On the field, Manny Ramirez could be both a force and a farce, perhaps the greatest right-handed hitter of his generation, but also a buffoon who demonstrated a devil-may-care attitude towards everything and everyone around him. But with all due respect to Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens, Ramirez may best be remembered for being the dumbest player in MLB history.
Manny is the first MLB player to test positive for PEDs on three separate occasions. Two of those failed tests came after MLB and the players’ union agreed to a drug testing policy beginning with the 2004 season. That’s twice more than Palmeiro, who famously wagged his finger at Congress in 2005 when he denied ever using PEDs and five months later was suspended for failing a drug test. And Manny is three up on Clemens, who to our knowledge never tested positive but is charged with lying to Congress when he contradicted his trainer’s testimony that he used PEDs.
When confronted by MLB last week with his second violation of the drug testing policy, Ramirez elected to retire rather than face a 100-game suspension as a repeat offender. Displaying his typical Manny-being-Manny persona, Ramirez said he would take a trip to Spain with his father, while presumably trying to figure out how to get by on what’s left of the more than $200 million he earned during his 19-year MLB career. While Manny’s career statistics scream Hall of Fame, his PED use suggests that he will never be voted in by the writers, and unless there is a sea change in the voting rules, he will likewise be shunned by the Veterans Committee when they consider his candidacy in 20 years.
It’s difficult to feel sorry for Ramirez. He always marched to the beat of his own drummer, and it often appeared as if the music – along with the player – came from a different planet. Perhaps that’s why he tempted fate by resorting to chemistry despite knowing that MLB tests all players in spring training and randomly thereafter. Maybe Ramirez was never told that if you play with fire, you’re bound to get burned. Or perhaps he didn’t care.
The question that will be debated for eternity is how long was Ramirez on the juice? He reportedly tested positive in 2003 when MLB and the union agreed to survey testing to determine if a drug policy was warranted, and again in 2009 and 2011. Was he also using prior to 2003 and between 2003 and 2009? If the answer is yes, then in addition to getting my vote for being the dumbest player in MLB history, his entire career is tainted, unlike Clemens who arguably had Hall of Fame credentials before he started juicing (according to his former trainer, Brian McNamee).
We aren’t talking about players like Jeff Bagwell, who, although he has Hall of Fame credentials, was dissed by the majority of voters in the last Hall of Fame election. Many voters took a guilty-until-proven-innocent approach with Bagwell based on the fact his hat and uniform sizes increased during his playing career, even though he never tested positive for PEDs. With Ramirez, we have no doubt about his guilt, but rather what impact PEDs had on his statistics, a question medical science is incapable of enlightening us on at the present time.
Another question the Ramirez three-peat raises is whether MLB’s drug testing policy is working - discouraging use and catching violators - or whether players are using and going undetected. Ramirez was tested – multiple times – between 2004 and 2009 and yet never produced a positive. He also tested negative for PEDs in 2010. Can we be sure he wasn’t using during those years? Or did Ramirez receive a pass because of the ineffectiveness of the tests or their lack of frequency?
In either case, Manny’s retirement brings a sudden and unexpected end to what should have been an illustrious career, now tainted forever by his self-inflicted wounds. It’s easy to say if Manny didn’t care more about his career and how he would be remembered, neither should we. But it’s still sad to think that Manny will go down in history as the dumbest player of his era, rather than the Hall of Famer he should have been.
Jordan Kobritz is a staff member of the Business of Sports Network. He is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is an Assistant Professor of Sport Management at Eastern New Mexico University and teaches the Business of Sports at the University of Wyoming. He looks forward to your comments and can be contracted, here.
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