Manny being Manny? Ramirez suspended 50 games for violation of MLB’s drug policy.

Ramirez's suspension will cost him 50 games and nearly $8 million.

Ramirez's suspension will cost him 50 games and nearly $8 million.

It appears that Alex Rodriguez’s confession in March was only the tip of the iceberg. When news broke early this morning that Manny Ramirez had violated MLB’s drug policy, two questions came to mind: Was he simply ignorant about what he was putting into his body? Or did he actually have the audacity to try and circumvent the rules and still use steroids even after the A-Rod debacle?

The reports that went out today indicated that Ramirez tested positive for a women’s fertility drug, which caused an increased level of testosterone in his body, leading to a positive drug test and the resulting 50-game suspension. Ramirez claimed that the positive test was triggered by a medication that he recently received from a physician for an unspecified medical condition. However, the drug hCG has been linked to other players such as Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi, and is commonly used by body builders to restart testosterone production following a steroid cycle. Ramirez has not yet explained why he was taking hCG and does not plan to appeal the suspension.

This shocking revelation couldn’t have come at a worse time for baseball, with teams already struggling to sell tickets in a down economy and A-Rod set to return to the field for the first time since he admitted to Peter Gammons that he took steroids. Ramirez, despite his numerous shortcomings, is one of the most popular players in the game and was seemingly above the cloud of suspicion surrounding baseball’s best hitters over the past decade. Manny is 17th on the all-time HR list with 533, and fans had hoped that he would be able to pass tainted sluggers like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. But in today’s society, it doesn’t take long for the players once praised to become the target of jeers and insults.

Besides the long-term effects to his reputation, Ramirez’s suspension will clearly hurt the Dodgers (who will be without his services until July 3rd) as well as his teammates from the Indians, Red Sox and Dodgers who will all be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism moving forward. Does Ramirez’s suspension mean that his former bash brothers Jim Thome and David Ortiz took steroids? No, but it certainly doesn’t help their case, or that of any player from this current era. Fans, still reeling from the A-Rod scandal and continued allegations, will find it more and more difficult to believe that any player is truly clean. The titans of the game continue to fall at an alarming rate; how long until another hero falls from his pedestal and how long will fans continue to support this kind of hypocrisy?

The Dodgers may still make the playoffs, but the chances of Manny entering the HOF took a serious hit.

The Dodgers may still make the playoffs, but the chances of Manny entering the HOF took a serious hit.

The Dodgers had raced out to a MLB best 21-8 (including 13 in a row at home) thanks to stellar pitching and the steady bat of Ramirez, who was batting .348 with 6 HRs and 20 RBIs. The team will now be without its best hitter for nearly one-third of the season, and Ramirez will be forced to return about $7.5 of the $25 million he was set to make this season. Baseball Prospectus indicates that Ramirez’s abscence will cost the Dodgers about 3 games, which still puts them on pace for 95 wins, tops in the NL.

The Dodgers will probably still make the playoffs and Manny will still probably put up big numbers throughout the remainder of his contract. But what happens when Ramirez becomes a free agent? Will any team be willing to gamble on a poor fielder and teammate who tested positive for a substance linked to steroids? And what about when Manny retires? A sure fire Hall-of-Famer and one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time, Ramirez will likely join other convicted cheaters like Bonds, Palmeiro and A-Rod on the outside looking in to Cooperstown.

It’s a sad day for baseball. The once sunny and free-spirited Manny Ramirez will be covered in a dark cloud for the rest of his career. The red-hot Dodgers will be without their best hitter for 50 games. And most tragically, fans will once again lose a hero of the game, as another of their idols falls from grace into the bleak oblivion that is the Steroids Era.

Are there brighter days ahead for America’s past-time? I’m not so sure anymore…

Alex Rodriguez Steroid Scandal: A Dark Day For Baseball

A-Rod tested positive in '03.

A-Rod tested positive in '03.

The news that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003 hit MLB like an Ivan Drago punch to the gut. Rodriguez was supposed to be the new poster boy for baseball, the cornerstone upon which the sport could rebuild its image after the devastation caused by Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and the rest of the Juicers. A-Rod was going to take down every record that Bonds set, removing the tarnished numbers and replacing them with those of an honest, hardworking player who did it the right way. Sure Rodriguez is no Hank Aaron, but fans would have much rather seen him atop the all-time homerun list than Bonds. A-Rod was supposed to go on and hit 800+ homeruns, a number that would have stood without an asterisk–until now.

Now, every player in the game is guilty until proven innocent. Unless the players union releases the other 103 names that were on the list, (the players who tested positive in ‘03 along with A-Rod) there will be a cloud of suspicion every time a ball leaves the park. Rodriguez was going to be the one to clean up the mess that the steroid era left behind, but now all he has done is fan the flames. With Bonds on trial, Roger Clemens facing the possibility of perjury charges and now the game’s best player admitting he used PEDs, baseball has some major work to do to restore its image. The sport has recovered from scandals in the past like the rigged 1919 World Series  or the cancelled World Series in 1994, but what saved baseball both those times–the homerun. Babe Ruth slugging longballs into the upperdeck helped fans forget about the Black Sox and McGwire and Sosa did the same in 1998. But how can the homerun save baseball again if fans doubt the legitimacy of every player who steps up to the plate?

A-Rod did the right thing by admitting his use of PEDs in an interview with Peter Gammons, but he dodged so many questions that people will have a difficult time believing anything he says from now on. Players like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettite have recovered from admitting to the use of steroids, but they were no where near as high profile as Rodriguez, and neither one was poised to break the most hallowed records in baseball. McGwire clearly suffered from his refusal to talk about the past and Rafael Palmeiro did even more damage to his reputation after lying before congress, and then trying to sell out his teammate.

Will fans forgive A-Rod?

Will fans forgive A-Rod?

Will fans be able to forgive A-Rod and embrace him like they did with those other players, or will he be showered with Bronx Cheers every time he goes deep? Rodriguez has the potential to play for 8-10 more seasons and, by the time he retires, will fans have simply forgotten about this 15-year-old mistake? Not likely, if he is the new homerun king; numbers mean more to baseball fans than followers of any other sport. But does he deserve to suffer this much abuse when steroid abuse was likely more widespread during the 1990s and early 2000s than anyone wants to believe?

Alex Rodriguez was likely to leave the game as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, players of all time. At only 33 he is already a 12-time All-Star, 3 time MVP (2003, 2005, 2007) and the youngest ever to reach 500 homeruns. He has won 2 Gold Gloves and also swiped 283 bases, making him one of the best 5-tool players ever. But none of that matters anymore. Even if A-Rod did only use steroids during his three year stint in Texas (during which he hit the most home runs in any 3-year-span of his career: 156) everything he has accomplished is viewed as tainted, and if voting trends continue involving suspected steroid users, Rodriguez probably won’t be joining Hank Aaron in Cooperstown. A-Rod could go on to hit 1000 HRs, but it will never change what he did, and how he cheated the game.

The mighty have fallen in baseball, the game’s golden boy knocked suddenly and unexpectedly from his pedestal. Is there anyone left to inherit his crown? Will any star ever again be free of scrutiny and suspicion? The damage A-Rod did to himself may one day be repaired, but what he has done to the entire sport of baseball will linger forever…

Career Stats: http://www.baseball-reference.com/r/rodrial01.shtml