The end of a great sports career is usually a cause for celebration among fans, but not in the case of Manny Ramirez. On Friday, after testing positive for a banned substance for the second time in three seasons, the veteran decided to retire rather than serve the 100-game suspension he faced. Ramirez, formerly with the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers and most recently playing for the Tampa Bay Rays this season, reportedly failed to inform the team about his decision to retire. Instead they found out from Major League Baseball.
Ramirez, one of the greatest offensive baseball players of the modern era, was the World Series MVP in 2004 when the Red Sox won their first title since 1918, a 12-time all star, and hit 555 home runs over an 18 year career. But with all the good came plenty of bad: he forced his way out of Boston, was prone strange behavior that would be explained away as "Manny being Manny," and now becomes the first only player to have tested positive for using performance enhancing drugs twice. His retirement comes at the same time that Barry Bonds, one of the other greats of the modern era, faces federal perjury charges for lying about taking steroids before a grand jury. Retiring the way he does, almost all but assures that Ramirez will be locked out of the Hall of Fame, like seemingly the rest of his peers who have been linked with performance enhancing drugs.
As with anything Ramirez related, the baseball community had plenty to say:
- ESPN's Jayson Stark drew on the obvious comparisons between Ramirez and Bonds: "We'll never know how many hits or how many home run trots either one of them would have wound up with if they hadn't flunked chemistry class. But what's so sad about this day is that it won't be those hits, those trots or their baseball accomplishments that define them now."
- Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci wrote that the way Ramirez's career ended will overshadow everything that came before. "Ramirez has written a new modern day exit song. It is a sad one. His career ends by choice, but also in shame."
- Slate's Tom Scocca wrote that Ramirez was a star of the steroid era, tainted or not, and that his only real concern was hitting a baseball. "He was as slapdash about his cheating as he was about any other part of the game that didn't involve swinging a bat. Playing defense, showing up on time, running hard, cycling off the drugs so as to make clean urine for spring training—these were not the details Ramirez was interested in."
- Former Red Sox teammate David Ortiz expressed surprise and sadness over the news. "It’s just crazy, man," said Ortiz, "That was the last thing I was expecting, for him to retire and go through all of that situation...It’s sad, man, to see a player with that much talent and with an unbelievable career, to get him out of the game with negativity."
- Former Dodger teammate Andre Ethier talked about the dissapoinment of seeing this happen to a player he idolized growing up. "I remember watching him playing growing up. You never really think you'll get a chance to play with him. It's tough to see." He also tried to come up with an explanation for why someone as successful as Ramirez would feel the need to possibly cheat, "I guess when you're at the top and you feel yourself slipping, you'll find any way to stay there."
As for Ramirez, he had this to say to ESPN Deportes: "I’m at ease. God knows what’s best [for me]. I’m now an officially retired baseball player. I’ll be going away on a trip to Spain with my old man." The circumstances surrounding the end of what once looked like a great career are bizarre but that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, it's just another example of Manny being Manny.