By Brian Maloney
Manny Ramirez always finds a way to be in the news. Last week he was informed that he failed a drug test that had been taken during Spring Training and the punishment would be a 100-game suspension.
At the age of 38, Manny probably realized that it would be too difficult to return after missing half a season from suspension, and therefore decided simply, and abruptly, to call his career.
It has not been made public which drug he tested positive for — with Manny’s reputation it may have been marijuana as opposed to a second steroid-related positive test — but the news of pending consequences has ended the career of arguably the best right-handed hitter of the last 20 years.
As Red Sox fans, we never wanted to believe that Manny was on anything. He didn’t look like he was juicing; he looked like he could just as easily be on his couch watching baseball rather than playing it. Manny had a smooth swing and everything just looked easy. He was never a homerun hitter, but rather a pure gap hitter that could slap the ball so well that it went over the fence.
Someone so carefree couldn’t be on steroids, right? As I mentioned, the only drugs that people expected he could be on would be those of the recreational variety. However, as “Manny being Manny” became more extreme and his production so drastically dropped off after his first suspension — minus that month or so immediately following — it became more believable that Manny’s skill could not all be natural.
So how will Manny be remembered?
As a top 10 all-time in Slugging and a top 15 all-time in Home Runs?
Most people, I’m assuming, would lean toward the latter, with Manny being a goofball. Most wouldn’t dispute that he was a great hitter, but just that his ability is now tainted.
Manny’s antics are indisputable and will never be forgotten. He certainly acted dumb at times and had poor judgment in his role, doing things that no one else could get away with. But he was just “Manny being Manny”.
People will look at his positive tests and crazy shenanigans before they even think about his actual playing ability. And that will cost him a spot in the Hall of Fame. In a time that nobody accepts any tomfoolery on the part of professional athletes, two positive drug tests is a nothing short of a blow.
But this opens up another debate.
It is becoming more and more difficult to find Hall of Fame-worthy players from that last 25 years that can be proven to be absolutely clean? Where does this leave Major League Baseball?
MLB has two choices: either continue to shun everyone who is mentioned in the same sentence as steroids, or just understand that steroid use was just another era of baseball and it should be treated as such.
The main issue is that there is no way to go back and determine who was using performance enhancers and who wasn’t. Testing was not as good 15 to 20 years ago and a lot of athletes who were using could have escaped a positive test.
This is why I take the other side.
MLB and the Baseball Writers of America need to get off their moral high horses and let players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and future Hall of Famers like Manny and Alex Rodriguez have their rightful places in Cooperstown.
If MLB really had an issue with rampant steroid use then they would have punished people when they were playing and as they were using. Instead, MLB took full advantage of the spectacle and took every cent that it produced. Only when use started to die down and the public started caring about steroid use did they go back and shun those individuals that used steroids.
As things stand today, Manny Ramirez has forever tarnished his legacy and has no chance at Cooperstown. But, that doesn’t change the fact that he was a great hitter, a great entertainer and a huge part of MLB teams that brought the World Series back to Boston.