Opinion: A sudden end to a storied career

 

 

Mike Crissman

Mike Crissman

Mike Crissman is a sophomore newspaper journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Baseball season is officially here, and there have already been a number of surprises after only the first week. Foremost was perennial knucklehead Manny Ramirez and his abrupt retirement Friday after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The Tampa Bay outfielder decided to end his career rather than face a 100-game suspension. Manny wasn’t feeling that.

“I’m at ease,” the carefree outfielder said after his surprising decision in an interview over the weekend. “I’ll be going away on a trip to Spain with my old man.”

While the sudden retirement sent shockwaves through the league, it does seem like a fitting way for Manny to leave the game of baseball. The guy is one of the most entertaining personalities the league has ever seen. Why not go out like a clown?

It is easy to look back and mistake Manny’s child-like spirit for a lack of respect for baseball. Whether faking illnesses to get out of games or sneaking into the Green Monster (the large left field fence in Boston’s Fenway Park) between pitching changes to make phone calls, Ramirez never passed up a chance to show off his happy-go-lucky attitude.

Although he is one of the greatest hitters in MLB history, he always struggled on defense. You’ll get more laughs watching a blooper reel of his fielding errors than an episode of “Seinfeld.”

The guy just had fun, plain and simple. He was easy like Sunday morning, every day of the week. Yet he still put up some legendary numbers at the plate. Throughout his career he batted .312, had 13 seasons of 100 or more RBIs and hit 555 home runs, ranking him 14th of all time. He is also the all-time leader in postseason homeruns with 29.

Because of such monumental numbers, people often looked past Manny’s goofball antics and lackadaisical demeanor on and off the field. It was just Manny being Manny. Then came the steroid allegations.

This is not Manny’s first failed drug test. In 2009 he tested positive for human chorionic gonadotropin, a banned female fertility drug often used to help mask steroid use. (I doubt he took it to get pregnant. Last time I checked, that’s not possible for a man.) He served a 50-game suspension that year as a Los Angeles Dodger.

Although I disagree with it, Manny’s chances of being inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame have greatly diminished after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs twice now. It will be hard for many to look past the so-called “cheating.”

It’s naive, though, to think that current-era steroid sluggers are the only players to ever cheat their way into the record books. Revered hall of famers, like Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt, used amphetamines to boost their energy and concentration. Famed pitcher Gaylord Perry threw an illegal “spitball,” rubbing grease on the ball to alter the trajectory of his pitches. Should asterisks be placed next to all of their stats as well? They used illegal substances too.

Manny Ramirez definitely deserves a spot in Cooperstown. For 18 years he spoke loudly while carrying a big stick. That’s hard to do.

Contact Mike Crissman at [email protected].