3 TRUTHS: The Manny Ramirez Edition

Posted: April 12, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Baseball has been no stranger to scandal at any point in its history. From the Black Sox throwing the World Series in 1919, the blatant segregation issue and the fight to breakthrough (and subsequent fight for Latinos as well), to various strikes and most recently, the steroid scandals of the last ten years. The league has been victimized by having many of its most prominent players being indicted viciously in the court of public opinion, and several others having the same fight in legal ones.

However, baseball has done a remarkably good job in fighting this element in every level of its game (whether this was done in good intention or merely for survival is a completely different subject…), but still has some that refuse to acknowledge they aren’t bulletproof and/or above the rules.

Enter Manny Ramirez

For years, he has been one of the most enigmatic, and controversial, players on the field for any club in the game, but the guy could outright destroy the baseball, so it was accepted in one degree or another. Well after he was popped for steroid usage two years ago, and suspended for 50 games as a result, he shortened up his leash considerably. However, it seemed that besides his still wacky character, he had cleaned up at least that part of his act….

WRONG.

Last week, Manny left his new home of less than ten games in Tampa Bay to tend to “personal issues”….and never came back. Shortly afterwards it was announced he had once again been tied to steroid usage and was about to catch the required 100-game suspension for this. As opposed to facing up to this issue, or even speaking to it, Manny decided to retire instead. This brought an end to a high-profile career that only Richard Nixon could’ve probably related too. But at least Tricky Dick got on the plane and saluted as he left. Manny didn’t even leave through the stadium’s back door, and a loud and constantly in your face career came to an ironic end; with a loud silence and disappearing act.

Too often Manny walked the line being being too much in a variety of ways, good and bad.

What does this say about the last 19 years in his time on the field, and just how bad did it slam the door on the future of that career around the game as well? Here’s my three takes on all that was, and now never will be.

1. THE FRANCHISE DEVOURER: Has there been another guy who has left a wake of destruction from stop-to-stop in any sport quite like Manny? What can’t be debated is if he makes his squads better on the field….he does do that. I mean he played a huge role in the Red Sox winning multiple World Series, when they hadn’t won even one since before World War I. However, was it ever worth it in the end? By the time he left Beantown, even his hero status there could save him from the Sox’s management, fans & even players wanting him gone like an STD. He brought that same curse to LA, who after he made a huge debut in blue and white, emulating with a playoff appearance in September, soon caught the disease as well. The symptoms this time included a 50-game suspension, followed by him returning as a shell of his old self (that still was bringing home around $20 million a year). Then the shell was passed along to the White Sox & Tampa Bay, where it flamed out, yet still had the same controversial element.

If that’s not baseball’s equivalent of any non-terminal STD, I don’t know what is.

 

Top to Bottom: Manny did more damage in a year and half in LA than any earthquake ever could.

2. NOTHING IS REAL…: The biggest question comes into what really was and what wasn’t. The cases of Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and most noteably, Barry Bonds, have shown that there is a great concern on the validity of anybody’s numbers in the most recent era of baseball. Even the accomplishments of the repeatedly proven innocent (Pujols, Howard, Jose Bautista) are questioned now. With the exception of Bonds, no player of the entire “Steroid Era” has done more than Manny at the plate. But put the Hall of Fame to the side (we’ll get to that in a minute), how does this impact the hierarchy of him in the history of game?

This was a guy that was approaching Ted Williams and Stan Musial-level accomplishments; and its all out the window. What it clearly does do is throw out one of the foremost careers of the last 20 years, which further destroys the credibility of an entire era of the game. And in a sport where history looms larger than any other, and is more intertwined with the current state of the game than any other, it damages the face of the game even more. It goes far outside of just hurting him; his selfishness hurts the game that has been, and is being, played.

Way to go kid.

3. HALL OF FAME: TEAM CAPTAIN:

And in the end...: Great numbers will be forever overshadowed by even greater scandals.

In the end, has there ever been clearer member of the “No Chance in Hell” list for the Hall of Fame? A lot of guys have strong cases against them, and both Bonds & Roger Clemens are making a push to be the biggest names on that same list, but Manny has taken poll position for one simple reason: it’s beyond a shadow of doubt he’s guilty. All the other HOF controversies have out clauses. Bonds can’t seem to get real proof to stick to him, even if he’s got OJ-level clues hanging around everywhere. Clemens has a world of good sentiment, despite the vultures that are circling on him daily. McGwire, Palmeiro, Sosa, even A-Rod & David Ortiz, all have time on their side at least. It plain wasn’t illegal when they did it, and it is more of a moral dilemma than a rules infraction. Even take it up to Pete Rose & Shoeless Joe Jackson’s classic cases. Pete owned up to what he did & was even honored, mid-ban, at a League-hosted ceremony of its greatest players ever. And Shoeless Joe has never had real concrete proof that included him of being in the know with the rest of the Black Sox.

But Manny? He’s screwed. He took an already shaky relationship with management, the media & fans and combined it by spitting in the face of the rules not once, but twice. And the second time he did it post-league wide crackdown. Seriously, can you be much more blantant than this?

The Hall of Fame clearly isn’t a character measurer, there are gloried cheaters & racists in it. What does do without fail is measure the play & impact of the game. And by Manny playing the game at such an amazing level, yet with such disregard for the times & place he held in it, he displayed the exact opposite of what a Hall of Famer can be in today’s game or at anytime in the future.

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