I’m not sure there is anything left to be written about Manny Ramirez, so I’ll try and leave out all the stuff that you’ve seen over the past four days.
We’ll just focus on how this affected some of the major supporting characters in the saga and try as best we can to stay away from the lead. It’s sort of like how you never actually saw Nixon in “All the President’s Men.” That’s a good comparison, of course, because like Nixon, Manny was raised a Quaker and was always fiercely anti-communist.
Before we get into it, I thought it was really sad and more than a little ironic that Dom DiMaggio was overshadowed one more time. What a terrific player, really would have been close to a Hall of Famer had he not lost three prime years to the war. He made seven All-Star Teams in a nine-year stretch. Safe to assume he makes at least two in the three years he was out? I think so. He made the team the prior two seasons before he left and the first season he was back. Nine All-Star Games is rarified air. Jimmie Foxx played in nine. So did Eddie Mathews. Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter have played in nine. Six seasons with 100-plus runs scored and a career .298 hitter. And he was, by most accounts, the best defensive outfielder with the last name DiMaggio. And he did this all with class and dignity and never took horse pills or masking agents or flaxseed oil. He just played baseball until he didn’t anymore. Nice to remember that it wasn’t always this complicated.
Here we go…
Winner: Jason Bay
Look, who knows about anyone, right? But can we at least be comforted by the fact that there isn’t a Brady Anderson-type season on Bay’s résumé? That’s kind of where we are in the world of MLB 2009—happy that a player hasn’t hit 50 homers in a season.
I’ve written this before and felt even more confident about it on Thursday afternoon: Bay will be closer to the best parts of Manny than the worst parts of Manny. No sick grandmother, no sore throats, no drinks with Enrique Wilson, no trade requests, no fights with Kevin Youkilis (aka the Best Player in the American League). Sure, Bay will never have a season like Manny had in, say, 2002 (.349 with a 1.097 OPS) but you’ll get .280-30-100 and no headaches. Doesn’t seem like 50 cents on the dollar anymore, does it?
(I don’t know how long Manny has had this desire to become pregnant, but a look at his career shows that he made a huge jump in (wait for it) 1998. And I’ll say this: If Manny keeps pumping in the pills and matches this fella with his own bundle of joy Bud Selig should waive the suspension. I mean, if Manny had made this statement it would have really put the pressure on the MLB suits:
“I know the odds aren’t great and it in fact makes no sense medically but I am DYING to birth a child. And that is why I’m taking female fertility pills. The idea that it might improve my hitting skills a little is a remarkable coincidence. I think all women that have struggled in the quest to become pregnant can sympathize with me. I’m thinking Madison for a girl and Jamison for a boy, by the way.”
Listen, maybe he fools one person with that. Considering he fooled exactly zero people with his actual statement (except for maybe Peter Gammons—more on him later) I think he should have given it a shot.)
Loser: David Ortiz
The Manny Ortez duo has to be moved down in an historical context. I remember in 2006 there were stories written that suggested that these two might be getting near Ruth/Gehrig territory. That is over. I’m thinking we might be getting closer to Bash Brothers, The Sequel, territory. Speaking of which…
Winner: Jose Canseco
If I had a single doubt about it before Manny I am now convinced: The Woodward and Bernstein of the Steroid Era is a man that appeared in the video for “Too Legit to Quit” as well as “Jenna Jamison’s Stripper’s Ball.”
How many more times does this guy have to be right? If Canseco called a press conference tomorrow and named anyone—anyone—in baseball as a juicer I’d buy it. I understand he’s a moron about everything else and that the only reason he’s doing this is because he’s bitter and craves attention (“The Surreal Life” was a hint).
But facts are facts. Canseco is the only guy I trust on the issue. And that is an incredible indictment on the media. Why isn’t someone stepping up? We know ESPN is a disgrace and would rather pretend this doesn’t exist, but where is the New York Times? Sports Illustrated?
Loser: Curt Schilling
Really not fair to put him in here, because I agreed with about 90 percent of what he wrote on Friday. Absolutely correct that the Red Sox 2004 and 2007 World Series wins are no less stained than the other 15 or so teams that have won in the steroid era. And I have no problem at all with the “stop making athletes your icons” pitch, either. But here’s where Schilling and I part ways…
“Relish in the Halladays, Rolens, Sabathias, Lowells, Counsells, Variteks, Garnetts, Jameses, Bruschis, Vrabels, the Jason Bays of the world. Relish in men of supreme character and tireless work ethic who respect the game and their teammates and suit up every day to leave it all on the field.”
