The Barry Bonds prosecutors are lucky in the respect that they’re trying such a reviled and seemingly clever figure who wouldn’t be so oblivious as to allow people to inject him with substances whose origin and content was unknown.
They may win the case; they may lose the case, but if they lose, it won’t be because the jury sees the defendant as so bewildered that they believe him when he says he didn’t know what he was taking.
Had they been prosecuting Manny Ramirez, the fight would’ve been muddled by Manny being Manny.
Rather than face the embarrassment of the 100 game suspension and go through the whole process and media firestorm to play in August and September for a team that has gotten off to a rotten start and may be far out of contention, he walked away.
But was it a mishap? Did Manny again take PEDs and either believe the person administering the drugs that they were undetectable? Did he think there would be a viable explanation if he did get caught?
Or was it something else?
Did Manny do this intentionally without doing it intentionally?
I believe Manny wanted to retire. Perhaps he hadn’t admitted it to himself; possibly he still felt he could play; or it could be that he subconsciously did this so he’d be able to have an excuse for walking away without accounting for how it would tarnish his already diminished image as one of the best right-handed sluggers in the history of baseball.
Following his surprising signing by the Rays, the “package deal” with Johnny Damon (engineered by Scott Boras) was a win-win-win for everyone involved. Manny would be motivated to prove he could still play and get another contract after this one; there was a neat storyline of the reuniting of two popular members of the Red Sox from the early part of the decade; and the Rays got themselves a hitter who—while fading—was still a threat that had to be pitched to cautiously.
But it had a bad omen from the start.
Manny didn’t look like he was thrilled with the circumstances; with the short money for a player of his stature ($2 million); or that he could no longer do the things he once could on the field.
He didn’t look like he wanted to play.
At 39, with all he’s accomplished and the money he’s made, the most important factor for a player of that caliber is desire. If the desire isn’t there, then the Rays and Manny are better off that this happened. It was a passive aggressive maneuver designed to get him out of a situation he no longer wanted to be in to start with.
In the tradition of Shoeless Joe Jackson, Manny played into the image of the harmless bumpkin because it was good for marketing and allowed him to do whatever he wanted with the built-in excuse of, “Oh, that’s just Manny,” as if no other explanation needed to be provided.
Sadly, Manny’s tremendous career appears destined to go the way of Shoeless Joe.
Jackson has a black mark casting a shadow over his greatness because of his complicity in the Black Sox scandal. It supersedes anything he did before and after. No one cared that he couldn’t read; that he played brilliantly in the 1919 World Series; that he was manipulated by his more sophisticated teammates.
He knew of the plot; did nothing about it; got caught and ruined his legacy.
Manny is a household name and recognized based only on the utterance of his first name; he’s one of the best power hitters and clutch players of this generation; his act made him a lot of money.
But Manny has an asterisk next to his name because of repeatedly failing drug tests for PEDs; because of passive aggressive behaviors that belied the presumed gentle mindlessness of a socially backward hitting savant.
If he wanted to retire, he should’ve retired.
Both Shoeless Joe and Manny are destined for the same fate—deprived of recognition in the Hall of Fame because of their guilt in moments of greed, stupidity or ignorance.
Both thought their images and reputations as innocuous, gentle souls would carry them past that stigma of transgression.
It never cleared the name of Shoeless Joe Jackson.
And it won’t clear the name or justify the career of Manny Ramirez.
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