It can’t be said that Major League Baseball is afraid of suspending one of its biggest stars. This past Thursday, Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez was handed a 50-game suspension after testing positive for the banned substance human chorionic gonadotropin (a female fertility drug), but it can also be used to replenish testosterone levels at the end of a steroid cycle.
Ramirez, who will lose nearly $8 million, and is not eligible to return until July 3, is Moby Dick.
A 12-time All-Star and considered a truly masterful hitter, being out of the lineup will have a deleterious affect on the Dodgers, who have one win and three setbacks since his departure.
Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers last July 31, and pushed the Blue Crew into the National League Championship Series for the first time in 20 years. He was on his way to more of the same this season.
In 27 games, Ramirez belted six home runs, drove in 20 runs, scored 22 runs, had a .348 batting average, a .492 on-base percentage and a .641 slugging percentage. The Dodgers were 21-8 with him, and now lead the second-place San Francisco Giants by only four-and-a-half games.
Not having the right-handed slugger will certainly dampen the Dodgers’ offense. A skilled wizard with a bat, Ramirez, who toiled eight seasons with the Cleveland Indians and seven-plus with Boston, can change the outcome of a game with one swing.
Ramirez helped the Red Sox to a pair of World Series titles, and brought those same plans West.
Though many current and former players have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens, only Ramirez has actually flunked a test.
The message is clear, and that MLB will not brush under the rug this ugly and long-running epidemic.
Chipper Jones, the Atlanta Braves’ third baseman, said after hearing that Ramirez failed a drug test, he wants to be fair. “You can’t have arguably the greatest pitcher [Clemens] of our era, arguably the two greatest players [Bonds and Alex Rodriguez] of our era and now another very good player [Ramirez] be under this cloud of suspicion and not feel like it ruined it for everybody. But what are you going to do? You can’t be born in a different era. It is the steroid era.”
Are these players thinking correctly, or have they gone out to lunch? One would believe that players with their talent, there would be no need for steroids, but this hasn’t been the case.
Does Ramirez, who hit 31 homers with 107 runs batted in during his second full season, and who has blasted 533 homers over a 17-year career, need the extra help?
It’s curious that four of the top 10 all-time home-run hitters have been under suspicion of illegal drug use. They include: Bonds, who tops the list with 762; Sosa, who is sixth with 609; McGwire is eighth with 583; and Palmeiro who is 10th with 569. Rodriguez is 12th with 554.
Ramirez issued a statement on Friday, and apologized to the fans. “L.A. is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed,’’ it read. “So am I. I’m sorry about this whole situation.”
We all are.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.