I just heard that Dodger outfielder and one of the game's greatest right-handed hitters ever, Manny Ramírez, has been suspended for an undisclosed violation of the league's drug policy. It is most likely steroids. And even coming from a player I don't follow closely on a team I don't care about, the news breaks My heart. For not only is Manny one of the game's greatest hitters and flakes, he is one of My son's favorite players.
When Manny left Boston--like a whiny putz--Jason Bay went from My much-beleagured Pirates to the Red Sox. My son's sense of loss was matched by My own, as Bay has gone on to prove that his ignored excellence in Pittsburgh is highly-touted in Boston. Manny went on to reignite his bat and lead the Dodgers to the playoffs. Bittersweet all around.
Over the past decade, Manny has combined hitting excellence with goofball earnestness and that makes him unique in the annals of baseball. He hits with the power and consistency that only a handful of men could ever match, names like Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx and Hornsby. Like Ruth, Manny is a man-child, a lovable loon who can wow you almost every time he swings a bat.
The past decade has not been good to heartfelt fans of baseball as steroids have gutted the grand ole game's image. Former heroes like McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Clemens, Bonds and most recently the "golden boy" Alex Rodríguez have failed to live up to Our images of them. They make excuses, just as baseball management does. Excuses for lapses of judgement that each man at each point in time knew were lapses.
Fans like My son, little boys and girls, have grown up with this scandal. To them, the gaudy records in hitting and pitching have no historical context: they are not "all -time great," just "now." Clemens climbing into the all-time Top 10 in pitching wins is no big deal to them; Bonds passing Aaron was deliberately not a big deal, but they don't know that. We--the fans who grew up before the scandals--We know.
My dad saw DiMaggio, Williams, Musial, Jackie, Mantle, Snider, Ford, Feller, Roberts and more; he and I saw Mays, Aaron, Koufax, Gibson, Frank and Brooks Robinson, and of course, Roberto Clemente...and so many more: Schmidt, Rose, Morgan, Bench, Smith, Ripken, Jr., Boggs, Gwynn, Carew, Seaver, Carlton, Ryan, Palmer and dozens more. We know. We know better, because they were better. Better men. Men who played from the heart, not for the pocket. Men who played the game without violating its spirit. Men, not posers.
And now it seems that the sometimes irritating, always entertaining Manny is--actually--a poser. Not a hitting idiot-savant, but just...an idiot. A poser. Men such as Griffey. Jr, and Maddux, men with career records amongst the greatest the game has ever seen, are lost in the morass of poser-watching. And though the game goes on--will go on--suddenly for Me it has a broken heart. Maybe Manny's suspension is not about steroids, maybe it's about another drug or medication and that this is all a painful lesson on avoiding simple mistakes. But it doesn't seem that way and it definitely doesn't feel that way.
I haven't felt this kind of pain over baseball since the day Clemente died. This time, this pain hurts much less...but it hurts. I healed then, slowly, over time. I wonder how long it will take to heal now. And if baseball will have anything to do with that healing.
The Jenius Has Spoken.