Dodgers bobble heads, posters, pennants, baseballs, foam fingers, helmets, cups, pens and calendars adorn my room. Looking above my bed at the framed photo of former Dodgers great Kirk Gisbon’s enthusiastic fist pump after his one-legged game-winning home run in the 1988 World Series fills me with adoration as I can hear beloved Dodgers announcer Vin Scully’s call: “In a year of the improbable, the impossible has happened!” But as I look to its neighboring glimpse into Dodgers history I find former reliever and noted steroid user in the 2007 Mitchell Report Eric Gange answering a curtain call during his 84-consecutive-save run and think one thing — cheaters. 

It was like any other Thursday morning as I rolled out of bed to catch the 10 a.m. SportsCenter only to read “Manny: Suspended” as my heart simultaneously dropped and a pain struck my stomach as if I just got punched. Not Manny, I thought, maybe he’s pulling another fast one on us. 

Three sources with “specific knowledge” told the Los Angeles Times that the drug test yielded no trace of the medicine human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) in Ramirez’ system, it was a prescription to that drug which landed him the 50-game suspension. Sounds like a good thing, right? Not so fast. The test was suspicious because it recognized an unusually high synthetic testosterone level — four times the average person. 

The female fertility drug (not a steroid) can be used to increase sexual performance, but is known in the baseball community to increase testosterone after a cycle of steroid use, according to medical authorities. One of the three sources said the MLB would only suspend Ramirez if the report found a banned substance. The fact that HCG wasn’t present in Ramirez’ system and that baseball still decided to suspend Manny doesn’t bode well for the slugger, implying that he used steroids. 

At the time of his suspension, Ramirez said in a statement that his doctor gave him medication for a personal ailment, which he thought was OK to give to give Ramirez. Something seems awry — here comes the familiar blame game, and why is Ramirez so vague? Seems like he has something to hide; baseball fans are unfortunately well aware of steroid users’ duplicity. 

Ramirez’ silence didn’t serve his reputation well; it seems he is just waiting for the media storm to subside and the Dodgers fans to put aside their negative perceptions in return for the reinstatement of his power bat into the lineup come July 3. Ramirez should come clean now by divulging the entire truth before the court of public opinion drags him down. 

As a baseball fan I am depressed because baseball is now a game of smoke screens and manipulation — Manny has really made it hit home. Every long home run or breakout season warrants the question of steroid use. According to a Sports Illustrated article “The Night The Lights Went Out in Mannywood,” 10 of the 15 top home-run hitters from 1993 to 2004 have been linked to steroids.

Most players and fans seem to be apathetic and tight-lipped when it comes to Manny and steroids. Houston Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt, who has continually petitioned against steroid use, has even given up hope, evident when he told reporters “No matter what I say, it’s not going to make a difference anymore.”

“I’m not of a mind to abandon the guy,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “And if I’m going to be naive as far as believing what he says, so be it.”

I am happy to see that Manny has received a 50-game suspension for a banned substance, granted it not even being a steroid. It gives baseball fans some hope that Bud Selig and company will stick to its strict banned substance policy, even when accusing one of the best natural hitters of all time on one of the best teams in baseball. This just reemphasizes that players must have a heightened level of concern when putting substances in their body and that Ramirez’ naivety is inexcusable.

The screening company Informed-Choice performed a 2007 study that documented supplements sold in the United States that dictated 25 percent of the 58 supplements tested would contain performance-enhancing drugged banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. 

The Dodgers as a team will be fine, they will probably be a .500 club without Manny, with the necessary pitching and defensive assets to keep them in close games. But the “Manny being Manny” intangibles are absent.

The swagger is gone, along with the Dodgers’ intensity. Everybody seemed to be having fun watching Manny take an unorthodox slide into second base and subsequently laugh at himself; fans would go wild every time Manny stepped up to bat or made a should-be-routine catch look difficult in left field. Yet Ramirez has disappeared like Mannywood has vanished from the left-field bleachers; his absence is noticeable in the loss column because prior to Manny’s suspension there weren’t many to speak of. The team has gone 5-5 (the Dodgers had a 2-1 advantage over the Mets when the Mustang Daily went to print) without him, while the multi-threat left fielder Juan Pierre fills in well, but doesn’t quite draw the same intimidation factor as Man Ram by hitting in the eighth or ninth spot. 

Ramirez’ daily antics liken himself to more of an overgrown kid playing stick ball in the street than a professional getting paid more than $20 million a year to play baseball — this is how he has won the hearts of so many Dodgers fans. But like Alex Rodriguez and the others before him, he is quickly learning how to lose our respect and admiration.

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1 Comment

  1. Vin Scully never said, “I don’t believe what I just saw.” That was from Jack Buck on the radio broadcast. Scully said, “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened!” A Dodgers’ fan should really know that.

    Also, Pierre has not been hitting eighth or ninth. He has led off the last 7 games (as of 5/18) for the Dodgers.

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