Manny Back in early March I was discussing baseball with a co-worker of mine when the subject of Albert Pujols came up. My co-worker is a St Louis native and a lifetime Cardinals fan. He had met somebody (a coach I believe, I don’t remember exactly) at an event (we work in radio, he works on the sports end) and they talked about how much of a “machine” Pujols is when it comes to the weight room and watching video to make himself a better hitter. Inevitably the conversation turned to whether or not he thought Pujols, who hadn’t shown any signs of becoming the monster hitter he ultimately became prior to getting the Call, had taken or dabbled in steroids. He firmly believes he hasn’t, doesn’t, and never will.

I told him, and i’ll never forget this now, that he could tell me tomorrow that ANYBODY was on Steroids/HGH/PEDs and it wouldn’t shock me. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Johan Santana, Hanley Ramirez, Pujols…a positive test from any of them wouldn’t shock me. But, if you told me Manny Ramirez was on The Juice i’d fall over in total shock. Yesterday, I almost DID fall over.

I have been a fan of Manny ever since he signed with the Red Sox and left Cleveland. I was never a fan of those Indian teams he played on but signing with Boston? This was a fresh start in my eyes for a guy who looked like he could go down as one of the greatest hitters of all time. Manny signing with Boston turned me into a Red Sox fan (and I’ve remained a Sox fan ever since. So, no, I didn’t hop on the bandwagon with everybody else. I had at least a couple years head start) and it didn’t take long for Manny to become, hands down, my favorite player in the game. He was so seemingly care free…so seemingly child like and goofy…that he struck me as the type of player many of us PRAY for in this day and age; the type of player who plays for the love of the game. Sure, he had a MONSTER new contract in his back pocket but he still kept his happy go lucky public and on field persona.

And he hit. My god did he hit.

Now all that hitting, all those numbers are in question. Hell, it’s safe to say that all that Manny has done has already been destroyed in the court of public opinion. Yes, Manny’s “rep” was already on shaky ground due to the way his exit from Boston went down. But, even after the shaky off season of turned down monster contracts and fears that he was just another greedy self serving player (seriously, did everybody forget this guy’s agent is SCOTT FREAKING BORAS!?!? the ultimate SNAKE!?!), Manny ultimately resigned with the Dodgers to continue to be an influence on their collection of super talented young players and maybe get the Dodgers back to the World Series for the first time since 1988. Now, he’s serving a 50 game suspension right as the Dodgers were rounding into the Best Team in the National League if not all of Baseball. How the Dodgers handle that 50 game stretch will show us if this team is legit or just another one of those classic early season hot starts that ultimately fizzles out.

So, where does that leave me? Devout Manny fan and supporter??

I don’t care about PED’s. I really don’t. I’ve had years to come to this conclusion and I feel as strongly about this as I do anything I’ve ever felt when it comes to sports. It’s not one of those “oh, everybody else was doing it” feelings it’s just a “I really don’t give a damn if EVERYBODY was juiced” feeling.

People have this romanticized opinion of baseball that i’ve never understood. People talk about how “back in the day” it was just a game, the money didn’t matter, and guys played for the love. Not like these bums of today. Give me a damn break! Guys were just as concerned about money back then, only there was a hell of a lot less of it to go around or have you forgotten the lessons of the 1919 White Sox?

As for the idea that players were somehow “better people” than the gentlemen¬† who play the game today? Again, give me a DAMN BREAK. Have you forgotten that Ty Cobb was a bitter racist who routinely tried to hurt people with his spikes? Or that Mickey Mantle was a face first, fall down drunk who never was a great as he should have been (bold statement I know) because his body continued to fail him because of the way he treated it? Or that the supposed “Greatest Player of All Time” (Babe Ruth) was an epic drunk who nailed hookers on the regular??

So, yeah, I don’t care about players using steroids. It’s just the evolution of scuzzy behavior by men who get paid to play a game. And it’s a game I will continue to love regardless. And, one day, when I take my son on his first trip to Cooperstown I hope i’m able to point at the plaque of Manny Ramirez on the wall and say; “Son, he may have failed a drug test. And it’s possible he was on the juice. But, everybody in those days was. And it doesn’t change the fact that he was the most happy go lucky player we’d seen in decades. A hitting savant who had, probably, the most pure swing i’ve ever seen. He was a great player, son. And the fact he failed a drug test in 2009 doesn’t change that.”