— The 50-game suspension of Manny B. Manny Ramirez is a blow to him, to the Dodgers and to baseball. But it is not a blot on anyone.
I hear people saying that, and it’s just wrong. Ramirez, through his agent Scott Boras, has admitted that he took a medication given to him by his personal physician. It is not a steroid, they said, but it is on the very long list of substances banned by Major League Baseball.
By all accounts, there was no premeditated conspiracy to cheat. Instead, there was an appalling failure of Ramirez and the doctor who prescribed the medication to exercise any of their brain cells.
Players have had more than enough examples of the dangers of taking things that somebody swears is fine to take. Phillies pitcher J.C. Romero got suspended for the first 50 games of this season for trusting that the manufacturer of a supplement he took was telling the truth when it said it was legal to take. Turns out the supplement contained banned substances, which would have been confirmed if he’d just submitted it to MLB before taking it. Romero is suing the manufacturer over the screw-up.
So both Manny and his unnamed doctor should have checked with MLB before prescribing and taking whatever it was he took. Not doing so is as stupid as riding a motorcycle without a helmet. The result of either action is about the same — a bad accident and a long absence from the game.
It’s possible the story being floated by Boras and Ramirez is not true. Ordinarily, I’d trust Boras as far as Kate Moss can throw CC Sabathia. He’s an agent and his job is to spin things in the best possible way for his client. He’s pretty good at that job.
But not even an agent can lie about this issue. If it the substance was a steroid, it will come out, because there are always people who won’t let a player or an agent get away with so bald a lie. Boras knows that. So if he and Manny say it was a prescription drug, we can have a pretty high degree of confidence that they’re telling the truth.
If Manny and Boras would tell us what the substance was, we can have an even higher degree of confidence. I hope they do. They owe it to the game. They owe it to themselves.
That said, let’s quit it with the chest-beating and the outrage and the dire pronouncements about the horrible damage this has caused to the game. The damage is that one of the game’s best players is going to be unavailable for 50 games. Period.
Any other reaction, especially now before every fact is in, is just more of the ridiculous hysteria that has consumed baseball writers and commentators since they realized that steroids had come to infest the game. They came by that realization about 15 or 20 years after they started ignoring the evidence of it, which may explain some of the manufactured outrage.
Guys make stupid mistakes. This sounds like one of them. ESPN is reporting that even people with the Red Sox who hate what Manny did to that franchise think it’s absurd to think that Manny belongs in baseball’s Hall of Juicers.
What is more logical? That Manny has been one of the game’s big juicers or that he made a really stupid mistake? Remember who we’re talking about here — the biggest knucklehead in sports. On this one, I’ll go with stupidity over malice.
And even in the remote possibility that Manny did intentionally take steroids, the fans are tired of hearing about it and, quite frankly, my dears, they don’t give a damn. Manny was one of the greatest right-handed hitters who ever lived when he came up with Cleveland in 1993. He’s still one of the greatest.
He’s 6 feet and 190 pounds — hardly a juicer’s body. Unlike Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, he has not gotten better as he’s gotten older. He had that unbelievable couple of months with the Dodgers last year, but he was highly motivated by his ugly war with the Red Sox. But even that hot stretch left him with 37 homers at the end of the year — eight fewer than his career high. His 121 RBI were 11 under his season average for his career. If he’s juicing, he’s not doing it very well.
His stupidity will cost him nearly $8 million and the Dodgers who knows how many millions. If you want to get mad at him for being dumb, go ahead, but don’t leap off baseball’s cliff of conclusions and decide that this is in any way comparable to the sins against the game committed by others.
Manny was Manny, which is a knucklehead. He, the Dodgers and baseball are paying for it as they would if he were injured for that length of time.
Just because it’s popular to be outraged at any hint of drugs in baseball doesn’t mean it’s right.