Lets just talk for a moment, sports aside. Lets say that you were caught running a deep-rooted drug cartel out of your lovely little two bedroom apartment and were promptly evicted from your place.
What once was a comforting roof amid a family-friendly neighborhood is now nothing more than a lost memory, a remnant of your old ways.
With no house and a tattered record, an aunt, cousin or good buddy goes out of their way to welcome you into their home and try to help you get back on your feet. They don’t owe you anything, especially given what you did to get put on the streets, but they offer you a hand out of love.
They give you a room, a warm bed to sleep in, food to eat, and don’t make you pay rent. You get to save some money while you find a new place that will extend a lease to a wayward soul with a criminal record.
How grateful would you be for that friend or relative? Pretty thankful, right?
During your free stay at their home, you would probably run some errands, make the trips to the grocery store, take care of the dishes after dinner, maybe even throw in a load of laundry or two while you are playing with the dog.
You would do many things to pull your weight and give thanks for probably the biggest favor you will ever receive. We agree on that, don’t we?
Which brings me to my point about all the hoopla surrounding Manny Ramirez’s Minor League Comedy Tour, one that began Tuesday evening in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The biggest story—or disturbance, depending on your opinion—regarding Ramirez’s “rehab” assignment is the fact that he is even being allowed to play 10 games in the minor leagues prior to the culmination of his 50-game suspension.
Is it right? Is it fair? Why does he get to play in a Los Angeles Dodger-sponsored affiliate before he can play for the Dodgers? If he is suspended by Major League Baseball, why is he allowed to play for a team that sends a cut of its revenues to MLB before his suspension is over? Why should he be given the luxury of getting into game shape before he sits out his 50 games? On, and on, and on …
Personally, I really don’t care. The only guys that really matter to me are the men who are currently wearing the uniform of a Major League club. And, of course, the clean prospects who are working their way up to the big leagues.
But the other guys? The users? I’m not really that interested in what they do while they are suspended. Go rock climb in Rome. Doesn’t matter to me.
Is there something fundamentally askew with the MLB rule that allows Manny to play in these minor league games? Yes, there absolutely is. It’s like putting a six year old on a 30-minute time out, but letting him play after 20 minutes of solitude because he didn’t kick and scream in the corner.
It’s a ridiculous rule. It’s so asinine that I’m not going to work myself up thinking about it.
But what I do have a problem with, is how Ramirez spent his Tuesday evening with the Albuquerque Isotopes. Ramirez didn’t play a game with the Isotopes or spend an evening with the fans.
No, Manny played four innings, got his two at-bats in, and then was gone quicker than he came. After playing his four innings, Ramirez was out the back door, signing a couple autographs before hopping in a car and bolting from the media before the end of the game.
I don’t care if Manny Ramirez says one word to the media while in Albuquerque. Hell, I wouldn’t.
But what Manny certainly ought to be doing, is sticking around for the duration of the ball game, and then some.
He should have played his four innings, and then hung out with the other minor leaguers for the last five. He should have spent those five innings talking with the hitters, giving them two hours of total access to ask any question a kid would want to ask about hitting to one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game.
He should have spent the other five innings coaching. He should have paid attention to the other minor leaguers’ at-bats, and then talked to them about pitch sequence and approach when they came back in the dug out.
He should have had steaks and beers delivered to the clubhouse after the game—on his dime—and sat around with the rest of the guys telling them what life is like in the big leagues.
For all of Ramirez’s faults, he has a reputation of being a tireless worker. He should have sat around with the boys, enjoying a rib eye, explaining to them exactly what it takes to not only get to the big leagues, but also stick there.
He should have talked to them about all the fun you have in The Show, but also the professionalism and dedication it takes to taking care of your body and being ready to perform.
You don’t think those minor league players would have been hanging on every story and every line? That would have been like Bring Your Dad To School Day in the second grade. Those words would have actually made a difference.
You could argue that Manny should have gotten to the ballpark early, and stayed late to sign autographs for all of the fans that want them. That would have been a nice gesture, but I’m not going to say that he has to do that. Hey, if he wants to say thanks to the people who pay his salary and support him, that’s up to him.
But it’s not up to him to give his time to his current teammates. He owes that to them. He’s walking into their yard, taking the at-bats and outfield reps from a young kid who could use them to develop and chase a dream, all while he is suspended for testing positive.
In my opinion, the biggest travesty with steroid users is not that they cheated the game.
What doesn’t sit well with me is that there are hundreds of minor league players who are working like hell to get to the major leagues and would give anything to have a job in the big leagues, but don’t get it because there are cheaters who are keeping their job through artificial enhancements. That’s the biggest disgrace of it all.
Steroid users don’t cheat baseball; they cheat minor leaguers out of an opportunity.
Manny owes time and humility to these kids who are blindfolded and are trying to find their way to the top. Manny could have a profound impact on the future of some of these players, and it is now his duty to contribute to their success by offering his knowledge and experience.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda …
What are some of those old sayings about being thankful, making an impact, and giving back?
Yeah, well lets see it. There’s still time.
You can reach Teddy Mitrosilis at firstname.lastname@example.org.