny Ramirez suspension bombshell, the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans can begin to properly take inventory of the damage and accompanying fallout.

It is sensible to start this assessment where most pertinent—in the Dodger clubhouse, the dugout, and on the field. Upon his arrival, Ramirez became the face of the franchise. His fun-loving personality transformed the clubhouse from an uneasy mix of crotchety veterans and nervous kids into a cohesive unit that became the champions of the NL West.

Music returned to the clubhouse, via Manny's iPod. The refresher course he taught emphasized baseball as a game that should be fun, something the balance of the squad once knew but had forgotten.

Now we will see how much of the lesson is retained by the 24 remaining players. Professional athletes know rosters are consistently in flux due to many reasons: trades, demotions/promotions, injuries, and suspensions. The particular cause is irrelevant; the fact he is gone must be dealt with and adjustments must be made.

Juan Pierre takes over in left field. He has been a Major League starter for years, so his return to every day duty will not be a problem. If the Dodgers were trying to insert a rookie just called up, the story would be quite different.

Pierre's skill set is different from Manny, so the middle of the order will need to pick up the slack in the power department. Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Russell Martin—this means you. It's time to grow up and take responsibility for the team.

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There are still veterans like Casey Blake, Orlando Hudson, and Rafael Furcal to keep things stabilized as the Dodger's ship rides through the more vicious storm swells. They know things could be far worse and this team still has enough components to emerge victorious in the West.

Players should treat this absence as if he was injured, only without the open end return date. In fact, this will provide ample time for Manny's injured hamstring to completely heal.

With Joe Torre at the helm, the Dodgers have a stable hand at the wheel. He knew not to get overly excited with the earlier win streak, having been there before with the previous record holders in Atlanta, yet still find himself sitting on the outside looking in come playoff time. His battle scars from the Bronx Zoo are barely itching in comparison to the current plight.

In the front office, GM Ned Colletti knows any attempt to bring in reinforcements would be prohibitively expensive, as the potential trading partners will try to extract two pounds of flesh instead of the standard one. The bench previously constructed is solid enough to weather this particular predicament.

Brad Ausmus, Mark Loretta, and Juan Castro have a combined 47 years of major league experience and all are contributing as the lowest batting average is the .333 of Loretta. Castro and Ausmus are both hitting over .400 at this point.

Xavier Paul, up from the minors will most likely get more education than at bats. While he was tearing up Triple-A pitching at a .344 clip with a .542 slugging percentage, it is quite likely Torre will use Paul in very small doses unless his hand if forced.

Pulling focus back to consider the Dodger fans, one notes a few different basic reactions. Panic, anger and shock are the most common. Humor is employed as a balm against the pain as well.

For the Chicken Littles of the world, there always is a crisis. Not much can be done for them save the cinematic comic slap-in-the-face when they get overly excited. Couple of weeks ago, the bullpen blowing a few games was the hot topic. Up next, who knows, except we do know it will be something.

Plenty of anger has bubbled over regarding Manny. Most of it comes from our friends in Boston, and can be easily dismissed for the obvious reasons. A bit drifts down from the Bay Area, in the form of a Bondsyan retribution. This is a tattered tale Angelenos have already heard before with Eric Gagne and Paul LoDuca, though it is true they had already left the team by the time that news had broken.

Some Dodger fans feel betrayed, and vow to have nothing more to do with Manny. We have also seen this before with Kobe Bryant. While a few hold-outs still are in grudge mode towards Kobe, many more have come back due to his undeniable skill and public apologies.

The great majority are still stunned and waiting for more information to be able to digest this bitter portion, however no sauce has enough substance to sweeten this meal. Looking over your shoulder and waiting for the other shoe to drop invariably leads to neck strain. We must break down the elements of what has happened and see it for what it is.

Manny Ramirez has tested positive for hCG, which is not a steroid nor absolutely tied to them despite what many would have us believe. It was designed as a female fertility drug but has been found to have a secondary property of increasing testosterone in men.

That property has the ability to help men with erectile dysfunction and diminished semen production. It also is used by those using steroids at the end of a cycle to replenish their system.

Manny has stated he used hCG with a doctor's prescription for the first reason, while his detractors insist on the latter. It becomes a matter of which you choose to believe, with many still trying to make up their mind.

If you wish to be fair, there are a few points one should consider.

Assuming the bedroom issue is in fact the reason, it is quite understandable how Manny would not want to share that information with many people. In a sporting culture where one does not want to acknowledge weakness or injury, such as Hong-Chih Kuo trying to ignore a painful elbow that's been operated on twice, it's justifiable why Manny would keep this information close to the vest.

It is borderline foolish to expect Manny to volunteer information on this situation to the commissioner's office, given it's location and spotty history. Additionally, it would be reasonable how Manny would prefer to seek a medical opinion from a doctor at his Florida residence, far away from his workplace, rather than from a team doctor who could pass on the information even in an unintentional manner.

At what price point does someone in our society forfeit their medical privacy? Five million, ten million, twenty million? Well, Manny is at twenty so the question is how much lower shall the bar fall. We are talking about a baseball player, not a candidate for President of the United States, where John McCain's physical condition is a fair topic for his ability to fulfill the duties of the office.

This is around a seven million dollar mistake, an error far greater than any Manny has committed on the field. It is fair for one to call it foolish and irresponsible. This won't be the first time those terms are applied to Manny. But is it a malicious attempt?

Show me a positive test for a steroid, then I'll be ready to kick Manny and his accomplishments to the curb where they can keep company with Gagne and his saves record. Without that type of proof, I submit it is proper for Dodger fans to continue to support Manny and look forward to his July return.


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