The Futility Infielder

A Baseball Journal by Jay Jaffe I'm a baseball fan living in New York City. In between long tirades about the New York Yankees and the national pastime in general, I'm a graphic designer.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

 

Crime, Punishment, and Manny

Via my boy Alex Belth comes this fantastically irreverent Slate piece by Charles P. Pierce on Manny Ramirez's return to action:
Then, back in May, the test results came back. A chorus of moaning arose from the Church of the Perpetually Outraged. (This week's sermon: "What about the children?") But he slowly but surely made a goof even out of the Most Serious Crisis There Absolutely Ever Has Been. The drug for which he was nailed was only the beginning of it. Pundits were dispatched to the far corners of the minors to seek out the disheartened and disillusioned. Instead, they found fans who were just happy to see Manny Ramirez swinging for the fences of their little stadium. (My favorite was the guy who told Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times that he and his wife had, like Manny, used a fertility drug. "Manny got suspended," the man told Plaschke. "We got twins!") With Manny in town, the game was a happy, not haunted, place. This seemed to come as a surprise to some people.

Ramirez's weird pilgrimage to the bushes served as a living reminder that the great steroid hunt is almost solely an intramural problem between baseball and its various acolytes. The overwhelming number of baseball fans—who, given the economic problems of the moment, are filling ballparks in reasonably overwhelming numbers—have quite obviously made peace with what happened in the game over the past 20 years. Manny Ramirez was treated as though he'd pulled a hamstring or tweaked a tendon. Now, he's back. That's the way things are going to be from now on.
This isn't the first time the Massachusetts-based Pierce has taken up the poison pen when it comes to Ramirez's detractors. The day after he was traded to the Dodgers last summer, he marveled at the pitchfork-wielding mob which ushered him out of Beantown:
I was driving home late in the last afternoon of the Manny Ramirez Era in Boston, listening to the local ESPN radio outlet, when, suddenly, it seemed that the two hosts had decided that what the situation called for was the opinion of Margaret Hamilton's character from The Wizard of Oz.

... disgrace to the game ... I get sick of people in Boston adoring a guy who didn't play hard. ... blackmailed the Red Sox ... an affront and an embarrassment ... What about the integrity of playing the game right? ... When it comes to the Hall of Fame, there will be a lot of people who have a lot more questions about Manny Ramirez than they do about Mark McGwire.

And his mangy little dog, too, one supposes. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that one of the sources of this particularly violent magma displacement was ESPN's Peter Gammons. This is like being heckled by one of the heads on Mount Rushmore. It's also gloriously unmoored from reality. Gammons' own record on covering the Steroid Era is a decidedly mixed one. Not that I care, because that cause was never my frenzy of choice, either.
There's no question in Pierce's mind that Ramirez's positive test and suspension mark a turning point in baseball's battle against steroids. Without trying to belittle the need for that fight, I agree with him. Here we have a popular superstar who has been caught by Major League Baseball's increasingly sophisticated testing program; recall that he didn't test positive for a steroid but for elevated testosterone, which gave MLB license to examine his medical records, where they discovered a decidedly unkosher prescription for hCG. While certainly granted more coverage than was necessary, there was no innuendo, no violation of guaranteed anonymity, no illegal governmental leak. Just crime and punishment, the violation of baseball's drug agreement triggering a 50-game suspension served as eager fans awaited his return.

And not just Dodger fans; as Pierce points out, ESPN devoted plenty of space to Ramirez's day-by-day progress during his suspension and "rehab" assignment. For once, the chattering classes notably failed to agree that history's greatest monster was walking among us. Plaschke's curmudgeonly colleague at the LA Times, T.J. Simers, went so far as to call himself a Ramirez apologist because with Ramirez around, "The Dodgers are not only relevant again, but a show worth watching."

While there have been outbreaks of handwringing here and there since Ramirez returned to the lineup last Friday, a long last, it appears we're at least incrementally past the simplistic outrage that equates steroid users as Evildoing Cheaters Who Have Destroyed the Game and Should Be Banned For Life, Plus Spanked and Sent to Bed Without Supper. Ramirez broke the rules, the rules were enforced, the penalty was handed down, Ramirez served it unflinchingly, and the sun still rose in the East. That's healthy, and if somebody wants to Think of the Children, how about reminding them that after serving their punishment, people deserve their second chances.

As I write this, Ramirez has just been ejected in the fifth inning of Tuesday night's Dodgers-Mets game. Home plate umpire John Hirschbeck wouldn't stand for him tossing his elbow pad to express his disgruntlement with being called out on strikes via a ball that, conservatively speaking, was closer to Rockaway Beach than home plate. That's a punishment disproportionate to the crime, but thankfully, at least Manny is back to being Manny.

Labels: , , ,


Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]



Links to this post:

Create a Link



<< Home

Archives

June 2001   July 2001   August 2001   September 2001   October 2001   November 2001   December 2001   January 2002   February 2002   March 2002   April 2002   May 2002   June 2002   July 2002   August 2002   September 2002   October 2002   November 2002   December 2002   January 2003   February 2003   March 2003   April 2003   May 2003   June 2003   July 2003   August 2003   September 2003   October 2003   November 2003   December 2003   January 2004   February 2004   March 2004   April 2004   May 2004   June 2004   July 2004   August 2004   September 2004   October 2004   November 2004   December 2004   January 2005   February 2005   March 2005   April 2005   May 2005   June 2005   July 2005   August 2005   September 2005   October 2005   November 2005   December 2005   January 2006   February 2006   March 2006   April 2006   May 2006   June 2006   July 2006   August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007   March 2007   April 2007   May 2007   June 2007   July 2007   August 2007   September 2007   October 2007   November 2007   December 2007   January 2008   February 2008   March 2008   April 2008   May 2008   June 2008   July 2008   August 2008   September 2008   October 2008   November 2008   December 2008   January 2009   February 2009   March 2009   April 2009   May 2009   June 2009   July 2009   August 2009   September 2009   October 2009   November 2009   December 2009   January 2010   February 2010   March 2010   April 2010   May 2010  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]