The Fall of an Icon and with him baseball

May 13, 2009
By
A podium was set up behind home plate at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, just as it was nine months ago, when Manny Ramirez was ceremoniously introduced to Los Angeles. This time, however, Dodgers Manager Joe Torre was standing there, looking into a crowd of television cameras and recalling how Ramirez sounded "devastated" when they spoke earlier in the day. General Manager Ned Colletti said he felt "sick and saddened."
Ramirez, the All-Star outfielder who revitalized a once-proud franchise mired in mediocrity, had become the most famous player to be suspended under the drug policy implemented by baseball in 2004. He tested positive in spring training for a female fertility drug that is used by steroid users to restore testosterone production to normal levels, the 36-year-old Ramirez received a 50-game ban, costing him $7.7 million of his $25-million salary and the Dodgers a potent middle-of-the-lineup bat that took them to their first National League

Championship Series in 20 years.
Ramirez, who was replaced on the active roster by minor league call-up Xavier Paul, is eligible to return July 3. The only public statement made by Ramirez was in a news release issued by the players' union. Ramirez blamed the test result on medication prescribed to him by a doctor for a "personal health issue." He did not disclose the medication, doctor or health issue. A high-ranking sports doping authority said HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) could legitimately be prescribed for a man who does not naturally produce enough testosterone, but BALCO founder and convicted steroid dealer Victor Conte said it is often used to replenish testosterone levels at the end of a cycle of steroid treatments. That was the kicker. HCG is one of dozens of substances prohibited under baseball's policy. Players can call a hotline to check the legality of any substance and can get a therapeutic-use exemption for any legitimate medical use of a banned substance. And being associated with a steroid cycle is what really put Manny in the hot seat.

Torre and Colletti said they didn't learn of the situation until owner Frank McCourt called them after midnight the previous night. Asked after Wednesday night's game whether they had heard that Ramirez was about to be suspended, Torre and Colletti denied knowing anything. Torre said Ramirez wanted to clear his mind before deciding where he would prepare himself for his return. Managers Joe Torre and Colletti are also uncertain was whether the Dodgers would use the money saved on Ramirez during his suspension to sign a free-agent pitcher such as Pedro Martinez, Ben Sheets or Paul Byrd. Because Ramirez agreed to be paid only $10 million this season -- the other $15 million was to be deferred -- the Dodgers are saving just $3.1 million this year. Ramirez can exercise a $20-million option for 2010.

Now the Dodgers ball club was somber. The podium that was set up for a happy introduction to the future of the franchise was now one of disappointment and shock. With the realization that anyone can be using steroids and with the fall of Manny Ramirez it just outs more negative publicity on baseball and more questions on who is playing fair and who is not. In the past few years many MLB players have been associated with steroids, most of them the stars that the kids of today look up to, the future of the MLB and its players but most importantly the game of baseball seems shrouded in scandals and lies and the future seems to be the same way.





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