Really? We did a full testing on each of these guys, Curt? Sure about this? Would you have put Andy Pettitte in that “supreme character” group three years ago? My point, I guess, is this—if you are, in this age, going to call out guys for having supreme character then you better be 100 percent certain that they are totally and completely clean. And I don’t think Curt Schilling knows that they are. And how could he? I don’t think anyone knows that about any professional athlete at this point. But I understand why he would feel that way about some guys on that list, particularly the ones he won World Series titles with (and I agree that the work ethic of each athlete he praised cannot be questioned).
(And yes, I fully expect to be called out as a guy that “never played the game” and all that stuff. No problem. And I also understand writing this might put me in the WEEI.com grave next to some other untimely meditations.)
Winner: Peter Gammons
I guess this gives him the edge over Felger in the “Manny vs. Pujols” debate. For now, at least. And I do think that when both careers are over Pujols will have the statistical edge, albeit possibly not by much. But it is a commentary on the times that no one would be stunned if the “times suspended for violating Major League Baseball's Performance Enhancing Drug policy” ends up in a wash. Just a wild, wild guess. Hope I’m wrong, because Pujols is in the middle of an all-time career. Let’s all play along and assume that Albert is 29 years old (same age as Jonathan Papelbon). If he can stay healthy for the next eight-10 years or so (which would help the “Albert is clean” argument) you are looking at 600-650 homers and 3,200 hits.
Loser: Peter Gammons
I was really hoping Gammons had learned a lesson after getting destroyed for his pathetic effort during the A-Rod interview. I still believed, at least a little, that the guy who wrote Beyond the Sixth Game and was for me (well, tied with Bob Ryan) the best Globe writer of my life was still kicking. I was hoping that maybe he looked into the mirror after the A-Rod interview and thought, "You know what? Steroids are the most important story in baseball since Jackie Robinson. And I have been a total non-factor in the coverage of it. The next time a big steroid story breaks I’m going to be relentless."
Didn’t happen, of course. What we got from Gammons in the hours following the suspension was that Manny “felt terrible” about what happened, and it was a “personal medical issue,” not a steroid. Oh, and Gammons “thoroughly believed” Manny, a man that he has had little trouble ripping in the past. Not sure what has changed, exactly (at least before Gammons changed course the day after the suspension to rip Manny again).
Here’s all you need to know about Gammons’ credibility as an actual journalist at this point: if Scott Boras (another loser in all this, how about this crew?) could handpick anyone to give Manny his first TV interview it would be Gammons. If Leeza Gibbons knew who started Game 6 of the 1975 World Series she’d basically be Peter Gammons at this point.
Winner: The Stolen Base
Can’t you see a move to speed over the next couple of years? Wouldn’t a year like 1980 be great (and I’m not just picking that year because Fame was released)? Three guys—Reggie, Schmidt and Ben Oglivie hit 40 or more homers. Ten guys stole over 50 bases and three—Rickey, Ron LeFlore and Omar Moreno—stole over 90. Only two active players (Jose Reyes and Scott Podsednik) have stolen 70 bases in a season. I gave up counting how many active players have hit 40 homers in a season. I think if someone made a run at Rickey’s record (130 steals) it would be a hugely refreshing change from these home run chases of the last decade. Of course, as we’ve learned from the Olympics, no one has ever doped up to try and improve their speed.
Loser: Whoever That Clean Guy Is
Could be Griffey. Or Thome. Or Pujols. Maybe it’s Ryan Howard. Doesn’t matter. They are all viewed by the public as guilty. They could take and pass a test every day for the rest of their career and they would still hear, “But what about the past?”
Winner: Pete Rose
We know what he did was wrong. Terrible. And, much like Canseco, he has not exactly covered himself in glory since his exit from Major League Baseball.
But it has been 21 years now. If you are going to allow Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro on the Hall of Fame ballot then Rose should be on there as well. He has served his time. It’s not like some team is going to hire him to manage or be the GM. If Selig reinstated Rose it would be just for Cooperstown. And has Rose done more to shame the sport than Ty Cobb or Tris Speaker (KKK) or Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds? Of course not.
Loser: The Hall of Fame
Another first-ballot lock bites the dust. How about this team of potential non-Hall of Famers? (Worth mentioning: some of these individuals have been mentioned in the Mitchell Report or tested positive. Others are merely suspected. But as McGwire's Hall of Fame voting has shown, a positive test has not been necessary to keep some from sniffing Cooperstown.)
3B—Matt Williams (weakest part of the team. I could move A-Rod here and put Tejada at SS. A lot of depth on this squad, which I know would make any lifelong baseball fan proud.)
DH—Palmeiro (or Juan Gonzalez, guess we could platoon.)
Now that group is not quite as good as the all-time MLB team, but it is pretty damn close. You are looking at 16 MVP Awards and eight Cy Youngs. And that doesn’t count the guys who will be looked at as guilty for just being around in that era. I have no clue what I’d do if I had a ballot over the next 15 years.
Maybe I’d just vote for Dom DiMaggio.