Saturday, May 09, 2009

Manny Ramirez

Mannywood is busted! And am I disgusted!?

Manny Ramirez will be missing from the Los Angeles Dodger's line-up for the next 50 games. In his presence for the first 29 games, Ramirez
  • Batted .348
  • Knocked in 20 RBI's
  • Homered 6 times
  • Attained a 641 slugging percentage
  • Lifted the Dodgers to a 21-8 record, the best in baseball
It seems to be woefully out of place and of questionable taste to write about baseball in a week of Sturm und Drang raining down over my local homeland. It's just that sometimes you just got to write what's in your head even though it may pale next to the real important stuff. I just have to exorcise the superficial and the superfluous in order just to move on.

Manny Ramirez' mere presence transformed a mediocre line-up into a slam-dunk contending offense. He was not just a guy who happened to be hitting 350 at the moment; he is a lifetime 350 hitter destined for the hall of fame. Because opposing managers knew what he would do if they allowed their pitchers to challenge Ramirez on any given at bat, they had to pitch around him and throw unvarnished strikes to those Dodgers batting in front or in back of him. Ramirez simply made every other Dodger palpably more formidable.

The Facts:
  • On Nov. 15, 2005, Major League Baseball and the players association reached agreement on a plan that significantly strengthens penalties for steroid and other illegal drug use. Under a regime of random testing, the agreement specified penalties for steroid use to be 50 games for a first offense, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third.

  • Ramirez tested positive for HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin. The brand names are Chorex, Novarel, Ovidrel, Pregnyl and Profasi. HCG helps men produce male hormones such as testosterone, which helps increase the production of sperm, the site says. Men with fertility problems — which can be a side effect of steroid use — may have HCG prescribed.

  • A 50-Game suspension will cost Ramirez $7.65 million in forfeited salary. I think that comes to about a third of Ramirez' salary for missing a third of the Dodgers' season.
My Take:

Ramirez was is one of the most natural hitters I've watched. Fluid and relaxed. He's stepping up to the plate, not to run up the pitch count, but to apply wood to rawhide; to hit the ball into play. Manny's looking for the first pitch in his roundhouse. Striking out does not noticeably mitigate his enjoyment of the game. It's part of the game, isn't it? Beyond the winning and the losing, the play's the thing. His approach to the game was equally infectious for the team in the club house and the fan base in the Los Angeles market.

2009 was going to be a magic year.

Only now am I emerging from one of the 12 steps of denial - the one of disbelief. The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan can’t believe the news, either.
If there’s a profile of a banned substance abuser — and I’m not sure there is — Manny does not fit it ... Sudden change in body configuration? Nope. Big surge in power output? Nope. Manny never even hit 50. He did have a homer jump from 26 in 1997 to 45 in 1998, but that was after hitting 31 in 1995 and 33 in 1996. He was a maturing young slugger; that’s all. I think. But Manny has otherwise been a consistent power hitter for the last dozen years. There have been no red flags.
My job for the last decade has taught me that the greatest optimists are to be found among thieves and cheaters: they are the ones who don't believe they will ever be caught.

There's no question in my mind that MLB's anti-doping regime has to stand. Otherwise we will be paying zombies to compete against each other and eventually we will have zombies for high school athletes.

For myself, born with Dodger-blue blood in my veins, I have to hope players and fans will come to treat this event as just another injury-enforced absence: just adjust the roster, offensive plan, and marketing strategy. Just show up and play the game as Juan Pierre plays it. He's the talented, non-power hitting left fielder who has been playing behind Ramirez. Pierre always arrives at the park earliest, and is the last to depart. And in between he leaves all of himself out on the field. More should be written about Juan Pierre. Hall-of-Fame announcer Vin Scully opened Thursday night's broadcast appropriately:
Hi everybody, and a very pleasant Thursday evening to you, wherever you may be. The Dodgers and the city of Los Angeles and all of California and for that matter, all of baseball, still shocked and stunned over the suspension of Manny Ramirez. We’ll have more to say about that a little bit later on, but no one man stops baseball.
Hopefully, Manny will be back. Hopefully, when and if he's back, he will lift us back into contention.

But, whatever happens, the game is on.