The End of an Era? An Ode to Manny Ramirez and a Short Rant on Baseball’s Steroid Problem

I have, and always will be, a fan of Manny Ramirez.

Cheater? Sure, but then again, in baseball nowadays, who isn’t?

Two seasons ago, not only did Manny admit to taking steroids, but so did baseball’s golden child, Alex Rodriguez. I remember watching the press conference before going to work, surprised, but not shocked. I remember being split in opinion. The objectionable fan in me was thinking, “wow, A-Rod juiced.” The Haterade-drinking fan in me said, “No wonder he went to the Yankees.”

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just the game now.

However, I think I may have gotten a bit off-topic…-ish.

Manny Ramirez announced his retirement late last week, rather than face a 100-game suspension for performance-enhancing narcotics. The media (particularly ESPN) is blasting the man, basically claiming that he only retired so he didn’t have to serve out the suspension, and that his Cooperstown credibility should be shot because of it.

I raised an eyebrow, listening to Mike Greenburg’s verbal diarrhea, thinking only one thing: When has Manny Ramirez ever given a shit about the Hall-Of-Fame?

Manny being Manny. If there was ever an iconic sports phrase of the last twenty years, it has to be that. Hell, I’ve even pitched an idea for a video compilation called “Manny’s Greatest Hits”, showcasing his right-field bombs and on-and-off-the-field antics. To me, Manny Ramirez was the single greatest thing to happen to baseball since Junior and Senior Griffey bombing back-to-back in 1989.

Manny was, and still is, important to the game, for a multitude of reasons.

1. Power Hitting

Steroids? Now, who really gives a shit about them? Apparently, Bud Selig and the ghost of Abner Doubleday don’t. Manny, upon retirement, has the following honors:

12x All-Star (1995, 1998-2008)
9x Silver Slugger (1995, 1999-2006)
2x Hank Aaron Award Winner (1999, 2004)
World Series MVP Award (2004)
MLB Latino Legends Team

And stats:

555 career Home Runs (14th All-Time)
29 post-season home runs (1st All-Time)
78 post-season RBI’s (1st All-Time)
21 career Grand Slams (tied for 2nd All-Time)

But, does Manny care about that kind of thing? No. Manny is also best remembered for his on-and-off-the-field antics. Such as:

In the Red Sox dugout, nonetheless.

Maybe it was an important call?

Manny’s other memorable moment, looked on so fondly by the Red Sox Faithful (<—-sarcasm)

A routine shallow pop-fly, in which Manny misses, then “attempts” to field by rolling on top of it.

Even this guy never did that:

Anyway, Manny never gave a crap about being a sports hero. He wanted to be a star.

I was watching The Herd (unfortunately, one of the episodes without Colin) and a story was relayed that I found to be the best example of “Manny Being Manny”.

When he was in Cleveland, he had a ball boy watch his car while he was in the stadium. Manny told the ball boy that there was money in the glove compartment that he could have, citing “it should cover your trouble”, or something to that effect. The ball boy goes into the glove box and finds…

Get this…

$14,000 dollars! In cash!

The ball boy, disciplined and honest, goes to Manny and tells him that there is $14,000 in his glove compartment and that “there is no way I can take that money. Just pay [me] what I’m worth.”

Manny thinks for a second, then chuckles, then says, “Take what you want.”

Are you fucking kidding?!

He was perfectly content with paying the ball boy who watched his car $14,000 for the job.

I’d take it. Straight up.

With Manny’s retirement, I’ll admit, I’m very saddened. Not so much about Manny retiring, as it’s own entity (I kind of expected it), but the swirling controversy that is surrounding his retirement.

Major League Baseball have multiple hearings and hand out suspensions like their hall passes for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, but there has been little to no effort to deter them at the source.

In 1998, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing the long-standing single-season Home Run record set by Roger Maris of the New York Yankees back in 1961. McGwire broke it first, then Sosa hit his 62nd, and by seasons end, McGwire had the record set at 70. Barry Bonds, only three seasons later, hit 73.

Red flags, anybody?

Since then, the list of Major Leaguers who had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs has become longer and longer as more people are implicated and confirmed. It sucks, because a lot of them are people I idolized a child. Cheaters, most of them. That’s really the only way I can describe it.

Here’s the progression of what it took for Bud Selig to finally acknowledge the issue:

2003: BALCO is accused of giving performance-enhancing drugs to many players, notably Barry Bonds.

2005: Jose Conseco (referred to as “The Devil” in some circles) publishes Juiced, a book in which he points fingers at many players using performance-enhancing drugs to gain an edge in their game.

2006: San Francisco Chronicle writers Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams publish the book Game of Shadows, implicating BALCO, Barry Bonds, and other athletes of using and distributing performance-enhancing drugs. Also, Former Senator and Disney Chairman George Mitchell heads an investigation into past steroid use, sanctioned by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, in response to excerpts from the book being published in Sports Illustrated.

Since then, it’s been one big mess. Last year, Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids for most of his career, notably the 1998 Home Run Race. Alex Rodriguez admitted to using during his 2003 AL MVP campaign.

It’s hard not to look at Manny Ramirez’s career as anything but entertaining, but his retirement in the face of a 100-game suspension (which is 2nd infraction) should further raise eyebrows into the steroid issue. Manny, though carefree, didn’t feel that the game was worth sitting out for. It makes me wonder who else thinks this way.

Fifty years ago, Roger Maris did the unthinkable and hit 61 Home Runs, in a single season, without steroids, and effectively ushered in the end of the Mickey Mantle era, who, according to writer Zev Chafets, tried outhitting Maris withperformance-enhancing drugs in his system. Since that season, it’s hard to look at any slugging records as legitimate. It’s sad to say, but it seems that where baseball’s concerned, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s not anymore.

A perfect game? Maybe he’s juicing.
A new long-ball record? Maybe he’s juicing.
A relay throw from the wall to third-base? Hmm… I wonder…
74 Home Runs? He’s gotta be juicing.

I think Manny Ramirez knew that.

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About Robert L. Franklin

Ah, the About Me section - social networking's excuse for you sounding like an elitist prick. Hmm... what to say? What to say?
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