Had an update. Not really relevant anymore. Here’s the original post.
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First thoughts. Slightly jumbled:
Alex Rodriguez. Rafael Palmeiro. Jason Giambi. Barry Bonds. Roger Clemens. Gary Sheffield. Not one of those guys ever served a day’s suspension for steroid use. Tainted? Sure. But tainted in the shadows, in the off-season, in the clubhouse. Tainted never mattered for them on the field. Now, with Manny, it does.
My first thought, and I think still the overwhelming emotion, is betrayal. I feel betrayed in a way I never have by a ballplayer. As a Dodger fan, my disappointments have been with bad front office maneuvers, poor managerial decisions, underperformance, and all sorts of suspect player behavior. I’ve never felt so let down before.
Ironically, I was writing a post about heroism in baseball as the news broke. Craig Calcaterra had a nice write-up yesterday defending Zach Greinke from early deification. Borrowing from Bill James, he makes convincing and totally intuitive case for patience and sanity. I will now borrow heavily from Calcaterra. Money quote:
Before Greinke’s canonization, Alex Rodriguez was pegged to be the man to restore honor to the game by sanitizing the home run crown. Before A-Rod, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were the game’s heroic saviors. I recall an article from the late 80s talking about how Barry Bonds was the perfect antidote to the nastiness that the Strawberry-Gooden Mets unleashed into the public consciousness, and as James noted, Gooden was once thought of a fine young man poised to breathe fresh air into the game himself. I’m sure we could trace that trail back to the deadball era if we wanted to.
Manny Ramirez never, ever, fit into this category. All he ever saved were the playoff chances of his teams. Hero? Ha. I was going to make a point for blemished heroes. I was going to say that baseball needs heroes to lift the game from mere routine and repetition to cultural consequence. Baseball’s figures are a big part of what make the game such a weighty institution etc. etc. Next point would have been that flawed heroes are okay. Mickey Mantle was a drunk, Ted Williams (a real war hero) was a prick, etc. etc. etc. An imperfect game deserves imperfect heroes; to a little kid that stuff doesn’t matter much anymore. Waiting For Berkman had a great post on baseball’s nostalgia for villains in regards to A-Rod’s alleged pitch-tipping.
Anyway, Manny is not a villain. He was excessively imperfect in his pre-steroid suspension incarnation and I suppose that won’t change. He’s already come out with a nice, humble apology that reads to me (and I spend a lot of time reading statements like this from politicians at work) as an implicit admission of guilt:
“Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.
“I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to meand I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I’m sorry about this whole situation.”
He got caught cheating (and it’s cheating now so no technicality defenses about the lack of MLB rules here), and he and the Dodgers will suffer the consequences. It’s a pretty big surprise to me. My friend Ross said, “I didn’t know he even cared that much.” I kind of agree with him. I knew Manny cared about hitting and winning, but baseball never seemed important enough to Manny for him to use performance enhancing drugs. Maybe that’s why this is a lot more disappointing to me than Bonds or Clemens or A-Rod or even the retroactive knowledge that Dodgers like Gagne and Lo Duca were using. Or maybe it’s the idea of Juan Pierre in LF for the next 50 games.
Maybe this is just another chapter in the endless saga of Manny Being Manny. At the very least, I’m not that worried for the Dodgers. If he was out for 50 games with injury, it would be considered a big blow but not insurmountable. I think same thing applies here.