Baseball, Drugs & Manny Ramirez: Another Legacy Destroyed

by Phil Kehres

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez is the latest superstar to find himself embroiled in Major League Baseball’s ongoing performance-enhancing drug (PED) saga. Your first reaction might be “another one bites the dust.” But before we crucify him, though, let’s cut through the mock outrage and try to take a more nuanced look at the situation.

Ramirez was suspended for 50 games under baseball’s drug policy for taking the female fertility drug human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), according to ESPN, which based its story on as yet unnamed sources. Ramirez was quick to issue an apology that didn’t deny his use of the drug but rather claimed he was given a legitimate prescription for it and did not know it was on list of substances banned by Major League Baseball (MLB). Early reports noted that Ramirez might have been prescribed the drug as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. However, hCG is a drug often used to increase levels of testosterone in steroid users. This is the same stuff that Jose Conseco got busted for trying to smuggle into the U.S. It’s not hard to connect the dots. Ramirez won’t be able to pass this one off as “Manny being Manny.”

Though it seems obvious Ramirez knew what he was doing, there are more important things to take away from this most recent debacle. You’d have to be a world-class idiot to keep using after all the controversy that’s gone down in the past, and it seems Ramirez fits the bill. But though the disappointment is valid here, it’s a shame now the cavalcade of morons will have another reason to sound off with ridiculous ideas like deleting Ramirez’s records and calling for the invasion of MLB commissioner Bud Selig’s office by the U.S. military. Ramirez is guilty, yes, and he’s been suspended. Let’s not be so absurd as to act like he’s destroyed our national innocence.

Furthermore, this incident — the confusion surrounding the purpose of the drug, Ramirez’ passive denial of guilt — is proof that these things should be examined on a case-by-case basis. Ramirez is not Barry Bonds. He is not A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez). Ramirez was not outed for taking PEDs years ago when the rules were murky — this is now. His crimes are his own, and more clear-cut than those in the past. But it’s a fool’s errand to make blanket statements about the character of every athlete ever associated with PED use. These are complex issues that deserve better than the surface-level arguments fed to us by a bloated, failing mainstream media desperate for readership.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t damn Ramirez. I’m saying we, as a collective of sports fans and (nominally) rational human beings, need to get our damn facts straight before we grab our pitchforks and torches.

(The photo of Manny Ramirez is by shgmom56 via Flickr, using a Creative Common license.)

For more on steroids and performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, please see these posts from the archives:

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momma_karms said...

heres what I don't get- totally agree that he should (possibly) be cut some slack- maybe he didnt know it was wrong or whatever) what about the doc that treated him?! Shoudlnt he have known? And if it wasnt an MLB doc- why didnt he take the perscription to the trainer or MLB doc or something and have it checked over? I know he shouldnt HAVE to since he did go to the doc- but maybe he shouda... just a thought of mine... for whatever its worth!

JZ said...

I must ask, am I the only person who WANTS my "superstars" juicing? I personally feel as though, for the ridiculous amount of money these athletes make for doing nothing more than playing a game, that they should use performance enhancing drugs to further my entertainment. If I were hiring a team of engineers, would I not want the best possible people out of my selection? And if there were a genius pill I would want them taking it, if it gave me the best results possible. Seriously though, athletes have been using steroids for decades and it has added the thrill and excitement of the sporting events we've all watched. Without them, we'd have a few less homeruns, less professional wrestlers, less football players, less entertainment... less jobs in the stadiums, less tickets sold, lower ridiculous pay checks to people who at the end of the day, don't really add anything spectacular to this world (though some may disagree with that statement... I'd personally give more props to Jonas Salk than Pete Rose).

Suzie said...

Since you're saying he is in a way more responsible for his actions than A-Rod - he took the drugs when the rules weren't murky - why should he be allowed to keep his records?

PJ Kehres said...

JZ -- That's a pretty extreme take on it, but not entirely irrational. The real issue, though, is that PEDs are banned and it's not a level playing field. If they were legal, everyone would be taking them and there wouldn't really be much to complain about it.

Suzie -- This is an argument I'd rather not get into again, but I'll try to sum up: I can't think of anything more absurd than trying to delete sports records. If an entire team cheated, that's one thing, like the Black Sox. But one man in a team sport? Who could possibly know how many of his homeruns came while he was juiced? How will deleting those records affect the records of other players around him? It's a tangled web, and, frankly, it would be an epic waste of time and effort to pursue the answers to those questions.

Nomad said...

I was amazed when I heard how many millions of dollars Manny stands to lose by not playing 50 games; this mistake is costing him a gigantic fortune

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