My fingers feel like lead. I hate even typing this. In a way though, I am looking forward to my hometown spin on this and my impending diatribe about baseball in general. But for all my readers in Boston, you heard it here first. I am a guy who can take my lumps. And this one is gonna leave a mark. A big one.
Since Manny came to Los Angeles, very few things could have brought more joy into my life. I got to see the Dodgers win the NLDS against the Cubs with my father. We witnessed intensity we had forgotten about as a Dodger fan. The glory was back. Then this season, the Dodgers break a 90 year old record going 13-0 to start they year at home. Best record in the bigs.
Then this morning. Manny gets caught for using Performance Enhancing Drugs. A fifty game suspension. It will be July 3rd before he puts on the blue again. Worse, what will happen to the chemistry of this exciting young team? Can they possibly keep their head up amidst the impending media circus?
I almost knew last night. There was a hot and uncomfortable wind. As I played softball under the lights, dust flew everywhere as my team got slaughtered. It was a restless and hot and uncomfortable night. The Dodgers had just broken the record. The Lakers had redeemed themself. This blog itself has soared in the Alexa rankings. Everything was too easy. I went home and even changed my “religious views” on Facebook. For almost six months now it had read “Religious Views: Sign Manny Ramirez.”
Ain’t life grand.
There are so many questions I now have. Is this the real reason Manny had to leave Boston. Could they not spit on their slugger who had delivered them 2 titles? Is this why no one took a number on Manny this offseason until the Dodger fans pressganged GM Ned Colletti into signing the slugger? Did this play into the extended negotiations? I mean, how does this effect everything?
Then I step back further and I look at the scorched earth that has become of our American Pasttime. There’s a heavy tariff to be payed when you are the most important sport in American history. Not the most popular. Football has earned that in the last two decades. But baseball is different. It’s emotional and nostalgic. You went as a kid to games with your father. That’s what you did. You learned how to score games.
Manny just proves more of the same. This is the sport chosen for the battlefield of drugs versus sports. The problem is just as bad in football and in basketball. To doubt that would be foolish. But what is the difference? A friend of mine named Yosh once had a quote on his Facebook stating that “Football is who we are. Baseball is who we want to be.” That makes sense to me.
In football, guys are killing each other. If they need a little someting to help them recover, so be it. We want our gladiators to be big and ready to kill. Steroids and football are a good fit. In baseball, we don’t want cheaters. Records are sacred. Stats are more important. If that is not true, then quickly tell me which number you remember first and would bet your life on: Most HR in a season, most passing yards in a season or most points in a season in a basketball game. Baseball is a statisticians dream. To cheat is to bastardize our fathers’ generation. We are competitng with our history, the history of our nation and a generation, the “greatest” generation that liberated the world from the Nazis. It may sound ridiculous, but that is why baseball is under the microscope and no one else is.
Manny will be okay. Unlike Bonds and A-Rod, he actually got suspended. It is in the American nature to forgive when someone does time. He will be suspended. He will be asked questions. He will serve his sentence. He will come back before the 4th of July and most likely, he will be cheered. He will be booed in every stadium he visits, although that is already the case. Personally, I think he was doing something other than a pure steroid. I have my money on a stimulent to get him up for games as a 40 year old every night. Either way, he’s guilty of something. He must do his time. Just because he is a Dodger, as I have said about Gagne before him, doesn’t mean I think he’s innocent. I don’t. I am sad because I loved watching him play, but I know he broke a rule. He deserves to be punished. Unfortunately, as we knew before this, everyone is on something.
The Dodgers will be fine. Their bullpen has been a great surprise. They have a 6.5 game lead in a very, very weak division. They have to survive 7 weeks without Manny. They most likely will, especially in the NL West. They now have around 8 million of money Manny no longer is owed to sign a pitcher or sweeten a trade. I would think they make a move even just to get some new news. I think a lot of people will enjoy seeing if Xavier Paul is the real deal. Manny was never the long term contigency plan for this team. We’ll have to see if enough Mannywood has rubbed off on the Ethiers, Kemps, Loneys and Martins. I think it has.
Manny has apologized. What comes now is the campaign. Accuscore has projected this will cost the Dodgers 3 wins over the course of 50 games. We will see how that shakes out.
Me? I’ve received over 40 text messages this morning alone. I expect that number to balloon to 60 when my unemployed friends wake up from drinking. Tonight I am going to the stadium and I will cheer my team on. I root for the name on the front of the jersey. I miss Manny already, but he’s got to take this journey. Hopefully he does it all right and comes back. He can be a Giambi instead of a Bonds. That is his choice. I hope he does what’s best.
As for right now, the Dodgers will have to shut down the lights in the newly annointed “Mannywood”. In the meantime, it’ll be Juan Pierre and Xavier Paul doing their best to contribute. This will be a tough pill to swallow.
Conversely, anyone curious if Manny would stick around and take the Dodgers up on next year’s player option should be glad. Manny won’t get that kind of money from anyone, unless somehow he comes back, leads us to a World Series in style, is a PR dream.
But then again, if that happened, we wouldn’t care would we?