Before I go off into full on rant mode, allow me to first present a full disclosure. Manny Ramirez was my favorite Indian growing up. Not Albert Belle or Kenny Lofton, not Carlos Baerga or Omar Vizquel, not Jim Thome or even Sandy Alomar. I hitched my wagon to Manny starting in 1995 and I was onboard until he left town for Boston after the 2000 season. I remember my parents searching high and low for a Manny t-shirt in ’95, ultimately finding one in a small sporting goods store on 185th. Eventually his poster was up on my wall next to the two I had of Ken Griffey, Jr. Seriously… Manny was on par with Griffey for me.
Sure, I would eventually move on and replace Manny with Victor Martinez and now Carlos Santana, but Manny still held a place in my heart of baseball fandom. He was too likable and too good of a hitter to really hate him for deciding to leave. I could appreciate what he did as a hitter. It was unbelievable. For all of the stories and stupid mistakes he made on the base paths, Manny was sure to make up for it ten fold with his bat. That’s why it hurt’s and sucks so much to write what I’m about to write.
By testing positive a second time for performance enhancers, Manny Ramirez has disgraced baseball and made a fool out of everyone who ever supported him.
I feel duped.
Granted, the one defense that can be made out of all of this is we don’t know when he started using steroids. He only recently tested positive and there is no proof that he ever took them during his time with the Indians. Perhaps he only recently started using them to keep playing. I’d like to believe he never dabbled in them while he played in Cleveland, but I’m not stupid. Odds are he did. Odds are a lot of the players from those magical 90’s teams did. It’s a cold hard truth we need to learn to accept. That’s what was going on during those times. To think the Indians were immune to those temptations would be ridiculous.
The sad part is that Manny never needed steroids to get ahead at the plate. He was a savant when it came to hitting and he worked harder and longer than anyone. He didn’t need a short cut. Where it all went wrong, I have no idea. I don’t even think I really want to know. I don’t want to know when “Manny being Manny” turned into “Manny being like everybody else.” Maybe everybody else was doing it, but it isn’t until someone you admired, someone who’s swing you used to imitate, turns out to be one of the biggest frauds of the bunch.
What Manny has done in testing positive for a second time is wipe away what was an amazing career. A .312 batting average, 555 home runs, and 1,831 RBI… gone. All gone. They might as well have never happened. He can kiss his chance at immortality and a sure fire spot in the hall of fame as a first ballot entry goodbye. He’ll never get in. If Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro can’t get in testing positive once, what makes anyone thing Manny will get in with a second positive test?
Maybe Manny just doesn’t care. Maybe he didn’t care at all in the first place. Maybe everyone in Cleveland and Boston and to a lesser extent Los Angeles, Chicago, and Tampa care a little too much. How else do you explain our reaction to this and news of other steroid users and Manny’s flagrant dismissal of the testing process and consequences of a positive test? Did any of it really matter to him? I don’t know. I don’t know anyone who could even begin to know except for Manny himself. From the look of things, that answer would appear to be “no.” After all, he’s the one who would rather walk away from the game rather than appeal the results or serve a 100 game suspension.
So where do we stand on all of this? What do we make of Manny Ramirez and his impact on the history of baseball? I’m left doubting everything. I’m left doubting the legitimacy of Manny’s legendary “Wow!” home run in 1995 off of Dennis Eckersley in 1995, quite possibly the most memorable moment of his Indians career. What about Boston? How do they feel about their 2004 title now that all of this is coming out? Is it still as special, or has it been tainted beyond salvaging? I’d really like to know.
No matter how you feel about the situation or what your opinion of Manny is from this point forward, it won’t phase him. Manny will ride off into the sunset that is retirement and more than likely disappear from our thoughts and memories over time. Unfortunately, that time can’t get here soon enough. I’m left here wondering what I cheered for as a kid. Was I rooting for a cheater all those years ago? Was one of my favorite players of all-time really a fraud? I guess some questions are just better left unanswered.
I guess we can just chalk it up to Manny being Manny…