Indeed, if Manny being Manny, he’s predictable.
Really, how could anyone be surprised with the way in which Manny finally met his demise, and for those who believe it came on Friday with his sudden retirement and an apparent second drug-test violation. The truth is Manny was exposed not by his first failed drug test, but by his stat ledger. When he returned from his 50-game ban in 2009, it turned out that Ramirez was just a good hitter.
He wasn’t anything more than that—good, not great.
“Might have been running out of bullets,” said Ramirez’s former batting coach, Charlie Manuel. “Father Time was catching up to him.”
Yeah, Father Time can be a real pain in the ass. He’s one of those miserable old dudes that needs punched in the face daily just to be kept in line. But even then Father Time doesn’t take the hint and eventually has his way. Even Jamie Moyer, the one ballplayer who seemed to organically fight back for the most extraordinarily, finally caught the haymaker that put him down. Though Moyer says he’s going to rehab from Tommy John surgery and try and catch on somewhere in 2012, it’s safe to say that he will be the first 49-year old in sports history to make a comeback after reconstructive surgery.
Chances are Moyer might gain a few ticks on the ol’ fastball after the surgery.
Not Manny, though. He won’t be coming back ever again without first serving the time of his suspension as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement. Actually, based on some of the reporting from the first time Ramirez drew a suspension for PEDs, the info seemed to suggest that he was a serial abuser. Here’s what we wrote the first time Manny went down in May of 2009:
A new report by ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn that Ramirez had a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio between 4:1 and 10:1. That leads some experts to suggest that he was using synthetic testosterone, a conclusion reached when one considers that people naturally produce testosterone and epitestosterone, typically at a ratio of 1:1. Anything at 4:1 and above is flagged by MLB.
The report indicates that Ramirez’s representatives argue against the synthetic testosterone, instead saying the player used DHEA. In baseball DHEA is not banned, however, it is in other sports. For instance, last month well-known cyclist Tyler Hamilton tested positive for DHEA, which is an ingredient in some vitamin supplements used to treat depression.
Hamilton copped to knowingly using DHEA and instead of fighting the positive test, he retired.
Meanwhile, experts have questioned whether the HCG Ramirez said he took for a “health issue” could cause such a large spike in the testosterone to epitestosterone ratio.
According to the story:
The synthetic testosterone in Ramirez's body could not have come from the hCG, according to doping experts, and so suddenly Ramirez had two drugs to answer for. Worse still for the ballplayer, MLB now had a document showing he had been prescribed a banned substance. This was iron-clad evidence that could secure a 50-game suspension.
So yes, it appears as if Ramirez has been caught red-handed. Now the question is, how long has he being using whatever it is he was using?
Whatever. Hand-wringing about baseball players using drugs has become quite odious. The truth is baseball has had a serious drug problem since the beginning of the game. Still, Major League Baseball continues to push alcohol and accept major sponsorship dollars from drug beer companies and with a straight face claims it will stamp out performance-enhancing drug use.
So yeah, whatever, pusher man.
See, the thing with Manny wasn’t the cheating as much as it was the fact he was a pig. He always will be remembered as a guy who played for the numbers. That’s all of the numbers, too. Manny wanted RBIs, homers, OPS, and dollar signs. That’s all he was after. At no point did this stand out more than after the 2008 season when he held the Dodgers hostage for $25 million per season only to be caught doping shortly after the 2009 season started.
It seemed that rather than make adjustments in his game, Manny wanted to continue to be Manny with shortcuts. Oh, it was fine when he was surrounded by real ballplayers that were interested in a little metric called “wins.” With those types of players, Manny could pursue his numbers with a total disregard for things he did not find interesting.
Defense? Whatever. Team cohesiveness? Eh, as long as his teammates ran the bases hard so he could pile up those RBIs.
This isn’t to doubt the brilliance of Manny Ramirez’s hitting. Nope, not at all. Truth is, some very well-respected baseball writers will explain in painstaking detail how good Ramirez was. Of course, was, is the operative word. Even those smart writers would have a tough time arguing for the idea that Ramirez was misunderstood in some way. He wasn’t. Ramirez was no artist sacrificing for his craft no matter what clichés are trotted out by his teammates and coaches.
He was, as suggested by one baseball executive, “a pig,” grubbing at whatever he could get.
But we’re not going to deny the man’s talent. His plate appearances were events at Dodger Stadium, until the act got old and even the hokey Hollywood types were bored by him. His career stats line up with the likes of Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Frank Robinson and Reggie Jackson. Before drug suspensions meant a slap a vote totals in Hall of Fame elections, Ramirez was in. He still might be when his time on the ballot comes in five years, but who knows.
It’s hard to place value on baseball statistics and the Hall of Fame when one considers the variables. On one side we have guys like Ramirez, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds posting inexplicable power stats with the seeming aid of PEDs.
On the other side, Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played in a game where they never had to face certain qualified ballplayers because of the color of their skin. What would the Babe’s numbers look like if he faced Satchel Paige? Would it be Josh Gibson or someone else who battled for the home run crown every year?
If it comes down between the racist or the steroid user, give me the needle.
The fascinating part about this was just how close Ramirez might have been to joining the Phillies. See, before he was traded to the Dodgers from the Red Sox, the Phillies and general manager Pat Gillick had a bit of a man-crush on Manny.
According to information gathered after the fact, Gillick says there were discussions about getting Ramirez at the July trading deadline in 2008. Here’s what I wrote in July of 2009 about it:
A year ago we were in Washington wondering what was going to happen. The Phillies were supposedly involved in the bargaining for Manny Ramirez as well as a handful of relief pitchers as the trading deadline approached. Ultimately, nothing happened, but that didn’t make the day any less fun.
Shane Victorino, a player who was rumored to be the chip in some of those supposed deals, put on a show by pretending to sweat out the final minutes to the deadline. The reality, as we learned, was that the talk was just a lot of hot air. However, in looking back at quotes from then-GM Pat Gillick, the Phillies nearly made some deals.
One of those was, indeed, Manny Ramirez.
“I think at some point we had a good feeling about it,” Gillick said after the deadline had passed a year ago.
Good? How good?
“We were talking,” Gillick said then. “We were involved. We just couldn't get where they wanted to be, and we couldn't get where we wanted to be. So it was just one of those things.”
“Good” and “talking” are such ambiguous terms. The truth is some people talk about doing things that make them feel good all the time, but instead end up following the same old patterns day in and day out.
Plus, everyone’s interpretation of “talk” isn’t always the same. For instance, it would be interesting to hear if Boston GM Theo Epstein had the same “good feeling” about sending Ramirez to the Phillies, but in the end it turned out to be “just one of those things.”
In retrospect, the Phillies were better off without Ramirez. They have three All-Stars in the outfield and the worst thing that happened to any of them was an extended trip to the disabled list for Raul Ibanez.
Otherwise, smooth sailing.
What a nightmare the past couple of days/years would have been if Ramirez had joined the Phillies instead of the Dodgers. Or maybe not… maybe a trade to the Phillies would have been like sending the Delorean back five minutes early to change the time continuum. Maybe Manny gets it together in Philly?
OK, probably not.