Manny Being A Mess

Manny? He’s sorry. Maybe not as sorry as the Dodgers. Maybe not as sorry as baseball. Still, he’s sorry. And he’s been advised not to say anything more. Which is always the way when somebody breaks the rules.

Let an agent talk – are you out there Scott Boras? Let an attorney talk.

Athletes were playing ball Thursday afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum. Not Manny, although he and his drug suspension were the only things people seemed to want to discuss. The Texas Rangers and Oakland A’s were going at it in the sunshine. Manny Ramirez was down the coast, in southern California. And down for the count. Or more specifically 50 games.

John Madden could have summarized this one beautifully. “Boom.’’ A story that hit like a bomb. A story that made us wonder, who next? A story that after all the agony of Yankees and Mets ticket blunders, of Alex Rodriguez’ drug involvement, trumps all the rest of the negative material with one big blow.

Manny gone until the beginning of July. What’s going to happen to sales of those dreadlock-wigs in the stands at Dodger Stadium? What’s going to happen to the Dodgers?

With Manny in the lineup, they literally had been unbeatable at home, 13 out of 13. With Manny in the lineup they had compiled the best record in the majors.

Barry Bonds never was suspended. A-Rod hasn’t been suspended. But Manny was given 50 games for failing a drug test, which proves both that baseball is serious in cleansing its sport of the doubt and disgrace, and that Manny is either arrogant or ignorant.

Ramirez said the drug violation was due not to a steroid but a medication from a doctor, “which he thought was ok to give me. Unfortunately the medication is banned under our drug policy . . . I do want to say I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests the past five seasons.”

He didn’t pass this one. A man with a two-year $45 million contract, a man who almost single-handedly after they traded for him in July carried the Dodgers to the 2008 post-season, a man batting .348 after Wednesday night when he doubled in two runs, got smacked, and hard.

They must be laughing and exchanging high gives in Boston. And exhaling in San Francisco, not that the Giants, even with frequent rumors, were a particularly strong candidate to get Manny last winter when he became a free agent. He was worth too much to the Dodgers. And worth more than the Giants could ever pay.

A healthy Manny, an unsuspended Manny, is a winner, a player who turns teams into champions. The Red Sox couldn’t win a World Series, if you don’t revert to 1918, until they got Ramirez. Then they won twice in four seasons.

Juan Pierre takes over in the Dodgers outfield for Manny. Not exactly the power or the personality. But a body which isn’t under suspension. Or suspicion. A dropoff in talent but an improvement in eligibility.

All February, the questions swirled about the Dodgers. Would they finally give Manny, and Boras the agent, what they wanted? Would they be successful in re-signing the irrepressible Ramirez who had made them successful? Finally, a couple weeks into spring training, the Dodgers made the announcement. They were whole once more.

No longer. Not for another two months. The guy who dominates the cover of their media guide, indeed the guy who dominates Dodger opponents, arguably the biggest bat this side of Albert Pujols, is banned from the game.

The sport’s balance is tipped. The Dodgers are more than Manny, certainly. You don’t start the way they’ve started without other star players. Yet they will be less without Manny.

Like Bonds, when Barry was at his best, Ramirez is a difficult out, less troublesome with an intentional walk than a pitch that could be driven to the fences, or over them. A week and a half ago, in a game against the Giants, Manny walked in his first two plate appearances and doubled his next three.

After Bonds, after Mark McGwire, after Rafael Palmiero, after the warnings and the threats, the presumption is players understand they are responsible for what ends up in their bodies, even if they contend they have no idea how it got there.

A month ago, Jose Canseco, self-professed steroid user, at an appearance at the University of Southern California, said Ramirez’ name “is most likely 90 percent” on a list of 104 players who failed a drug test in 2003.

It sounded like bluster. Instead it was dead accurate.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's also honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America. His columns appear in RealClearSports on Wednesdays and Fridays.

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