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Manny Ramirez Cheated? Big Deal

May 10, 2009 – 6:41 PM
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Jeff Fletcher

Jeff Fletcher %BloggerTitle%

I'm a baseball writer, not the Pope. I've got a Hall of Fame vote, not the key to heaven. Manny Ramirez is a baseball player, not the President.

As such, I don't think I've got a right to expect much in the way of morality. I don't think Ramirez needs to be held to as high a standard as my son's kindergarten teacher.

In the days since we learned that Ramirez violated baseball's drug policy, most likely by using steroids, most of the media has rushed on a herd of high horses to condemn him.

My fellow Hall of Fame voters at FanHouse were unanimous in saying that Ramirez's transgression should keep him out of Cooperstown. Just today Kurt Streeter of the Los Angeles Times was outraged at anyone who's not outraged.

Here's the dissenting opinion: Ramirez cheated. Who cares?

Apologies to my fellow media members who have become so morally indignant about what Manny did.

Me? Not so much.

You may have noticed I was the only one of FanHouse's Hall of Fame voters who was willing to give a pass to the steroid users. While I don't begrudge any of my colleagues the right to hold their position, I just can't work up all the moral outrage.

We're talking about baseball here. It's just a game. Steroids are drugs that help you play the game better. The crime these players committed is that they wanted to be really good at their jobs, so much that they took some shortcuts that they shouldn't have taken. Besides, the line between using steroids and the accepted methods of enhancing performance through science is a blurry one, as FanHouse's David Whitley wrote last week.

The difference between steroids and other forms of artificial enhancement is that steroids are unsafe. In other areas, we applaud people who put themselves at risk to entertain us. (I'd venture to say anyone who has taken steroids to play baseball will be healthier when he's 50 than someone who plays clean in the NFL.)

Given that, is the use of performance-enhancing drugs really so egregious a character flaw as to stir up such indignation? Sorry again, but it just doesn't bother me that much.

Streeter wrote:
[Ramirez] held a special role, profited mightily from it and abused our trust. The fact so many disagree, that the "ho-hum, la-di-da" crowd has so much sway, is a sign of scrambled priorities. A sign we need more who are angry and indignant and offended. Count me in this last group. It's my job.
It is your job to be the moral compass for America? To tell us what we ought to be indignant about? You are a sports columnist and he is a baseball player.

There are way too many real problems in this world to be get so worked up about a baseball player who breaks the rules so he can be better.

Yeah, Manny set a bad exapmle for America's youth. But if my son thinks it's OK to use steroids because Manny Ramirez did, that's on me, not Manny.

Latest Manny Ramirez Images

    Kevin Rolfe sells a t-shirt in reference to Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez outside Dodger Stadium's gates before the MLB baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles on Friday, May 8, 2009. Ramirez was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball for a drug violation, adding a further stamp to what will forever be known as the Steroids Era. Ramirez will lose $7.7 million in salary, but the Dodgers stand to take a financial hit, too. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

    AP

    Kevin Rolfe sells t-shirts in reference to Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez outside Dodger Stadium's gates before the MLB baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles on Friday, May 8, 2009. Ramirez was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball for a drug violation, adding a further stamp to what will forever be known as the Steroids Era. Ramirez will lose $7.7 million in salary, but the Dodgers stand to take a financial hit, too. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

    AP

    Kevin Rolfe sells t-shirts in reference to Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez outside Dodger Stadium's gates before the MLB baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles on Friday, May 8, 2009. Ramirez was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball for a drug violation, adding a further stamp to what will forever be known as the Steroids Era. Ramirez will lose $7.7 million in salary, but the Dodgers stand to take a financial hit, too. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

    AP

    Kevin Rolfe sells t-shirts in reference to Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez outside Dodger Stadium's gates before the MLB baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers in Los Angeles on Friday, May 8, 2009. Ramirez was suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball for a drug violation, adding a further stamp to what will forever be known as the Steroids Era. Ramirez will lose $7.7 million in salary, but the Dodgers stand to take a financial hit, too. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

    AP

    George Washington High School, where Los Angeles Dodgers' outfielder Manny Ramirez played is shown Friday, May 8, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

    AP

    Alibay Barkley, a student and baseball player for George Washington High School, responds to questions during a news interview after playing a high school baseball game against Brandeis Friday, May 8, 2009 in New York. Los Angeles Dodgers' outfielder Manny Ramirez played for George Washington in high school. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

    AP

    Mike Antonio, a student and baseball player for George Washington High School responds to questions during a news interview after playing a high school baseball game against Brandeis Friday, May 8, 2009 in New York. Los Angeles Dodgers' outfielder Manny Ramirez played for George Washington in high school. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

    AP

    Fans watch George Washington plays Brandeis during a high school baseball game Friday, May 8, 2009 in New York. Los Angeles Dodgers' outfielder Manny Ramirez played for George Washington and has been suspended for 50 games for violating the MLB anti-drug policy. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

    AP

    George Washington High School head baseball coach Steve Mandl looks on during the third inning of a baseball game against Brandeis High School Friday, May 8, 2009 at George Washington High School in New York. Mandl coached Los Angeles Dodgers' outfielder Manny Ramirez when he played for George Washington. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

    AP

    George Washington plays Brandeis during a high school baseball game Friday, May 8, 2009 in New York. Los Angeles Dodgers' outfielder Manny Ramirez played for George Washington and has been suspended for 50 games for violating the MLB anti-drug policy. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

    AP


As for the Hall of Fame, I don't see my ballot as an opportunity to exercise my moral judgment. I don't see it as my chance to show that I'm a right-thinking person of good character. I get the feeling that a lot of folks aren't looking out for the integrity of the Hall of Fame, but of themselves. "What does that say about me if I endorse a cheater?"

There are a lot of other -- more important -- ways in my life for me to show I'm a moral person on the 364 days a year I'm not filling out a Hall of Fame ballot.

Sure, the words "intergrity, sportsmanship and character" are on the ballot, but the Hall has a lot of guys of questionable character, because all were great baseball players.

To me, a Hall of Fame ballot is about baseball. Pick the best.

Statistics make it relatively easy to know who performed the best between the lines. Beyond that, there is what you saw with your eyes. Which players captured your attention? Which ones did things that took your breath away? Which ones created memories you'll have forever?

Barry Bonds. Manny Ramirez. Roger Clemens. Alex Rodriguez. History will show that all of them were, without a shadow of a doubt, among the best baseball players of their era, whether they enhanced themselves or not. They played in an era of cheaters, and they were still the best.

Fifty years from now, someone will take his son to Cooperstown. As he's walking past the busts of Bonds and Clemens and Ramirez, hopefully he'll explain the Steroid Era.

"A lot of players, hundreds of them, did some things that were wrong. We still don't know which guys did what, and we never will. All we know is what we could see on the field. And on the field, these guys were the best."

If he's expecting a bigger life lesson than that, Cooperstown in not the right place to look.
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