Sunday, April 10, 2011

My Sunday Feeling

"Manny Ramirez showed this Spring that he can still hit a fastball. He showed he can still use the whole field. Now he has to show that he can regain his power. The other question with Manny, as always, is how long he can stay interested."

This sentence appeared in Sports Illustrated's pre-season baseball edition that hit the newstands April 4th. Of course, the writer could not have known that, even as the publication went out, Major League Baseball knew that Tampa Bay Rays slugger Manny Ramirez had tested positive a second time for performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs.

Well, to be accurate, Major League Baseball announced only that an issue arose with ManRam under baseball's Joint Testing and Treatment program. And that Ramirez opted to retire rather than serve a proposed 100 day suspension while cooperating with the program. 100 days. Seems clear to me that he didn't test positive for Ben-Gay.

On the one hand, I am surprised that Ramirez was such an idiot. On the other hand, I am not. Manny Ramirez was a head case in a sport that is full of them. His career was punctuated with numerous examples of dogging it in the field and failing to hustle on the bases. These were described invariably as "Manny being Manny." You are given some leeway when you have 500 some odd home runs to your credit. He had and David Ortiz formed the nucleus of the most combustable lineup in baseball when he played for the Red Sox.

And yet, his approach to the craft of hitting was beyond reproach. After the news of his retirement came out many of his former teammates were asked about what it was like to have played with him. Every one that I heard talked about Manny's hard work in the batting cage and all of the extra film study. They talked of his willingness to help young players with their hitting.

And, indeed, virtually nobody attributed Manny's prowess at the plate with steroid use. By way of comparison, nobody believed that Barry Bonds was clean when he was launching them into San Francisco Bay. Manny Ramirez's body stayed about the same during his career. Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa came into the league built like wide receivers. They left built like linebackers.

Still, you would have to think that the prudent man would only have to see the prosecutions of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons to realize that using PEDs is not without almost prohibitive risks. Use of PEDs seems especially senseless in the twilight of your career.

Or maybe that's when the risk calculation says to err on the side of using the needle. Manny Ramirez has more money than he can possibly spend. He obviously could afford to walk away. Maybe using again was the ultimate example of "Manny being Manny." It has always been about him during his career. His retirement leaves a huge hole in the Rays lineup. Obviously the potential consequences to his teammates did not concern Ramirez overly much.

But in any event, the question is no longer whether Manny Ramirez can remain interested. "Manny being Manny" cost him the remainder of his career. And he probably doesn't much care.

No comments: