Saturday, May 9, 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.


  1. Why didn't Girlie Manny just use the approved performance enhancing drugs advertised all over the teevee networks, like Viagra, Cialis, Levitra?

  2. HCG is a female fertility drug. Dodger fans should consider that Manny is just out on maternity leave.

  3. Manny's a dog, pure and simple. He only hustles when he feels like it and can at any time disrupt a club-house. He isn't worth the aggravation, in my opinion.

  4. In most cases, I believe it when I hear about athletes using drugs intentionally to hit longer balls or throw harder. But I'm not so sure about this with Mannie.

    First, he doesn't need it. He has natural power. And he's had that power since the first day he came into the majors.

    Second, he has great hand-eye contact, the kind of contact that reminds you or Willie Mays or Hank Aaron hitting.

    Third, he has quick wrists. The great hand-eye contact and quick wrists allow him to wait longer to see the pitch. This enables him to get lots of walks, hit the ball to all fields, and hit it hard.

    Fourth, Manny says he used the drug the doctor gave him to deal with a personal problem. This is quite possible. I understand Blogging4food says about approved drugs, but the problem here is that the ingredients even in some approved drugs are not shown on the label.

    People should be skeptical of athletes who are tested positive for the use of steroids and other drugs. The athletes are responsible for using the drugs on the approved list. But that doesn't mean that an athlete should, in all cases, be viewed as a person who was intentionally cheating.

    With a record of consistent hitting at a high level,and with sufficient power and tremendous talent, Manny doesn't fit the profile of a steroid user.

    Hopefully, we'll find out more about this particular case in the future.

  5. Thank you MacDaddy, for a very thoughtful comment. May additional information about this regretable episode confirm your let's-not-rush-to-judgment position.

  6. Wish someone would put Lance Armstrong under such a high powered microscope like they did Manny. Although, I admit not knowing much beyond the basic headlines about the various stories. Its just anyone butthole that dumps Sheryl Crow has to be on some drug. I know, I'm going off on a tangent.

  7. I'm with Beach. Lance had to have been juiced out of his head.

  8. Drawing from all the good comments above, here's A Scenario:

    It turns out that approaching 37 (within this month), Ramirez had taken P.E.D.'s not for body-building purposes, per se, but as a bank against his aging body. (The difference might be only in his own mind.)

    In the immediate interlude, without him, the Dodgers play according to the example and attitude of their personally-flawed prophet. Ramirez taught them (us) to have fun; take your swings at your pitches; that you're only as good as you dare to be bad (vintage Ritchie Allen); learn, but don't look back.

    The Dodgers are average team perhaps, but they are managed by superlative genius. They continue to play good enough baseball. Maybe the rookie called up to take Ramirez' roster position, Xavier Paul, wins opportunity to start a few games due to Juan Pierre's fortuitous injury and becomes an instant phenom.

    When Ramirez returns clean and sober, he resumes his role as the great club house catalyst and team leader. However, without the juice he is just an above average 300+ (albeit vastly over-paid) hitter like the Dodgers already have.

    IMHO, the Dodgers have a way to go to attain this scenario. When Ramirez' stepped up to the plate against top level pitching he was guided by one key assessment: the best pitch he was going to see was the first strike he was going to get. If he was guided by what seems to be the Dodger approach (run up the count, wait a pitcher out, and get to the relief pitchers early in the game) he was invariably going to find himself defending the plate with a pitcher's count. That, Ramirez could handle. But I'm not at all sure guys like Loney or Martin can handle it. In the last week Martin shows promise. But Torre seems to think they can all afford to give an A-level pitcher that first free strike down the heart of the plate. What do I know?

  9. Manny is a player I have always admired. I loved how he contributed to Boston's first world championship in many decades and that he was mightily contributing for you too. That this has happened is a tragedy and will always haunt him. It is a disaster for him, baseball, you, and me, too. VERY sad!

  10. In the wake of Ramirez' expulsion, the immediate results are in: the LA Dodgers are 1-3. Juan Pierre is playing spectacularly & far above his lifetime numbers (Vin Scully said he's "in a zone"): OBA 482, SLG 511, BA 426! Incredible! But the performance of players batting in front of & behind Ramirez' spot has declined. Most importantly, positions such as lst base and left field which usually are filled with power hitters, are not producing homers. Loney at 1st base has not homered yet. He is the sick man among the starters. Does he need glasses? On the bright side, Ramirez' replacement on the Dodgers' roster, Xavier Paul, got his 1st major league hit yesterday. He's ready! My advice is for Torre to immediately send the X-Man back down to Triple-A for a crash course in playing 1st Base! How long can that take?

  11. I don't see the problem here. Except that none of you can think outside the box. Beer is the official drug of choice in MLB. Last I looked, it is still forbidden for high school athletes. Why not allow major leaguers to juice up all they want? Aren't they all adults? Enforce the anti-doping policy on high schoolers rigorously. Problem solved.

  12. I've always thought of Manny as more dependent on talent than muscle, so this is a huge surprise to me

  13. Nomad, your views are in line with MacDaddy's and mine.