(Photo by Associated Press)
I asked Mariner manager Eric Wedge yesterday if he had any thoughts on the retirement of Manny Ramirez, whose stint in the Indians organization overlapped his. Wedge said he hadn’t yet had time to process the still-fresh news, and added, “There’s plenty of other people who can give their thoughts on Manny Ramirez.”
You get the picture. It’s not exactly Ted Williams hitting a home run and walking away for good. Ramirez slunk away because he didn’t want to face a second suspension — this one for 100 games — for violating baseball’s drug policy by testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
He ends with brilliant numbers, but regarded as just another player for whom those accomplishments will be forever tainted. Ramirez was a hitting genius, as Joe Posnanski points out, and he was a colorful character. Even endearing most of the time, despite doing some goofball things throughout his career.
But now he has absolutely no way of getting to Cooperstown, at least not in the near future. Take away his steroids association, and Ramirez would be a first-ballot lock based on statistics. But the people — in this case, the BBWAA writers — have spoken loud and clear when it comes to those linked to performance-enhancing drugs. Mark McGwire and his 583 homers have never received more than 23.7 percent of the vote, and he dropped to 19.8 percent last year after admitting his steroids use. Rafael Palmeiro with his 3,000 hit/500 homer combo, plus a positive drug test, got a mere 11 percent of the vote last year in his first try. Ramirez now has two positive tests, which makes it hard to make any sort of “I didn’t know what I was taking” or “it was just a one-time thing” defense. There aren’t many logical reasons to be taking a women’s fertility drug…if you’re not a woman.
Attitudes toward performance-enhancing drugs and Cooperstown may evolve over time, and those of the so-called steroids era might be regarded as simply playing the game the way it was played in those days. But for now, voters are taking a hard-line stance. I’ve leaned toward the viewpoint that we (the BBWAA) are not the steroids police, and it’s impossible to know who used and who didn’t. But in the case of Palmeiro, and especially Ramirez, they tested positive after baseball finally codified their policy on enhancing drugs, in cooperation with the Players Association, and instituted penalties. So while I voted for McGwire (with strongly conflicted emotions), I didn’t vote for Palmeiro, and, as I sit here now, I won’t vote for Ramirez, either.
Maybe next week, I’ll discuss Barry Bonds. But let’s see the verdict first.
Oh, one more thing. There’s always a Mariner angle — Ramirez’s retirement opened the door for Tampa Bay to call up Casey Kotchman, who will take over as the regular first baseman.