|Baseball will survive this
Some initial thoughts on Manny Ramirez's positive drug test:
One wonders how, after all we've been through in the past few years, a player like Manny Ramirez -- a man whose financial future and roster spot have long been secure -- could continue to take performance enhancing drugs. The quick answer is "well, he's Manny, and Manny isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer." Sorry, not buying it. For one thing, Manny is very smart when it comes to baseball. "Manny being Manny" is a media construction. With the exception of his shameful, contract-related sitdown strike last year, he has always been prepared, physically and mentally to do what he needs to do on the field, and in this day and age, being clean is a prerequisite to being ready to do what needs to be done on the field. More to the point, Manny is a very well-advised man. His agent is Scott Boras, and Scott Boras is not the type who just sits back until it's time to negotiate contracts again. He may not be with Manny all of the time, but I have a hard time imagining that he doesn't play a large role in putting together the trainers, nutritionists, etc. that keep Team Manny up and running. In light of all of this, the fact that Ramirez was in a position to be taking performance enhancing drugs is inexcusable.
What does this mean for baseball?
Though I fully expect that we'll see a week's worth of over-the-top hyperbole about how the game is shamed and sullied and what have you, on one level this is a good thing, isn't it? It's a validation of the testing system. It represents something close to instant justice in that the suspension starts tonight, rather than be subject to litigation and appeals and high drama. It's proof that the new PED regime is not, as some have suggested, geared towards catching poor Dominican minor leaguers taking decidedly non-designer 'roids. If Manny Ramirez, one of the biggest stars in the game, can be caught, anyone can. In light of this, doesn't this news, in its own perverse way, give us greater confidence about the current state of drugs in baseball?
Not that I think anyone besides me and a few other like-minded nerds will pick up and run with that line of thinking. Garments will be rent and guys who have no skills other than writing about baseball for major daily papers will claim that now is the time for everyone to turn their back on the game. Then, three days later, they'll be writing about how their team's shortstop isn't clutch enough or what have you. Ultimately, however -- and quite soon --the sheer mass of baseball games (15 tonight, tomorrow, Saturday, Sunday and just about every other day) will cause people to quiet down sooner than normal. People will be talking about James Loney and Andre Eithier this time next week, not Manny Ramirez. And if you don't believe me, just recall that a little over a year ago we were all thinking that the Mitchell Report and the Roger Clemens freakshow would eclipse the game for years. That receded by the time pitchers started being thrown in anger last April. This too shall pass.
What does this mean for the Dodgers?
Aaron will have more on this a little later, but it doesn't take a genius to realize that it will mean some pretty bad production from whoever deigns to replace Manny in the lineup. But I think the Dodgers will survive this. They currently have a healthy lead, the Diamondbacks and Giants have some serious issues, and Manny will come back July 3rd. Last year the Dodgers were several games behind the Diamondbacks, Arizona was a better team and L.A. didn't get Manny until July 31st. Sure, things would be easier with him, but I think Big Blue will survive. If anything, Ramirez's legs may be fresher for the stretch run.
Hey, how about that Mitchell Report!
Between Manny and Alex "boy, I couldn't be happier about this news" Rodriguez, can we now finally all admit to ourselves that the Mitchell Report was a sham? A public relations piece that failed to do anything other than convince the weak-minded that it approached comprehensiveness or represented finality, when it clearly did not? Alex Rodriguez's name wasn't in it, and based on even his own admitted timeline it should have been. Likewise, unless you believe that Manny Ramirez only came to performance enhancing drugs last Tuesday, there's a good chance his name should have been in it too. That is, if the thing was worth a damn, which it wasn't.
Any other thoughts, smart guy?
Just this, which echoes what I had to say back in February when A-Rod was busted: though I think it's inevitable, I hope that everyone who is about to come out of the woodwork to demonize Manny Ramirez and baseball stops to realize that each time a new player -- especially a superstar -- is pushed out of the PED closet, it means that the era in which we've been living is, ironically, less illegitimate than we previously believed. Why? Because the more players who are found to have used PEDs, the less accurate it is to say that anyone truly had an unfair advantage. Sure, on a matchup-by-matchup basis there were users facing non-users, but the caricature of a small group of cheaters ruining it for everyone else in the game grows more ridiculous as each new name surfaces. Many, many ballplayers have used PEDs in recent years. So many, I'd guess, that a blanket of soft presumption of PED use should be in order for the players of our age. Instead of judging these guys as harshly as we have been, perhaps we should simply grade their characters and accomplishment on a curve just like we do from players in the pre-integration age and pitchers from the deadball era. Different, lamentable, but not illegitimate or evil.
But whatever we do -- and however loudly the talking heads wail in the wake of this news -- baseball will survive. It always does.