Ryan: Careful, Manny could be telling the truth

Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe urges everyone to be careful before judging Manny Ramirez on his 50-game suspension, because the slugger could be telling the truth that steroids had nothing to do with his positive drug test.

If there’s a profile of a banned substance abuser — and I’m not sure there is — Manny does not fit it. Sudden change in body configuration? Nope. Big surge in power output? Nope. Manny never even hit 50. He did have a homer jump from 26 in 1997 to 45 in 1998, but that was after hitting 31 in 1995 and 33 in 1996. He was a maturing young slugger; that’s all. I think.

But Manny has otherwise been a consistent power hitter for the last dozen years. There have been no red flags.

It’s very easy, and logical, to accept the idea that Manny has just messed up. Consider that the reason pitcher J.C. Romero is currently serving his 50-game suspension for use of a banned substance is that he swears he had absolutely no reason to think there was anything sinister in what he was given. J.C. sure wasn’t getting by on his heat. I’m inclined to believe him.

But if Manny isn’t telling the truth, then we are once again reminded that this quest of ours to evaluate baseball in both its recent past and its present may be a fruitless endeavor. If Manny has done something bad knowingly, we can assume he’s not the only one, and then we are back in the business of suspecting anyone who hits a home run (Well, maybe not in Yankee Stadium). I hate that.

If Manny is telling the truth, shouldn’t it be easy to prove? There would be some kind of doctor’s record, correct? We really should be able to get to the bottom of it, correct? This doesn’t mean that if Manny has indeed innocently ingested a no-no product he shouldn’t do the time. Players are ultimately responsible for what goes in to their bodies, and they all have to know the rules. But if that really is what happened, at least we can breathe the big sigh of relief and go back to focusing our wrath on real cheaters, like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

I just can’t shake the fact that Manny would take a drug like HCG without intending to use it as a trigger for testosterone production, which is depleted by steroid use. And if he did have erectile dysfunction, why would a physician (if Manny even saw) prescribe a women’s fertility drug over Viagra or Cialis? It just doesn’t add up, although I’m not a physician so maybe there is a logical explanation behind it. (Plus, let’s not discount the fact that Manny is a freaking kook and might have taken the drug because he thought it would give him mystical powers or something.)

Chances are that we’ll never get a full explanation as to why Manny took the drug, at least not one that wasn’t fed to him by the Dodgers’ P.R. staff. When he comes back from his suspension, he’ll likely give all the cookie-cutter responses like, “I just want to move on” and “I’m not talking about that anymore – I’m here to help my team win.”

Either way, let’s hope that this suspension means that MLB is finally starting to control its steroid problem and that it won’t be afraid to hand out more lofty suspensions to prominent stars.

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