Monday, May 11, 2009
Manny Being Manipulative: Another All-Star Caught Cheating
Five years ago this Fall, the game of baseball was changed forever. It just so happened that in 2004 the American Championship League Series (ALCS) came down to the two teams with the biggest rivalry, Boston and New York. When the Yankees took the first three games in a race to four, what had promised to be an action packed series turned into what everyone thought would be a clean sweep but little did they know the action was just about to start.
Boston won the next three games to tie the series at 3 games a piece and with the title on the line as well as a birth in the World Series it was Boston that came through in the clutch on the shoulders of their slugging left fielder Manny Ramirez. Never in the history of the game had a team lost a series after going up 3-0 and as the Red Sox went on to win the World Series in a four game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, they also broke an 86 year drought as well as the legendary “Curse of the Bambino.” The series between the Yankees and Red Sox was dubbed “The Greatest Comeback of All Time,” and rightfully so. Two years later they won their second World Series Title of the decade, proving the other one wasn’t a fluke. Finally Red Sox Nation had a banner from this century to celebrate and something to be proud of… “had” being the key word.
Fast forward to today where Manny Ramirez now has to wait out a 50 game suspension for testing positive for hCG, a banned substance by the MLB. Ramirez claims he took medication prescribed by a doctor for another health reason so he clings to the “I didn’t know” excuse we’ve heard all too often. This was adding insult to injury for baseball fans who can now add one more All-Star to a growing list of others who are linked to performance enhancing drugs, such as Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds. After Ramirez cut all ties with Boston in his trade to the L.A. Dodgers for Jason Bay last year, the last place this news should devastate fans is in Boston, however, unfortunately for them, that’s not the case.
His alleged steroid use was said to have taken place in 2003, while still a member of the Red Sox and coincidentally right before his career numbers blew up. Ramirez was the MVP of Boston’s World Series sweep of St. Louis and had one of his best seasons hitting .308 with 43 homers and 130 RBIs. Suddenly the untouchable moment in baseball history seems questionable and tarnished.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but I don’t feel like our ’07 season was tainted,” said Mike Lowell, Ramirez’s third base teammate during his Boston tenure. “This is still a 25-man team.”
Though he’s right it’s hard to see Ramirez’s staggering numbers as just one of 25 other contributing players. As the MVP of the World Series and one of, if not the biggest contributor in the series against the Yankees, how can anyone say with certainty the Red Sox would have prevailed without his bat in the clean-up spot and glove in left field?
There’s no way to ever know for sure when stipulating over the past, but the one thing that is for sure is that something needs to be done to prevent this from happening in the future. The league has already implemented more tests, stricter rules, and harsher punishments for players who violate the drug policy yet it continues to happen.
“Another big-name guy,” Lowell said of Ramirez, “is just another black eye for the game. It’s hard for the MLB to try and glorify the guys they think are doing it right because we really don’t know. We keep finding these guys [who use banned substances] and I think the message is terrible, especially for young kids who might aspire to be a major league ball player.”
With questions circling about the authenticity of the Red Sox Championships, whether Ramirez took them unknowingly or not, the only question that really matters is where to go from here. Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association have made a long journey in their fight against performance enhancing drugs and while the progress has been great and drug use is down, there are still loopholes in areas where testing isn’t available for certain substances.
Now we have two options. We can wait around for some scientist somewhere to come up with a test for the hundreds of undetectable substances or we can simply implement a no tolerance rule to eliminate the loopholes…one positive test and you’re out of the game, no second chances. A no-tolerance rule encompasses the ideology that if you’ve cheated your team, your fans, your employer and your union brethren, you shouldn’t get paid and you shouldn’t be allowed to lace up your cleats ever again. Playing baseball is a privilege, not a right and when you cheat you forfeit that right to make millions for swinging a bat. You want to stop all steroid use? You want to give baseball its credibility back? You want to set a good example for kids? That’s the answer. Now the only question left is what are we waiting for?