I don’t know why the recent revelations concerning Manny Ramirez have struck such a chord with me. Maybe it was the final straw that broke the camel’s back after all these years of what has turned out to be many false hero worships. After all, the now seemingly endless procession of star baseball players who have been found guilty or are at least under suspicion of cheating should have numbed me by this point. This has happened to many baseball fans that have made their collective “enough already” feelings well known over the past few months. My anger, while ebbing and flowing, had continued to resurface on occasion.
When announcers recite the lofty statistics of an Alex Rodriguez or a Barry Bonds or a Roger Clemens or a Sammy Sosa and compare them to those players they are passing or have passed it’s as if those untainted numbers from the past mean nothing. How dare they compare.
There has been little, if any, accountability thrust upon these players. Their numbers still count and their bank accounts are still safe. Certainly, viable proof of deeds done before the decision to ban those various substances which inflated those numbers is all but impossible to obtain. Besides, say many, those substances were not illegal then and everyone was doing them anyway, thus leveling the playing field.
There are also the Andy Pettittes who vehemently deny, then admit it’s possible they may have, then after much questioning, crocodile tears at the ready, admit that, yes, they did use these performance enhancing drugs and are very sorry. Perhaps sorry that they got caught but that is all. Resplendent with finger waving and pointing and with a suddenly authoritative voice, they defend themselves to any who will still listen and assure us that they may have been guilty once but never since and never again
Worst of all are those players who profess innocence based on ignorance. I was fortunate enough to have covered the Triple A Ottawa Lynx during the 2006/2007 seasons, conducting clubhouse interviews after each home game, and can state unequivocally that no player ingests or is injected with anything the nature of which he is not completely aware. Major league players making millions more dollars would be even more cautious. Their bodies are their livelihood and are considered sacred.
Which brings me back to Manny. Manny seemed like a great player, certainly a hitter as few has ever been. He was capable of carrying his entire team on his back when needed and in the clutch he was unstoppable. Even the mighty Yankees feared him like they feared no one else for he was a Yankee killer, a player who rose to the occasion no matter how high or difficult. After being traded (given) to the Los Angeles Dodgers, he worked his magic there, if only for one season. He made the lackluster and under achieving Dodgers worth watching, at least for one season. His antics were fun if not cause for head shaking. He made you stay in your seat or your chair until his at bat was done. Manny was pure baseball fun no matter how you looked at it or which team you cheered for. He seemed to find a joy in the game like few others.
I get no joy from watching an Alex Rodriguez. He doesn’t seem to get any joy out of playing either as he continues his tainted rise up into the heights achieved by Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron and Willie Mays. His statistics are meaningless, as if he had never played the game. His career, when finally over, should be quickly forgotten. An asterisk isn’t enough.
Listening to the denials of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens reminds one only of our politicians, who can deny, justify and then excuse any action with the egotistical expectation of continuing to be loved and respected. The during and/or post trial silences of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero have been deafening. Their ilk should also be quickly forgotten.
Manny already is forgotten. It could have and should have been a career to celebrate. Instead, the joy, the antics the wonder of it were all one big lie. You can tell me that the real world is like that and that I’m being naïve. Maybe you’re right and the righteous values our parents taught us really do mean nothing and that they were wrong. I couldn’t live that way, wouldn’t want to even if I could. Not for all the mansions and Mercedes and movie starlets in the world.