— Manny Ramirez, on a forced sabbatical for the crime of being caught with banned chemicals in his bloodstream, still hasn’t stood before his teammates to explain and say he’s sorry.
This is beyond unforgiveable. It is worse than the stupidity that put him, the Dodgers and their fans and baseball in this situation. It is a breach of the most fundamental social unit in sports: the team.
Manny B. Knucklehead screwed his teammates. Whether it was because he listened to a doctor’s advice that what he was taking wasn’t illegal, or it was a willful act of cheating doesn’t much matter. Either way, he inflicted severe damage on teammates who believed in him, supported him, looked up to him.
Ramirez didn’t just let them down. He kicked them all where it hurts the worst. It came without warning, a dark-alley attack that never gave them a chance to brace for what was coming. If somebody had done the same to Manny, he’d be screaming bloody murder. We know that because he has a history of it. But his teammates have been much better to him than he was to the Red Sox over what he called the team’s disrespect.
The damage is both on the field, where the Dodgers must find a way to replace one of the best right-handed hitters in the game, and in the wallet, where no Manny means fewer fans, fewer concession sales, fewer beers and hot dogs ingested and less money for everyone.
Ramirez can’t find the Dodgers a new bat to replace his. He can’t replace the money he’s costing everyone. He can’t stop commentators from calling him a drug cheat and a jerk and an embarrassment to the team and the game.
But Ramirez can at least man up and face the people he betrayed the worst: his teammates.
Manny should have done it last Thursday, the day he was suspended. At the very latest, he should have done it the following day. But he still hasn’t done the one decent thing left to him to do. Nor has he indicated when he will.
I’d like to blame his agent, Scott Boras, for this lapse in basic human decency. And there’s no question that Boras, whose heart — if he has one — is connected directly to his bank account, is orchestrating Manny’s every move. But Manny’s got a functioning brain cell or two. He knows what’s right. He’s fully capable of telling Boras he doesn’t care what the agent thinks, he’s going to apologize to his teammates.
Saying, “I messed up. Sorry, guys,” isn’t going to get it done. Manny should crawl into that clubhouse and kiss the hems of their warm-up jackets, begging for forgiveness. He should slap himself silly, just to save them the trouble. Sack cloth and ashes might be over the top, but groveling would definitely be in order.
I don’t expect Ramirez to come fully clean, especially if he’s fully dirty on this. But he’s got to understand how badly he screwed everybody in that organization, and he’s got to understand that it’s all his fault. Not Boras’. Not the doctor's. Not the media's. Nobody but himself.
It’s probably hoping for too much. We listened to Roger Clemens on Tuesday telling ESPN’s "Mike and Mike" that he didn’t do anything wrong and that everybody is lying but him. Nothing ever has been their fault — not at least since they first demonstrated an ability to play a game better than anyone has ever played it. It’s hard to change a lifetime of blaming others. And it’s not just jocks who are guilty of this. Powerful and privileged people in every walk of life are as likely to comprehend their own guilt as a cockroach is to comprehend the Pythagorean Theorem.
Even so, Manny’s got to stop being Manny and start being a decent human being. Boras wrote a smarmy apology statement for Manny that was released after the suspension. But a personal touch is in order. His teammates need to see his distress, to sense his contrition, to know his sorrow is more than just a bunch of words in an e-mail.
So face your teammates, Manny. You’ve made a career of acting dishonorably in times of trouble. Try acting honorably, just this once.
And when you’re done talking to them, try calling a press conference and doing the same to your betrayed fans.
You may find catharsis is a good thing.