Sad day in Mannywood
Yesterday, May 6, 2009, I went to bed elated by the news that the Dodgers made history. Just 10 hours later, I woke up disheartened by the news that Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games due to testing positive for an MLB banned substance. I then proceeded to comfort eat. I ate two muffins with a side of frosted flakes. I now feel puffy.
ESPN is reporting that they have received information from two sources that the banned substance Manny tested positive for is human chorionic gonadotropin. HCG is a fertility drug typically used by steroid users coming off the juice that aids in replenishing testosterone levels in the testicles. As we’ve all learned by now, testosterone is depleted by steroid use, and low testosterone can cause erectile dysfunction. (Insert inappropriate Mannywood joke here). But it should be noted that HCG can also be used in lieu of steroids because of its testosterone boosting effect which can boost performance. Still bad.
In his statement, Ramirez said:
“I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me, and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I’m sorry about this whole situation.”
And if it isn’t bad enough for baseball, Tom Verducci from SI.com closed his article with this staggering fact:
“Ramirez ranks 17th on the all-time home-run list with 533. Eight of those top 17 home run hitters played in what is commonly referred to as the Steroid Era. And six of those eight modern-day sluggers have been associated with performance-enhancing drugs: Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Rodriguez and Ramirez. The only modern sluggers to have escaped such a connection are Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas and Jim Thome.”
Am I enraged? No. Cheating in baseball has been around for as long as the sport has been around. This latest form of cheating is a direct result of where we are socially. I’ve said it many times before but it is worth repeating here and now. We’re all looking for a quick fix to be stronger, to look younger, to perform better and to cure what ails us. Performance enhancing drugs are, unfortunately, the evolution of cheating that mirrors the evolution of the pharmaceutical society that we’ve become.
So, no, I am not enraged. I’m just sad and disappointed.
Below is an excerpt from my book Safe at Home: Confessions of a Baseball Fanatic. This excerpt appears in the chapter entitled, “Cheating Through The Ages,” and I thought it was appropriate to post today. Please leave your comments. I always enjoy reading them.
“Okay, I’m just gonna lay this out here: Cheating in baseball has been around for a long time. Pretty much since the game began there have been stolen signs, spitballs, corked bats, greenies, and any number of other methods to get ahead. It was only after all that when the current era of swollen necks and bulging home run totals was ushered in. So much for baseball’s innocence.
The difference between the past and the present is that today’s cheating is happening off the field. It’s happening in locker rooms and bathroom stalls instead of on the basepaths and the pitcher’s mound. Personally, I can’t figure out how anyone can say that one form of cheating is “better” than another. Can’t we just say that they’re all bad rather than trying to find ways to show that the past was full of decency and the present is full of deception?
I’m a big believer in individual responsibility. Baseball cheaters should be punished. Punished, yes, but not destroyed. It was true when Shoeless Joe Jackson and the rest of the Black Sox disappointed a nation, and it’s true now, for the guys looking for an edge by using the needle. The real problem with steroids is that the baseball commissioner, Bud Selig, and the Major League Baseball Players Association didn’t nip it in the bud (no pun intended) early on. For years both sides opposed testing with little sense of the toll that this position would take on the game. Their negligence turned a problem into an epidemic, leaving an entire era of stats in question. Home runs, hits, and attendance were up, and that meant more money for teams and the league, which meant more money for players, which meant more money for the union. Take all those financial incentives together, and suddenly no one is in a hurry to regulate anything.
Yet even though there are a lot of people responsible for the steroid era there are very few who’ve actually stepped up and admitted their part in it. And that’s what I have a problem with. Barry Bonds is undoubtedly one of the greatest players ever. You know what? I didn’t have as much of a problem with the idea of him cheating as I did with the possibility that he lied about it.
In contrast, there are guys like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte, who simply came clean (inasmuch as Giambi could without violating the terms of his contract). And I totally respect their honesty. Yes, Giambi may have made some bad choices throughout his career, but I must admit, as a purist fan of baseball, I had a newfound respect for the man after he told the truth. I have compassion for anyone trying to do the right thing, anyone who may have had a slip of judgment and then recognized his or her mistakes.
Maybe my biggest frustration with this issue is that Major League Baseball and the players union have yet to own up to their role in all this. A grand jury, a congressional committee, a tell-all book, and they have yet to apologize for their complacency. Before MLB can solve this issue it needs to recognize the problem and apologize for it. If any employee of any major entertainment corporation were to act inappropriately and offend or alienate his or her audience, the CEO would apologize on behalf of the company. Why is it so hard for Bud Selig to say, “I apologize for the steroid era. We made a mistake with our complacency, and we are taking the appropriate measures to make sure the future game of baseball is played with dignity and integrity.”
The fans, the players, the coaches — everyone needs to close the book on this latest chapter, in the game’s cheating history. As the latest in a long history of cheating episodes, it’s our obligation to give it the attention it deserves and then move on. We owe it to ourselves and… we owe it to the game.”
P.S. Here’s a link to an entry I wrote about steroids and botox.