How Do You Solve a Problem Like Manny Ramirez?

Bleacher ReportSenior Writer IMay 11, 2009

Many a thing you know you'd like to tell [him], many a thing [he] ought to understand.  But how do you make [him] stay and listen to all you say, how do you keep a wave upon the sand?—"Maria," The Sound of Music (with a little poetic license)

That's right, sports fans, The Sound of Music.

Hey, I grew up sandwiched in between two sisters on either side and a father who traveled a lot i.e. I had zero control over any democratic entertainment decisions made in the house.  Consequently, I number Rodgers' and Hammerstein's classic musical amongst my favorite/most easily accessed movies.

Ditto The Little Mermaid.  And two of my favorite television shows of all-time are The Golden Girls (Bea Arthur, RIP) and Friends (Matt LeBlanc's career, RIP).

How's that for some heterosexual male security?

Anyway, anyone who's familiar with the Julie Andrews' escapades in the movie knows Manny Ramirez presents the exact same problem as the precocious nun.  On the one hand, his fans, teammates, and organizations love him for the offense he brings to the table.

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On the other hand, all are often driven to despair by his antics and shoddy attitude.  Not to mention his greed and stupidity.

But this isn't (totally) about the problems Manny presents to those interested parties.  This is about several unique problems Man-Ram's hot test result creates for Major League Baseball and those entrusted with her stewardship.

Ramirez poses three very tricky issues for MLB and the Dodgers—one is entirely new for MLB and one is really an exacerbation of a developing problem.  The third is, sadly, old territory for some in the Show, but a whole new frontier for the Bums.

And away we go:

1.  A new, but inevitable problem for Major League Baseball.

The Big Leagues have seen a number of their most luminous stars fall from the sky, dragged down by performance-enhancing drugs.  Barry Lamar Bonds has become the patsy—the man with the hypodermic needle in the book depository.

Meanwhile, a murder of conspirators has been assembled on the grassy knoll as the purity of baseball passes.  The group includes the likes of Roger Clemens, Gary Sheffield, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada, and on and on.

The motley bunch includes some of the game's best of all-time, Most Valuable Players, and record-holders galore.

Until Manny, though, the group did NOT include the main engine behind a World Series championship.

Clemens, Pettitte, McGwire, and Sheffield have all won rings and were important to the achievement.  However, none is surrounded by the same aura that embraces Manny.

Maybe it's because he won his jewelry in Boston.  Maybe it's because he is one of three men given the lion's share of credit for breaking the Curse of the Bambino (David Ortiz and Curt Schilling being the other two).  I don't really know.

What I do know is none of the other ring bearers are as closely associated with a triumphant Winter Classic as Manny.

And that's no good for MLB.

Records will fall and MVPs will be forgotten, but a WS title is forever.

There is no delete button for 2004 and 2007.  Especially the '04 victory.  Many years from now, the baseball world will remember the comeback from the three-game deficit against the New York Yankees.  We'll remember the first championship for Beantown since 1918 like it was yesterday.

And that means we'll remember it was fueled by the juice.  Like it was yesterday.

So how do you make it go away?  How do you move on?

I'm not one who believes feats of the Steroid Era are tainted or mean anything less than those from history.  But those who've plopped themselves down in the opposite camp are now confronted with a quandary.

It was all fun and games when everyone wanted Bonds' records wiped from the books or asterisked.  He's an ass so it wasn't an emotionally difficult stance—who cares if it's fair because it's only an individual record belonging to an immensely unpleasant ogre.

Now, it's a World Series title.  Now, it's an hombre who's supposed to be one of the Good Guys because he's personable.  Now, it's something that belongs to an entire fanbase.

NOW, the asterisk isn't so simple.

2.  A line has been drawn and you're either with us or against us.

In the immediate wake of Ramirez' PED-revelation, a funny thing started happening.  Prior to Manny, the other pros kept a pretty unified front.  Mild criticisms and subtle airs of discontent were hidden in outwardly supportive statements unless it was safe to take off the gloves.

Some guys took aim and let fly with both barrels, but nobody with a truly credible voice (unless you happen to put stock in Schilling's absurd and self-serving rants or those of Jose Canseco).

Post-Manny though?  Check out Mike Lowell.  Or Chipper Jones.  Or Matt Stairs.  Or Jake Peavy.

Compare their reactions with those of Dustin Pedroia, John Smoltz, David Ortiz or Scott Kazmir.

I'm guessing you're gonna start to see the divide between the two sides grow before this is all over.  With each new mega-star that comes up hot, I bet you see the frustration, impatience, and anger ratcheted up while tolerance is toned down from guys who have been clean all along.

For instance, either Lowell is an Academy-Award-caliber actor or he is legitimately peeved by the news about Ramirez.  If his reaction is genuine, I don't see how he could've been juicing.

Ditto Chipper Jones and the others who've popped off in similar note.

David Ortiz?  I came away with a contrary feeling in my gut.

He looked a mix of terrified and sad while talking about how it's hard to know what to take and how other guys are doing worse stuff than Ramirez.  I think I actually heard a violin softly playing in the background.

When you put the two side-by-side, the impressions left are in stark contrast.  And obviously far from conclusive.  It's entirely reasonable Ortiz is just bummed out for his good friend.  It's entirely possible Smoltz is just exhibiting the restraint and tact of a true veteran.

But there's no denying the taste left in your mouth by their words.  And that's bad for a whole host of reasons.

Sooner or later, the players will realize how presumptions of guilt/innocence are being influenced by the public record.  So, what do you do—blast a colleague to look clean or circle the wagons and look dirty?

Furthermore, it's clear deception doesn't sit too awkwardly with the juicers.  So what's gonna stop them from saying all the right things while using?  Nada.  Unfortunately, one of those guys will eventually come up positive for PEDs and we'll have to restart this whole cycle of skepticism again.


3.  Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

You can't say the Los Angeles Dodgers went into this blind.

They borrowed trouble from the Boston Red Sox when they brought Manny Ramirez aboard after he quit on the BoSox.  Now, they've got the same PED muck all over their record start to the season as well as their first playoff series win since 1988.

And now they may have the same problem Boston had—an unhappy Man-Ram.

News is coming from everywhere that Dodgers' owner Frank McCourt was furious with Manny's refusal to address the team personally.  Although the two've met face-to-face since the story first broke and it seems the situation has been somewhat defused, the damage may have already been done.

After all, Manny dogged his way out of Boston and I don't remember anyone from the Sawks ever saying anything disparaging about him in the national press.  Not even when he chucked a senior citizen employee to the ground.

Will La La Land get Good Manny or Bad Manny back?  Clearly, he'll be Good Manny at first, but for how long?

More troublesome is the option LA gave Manny.  Consider that baby triggered because NO WAY he gets more than $20 million on the open market (or whatever his 2010 salary is slated to be based on the contract structuring).  Not in a poor economy with this albatross circling in the skies above.

Nope, Manny Ramirez is in Dodger blue for the next two years.  Count on it.

Those are three very ominous prospects.  None is written in stone, but none is a real leap of logic.  So the question remains—how do you solve a problem like Manny Ramirez?

There's only one way:  blood-testing.

To my knowledge, that's the only way to detect human growth hormone and hGH seems to accomplish all that anabolic steroids do while being undetectable through conventional testing.  If MLB is serious about not only cleaning up the game, but cleaning up the perception of the game, there is only one road.

If MLB is serious about repairing the dents in its rep left by players like Manny Ramirez and Barry Lamar Bonds, there's only one solution.

Ironically, it's a needle of a different kind.