BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
Just as I was ready to write Manny Ramirez in as a future Hall of Famer for a future blog, news broke that he was suspended 50 games for violating MLB's drug policy for using a women's fertility drug hCG.
For Manny's sake, I hope he doesn't take the same reputation beating that Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, etc... have taken for using performance enhancing drugs. After all, he was the major reason the Boston Red Sox have won two world championships and have erased the curse of Babe Ruth.
Ramirez is the reason the Los Angeles Dodgers won a playoff series last year for the first time in 20 years since their 1988 World Series title over the Oakland A's ousting the Chicago Cubs.
Despite his liabilities defensively, off the wall antics on the field, and bitter departure from the Red Sox, to his credit, he's still fun to watch. What baseball needs is characters between the lines to compliment those managers like Ozzie Guillen of the Chicago White Sox.
A few weeks ago, the death of former Detroit Tigers Pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych was a major loss for the grand old game.
The absence of Ramirez will not only be a void for Dodgers fans, but those around baseball that bought advance tickets to see him. The Dodgers invested into billboards to market "The Character" and I wouldn't doubt if Hall of Fame Broadcaster Vin Scully had a few more one-liners to share with fans.
One thing this suspension will do is send a message to all players that this drug policy will cost them in the checkbook both short and long term. Ramirez, who is expected to return on July 3, will lose $7.4 million for this mistake, which is more than many of us will make in our lifetimes.
More importantly, it could hinder the Dodgers chances of reaching the post-season and the extra money that not only he loses, but his teammates and the organization. You can't put a dollar figure on a championship ring. Just ask former Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, who played on a lot of bad teams, and what he'd give to win that valuable piece of jewelry.
Ramirez is definitely the biggest name to be punished and he won't be the last because someone else will be dumb enough to try to buck the system.
Ramirez is now going to be the player that MLB will use as "The Example" and this is one poster boy tag no player covets. Regardless of your name, you're going to sit and pay in more ways than one especially the reputation hit that labels you a cheater.
Take notice players. Be aware that random drug testing works.
Union Director Donald Fehr and the players association won't be able to bail you out of this jackpot because the last thing they want to do is to once again face Congress. I wouldn't be surprised that when the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated, that the penalties will get even tougher than they are now. Even if baseball has to cancel another World Series between this issue and the eventual creation of a salary cap.
While the country is in a major recession, now Manny is on recess. This would be a good time for Manny and his agent Scott Boras to use this recess and huddle up to find away and rehabilitate his image.
A great way to accomplish this is by speaking to youth groups about the negative effects of performance enhancing drugs, sign so many autographs until his hand falls off and get advice from Dodgers legendary Manager Tommy Lasorda about giving public speeches.
Being in the second largest city in the country and one that appears to have warmed up to you, I do believe that once you eaten humble pie, start hitting homers and the Dodgers win more games with you in the lineup, Los Angeles will forgive you Manny for making this mistake providing you've learned from it.
If San Francisco is going to embrace a disliked figure like a home run king fraud like Bonds, Los Angeles fans will have no problem bonding to your like able personality and will gladly sit back in your newly named section Mannywood.
Scott Morganroth can be reached at Scottsports33@aol.com.
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