Saturday, April 9, 2011

On The Retirement of a Bad Man

Manuel Aristides (Onelcida) "Manny" Ramirez reportedly has retired from professional baseball, as of Friday. News reports say that the MLB Powers That Be informed him that there was an "issue" in regards to his drug testing, and these same reports say that he retired rather than face further discipline under the policy. It is again surmised, though not proven, that Ramirez has tested positive for either a performance enhancing drug or an agent that masks the presence of such drugs.

During what is probably going to come to be called the PED era, there is much that is implied, or asserted to be true, or said to be "known", without a whole lot of actual proof on display. Remember that Barry Bonds, thought to be the king of the steroid users, never tested positive for anything. Also remember that it isn't really clear what benefit steroids provide when hitting a baseball.

It seems to me that every hitter and pitcher from this era is eventually going to be seen as playing In "the PED years"- with future generations lumping those who seem clean (like Ken Griffey Jr.) with those who seem dirty (like Rafael Palmeiro). PED use, if it provides any advantage not available to all, is a violation not only of the law but of the rules of the game, and thus should be eliminated from the game to the extent possible, just like the spitball or the corked bat is.

But PED use is now embedded in the history of the game, just like the spitball, or the segregation that marred the game's first 70 years, or the syndicates that ruled the game in the 1890s, or the shorter pitching distance before 1893. There is no pure baseball era- even the 1960s and 1970s had rampant amphetamine use.

I don't defend what Manny did, if he indeed did what it seems he did. It was mind numbingly stupid- especially doing it knowing that the testing is going on. Like Bonds and Roger Clemens and some others, (assuming their guilt) their talent was so immense that they would have easily cleared the Cooperstown bar without help- tragically, the help they did get may bar them from the Hall of Fame.

After hitting a game winning playoff homer against the Angels in 2007, Ramirez said that when you don't feel good and you still can hit, you know you're a bad man. Manny Ramirez was the best right handed hitter I have ever seen, and has provided me no end of thrills and frustrations in equal measure while playing for my favorite team. Unfortunately, the same drive that made him the Forrest Gump of hitting may have pushed him to break the rules, and has now composed the first line of his obituary. But Manny was a bad man, and Lord, could he hit a baseball.

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