Steroids and why they matter in baseball

I’ve found it rather interesting that in the midst of Barry Bonds’ perjury trial and the news that Manny Ramirez abruptly retired instead of dealing with a 100-game suspension for another positive PED test (his second in three years), that some people have developed a rather nonchalant attitude towards steroids as it pertains to the game of baseball.

Whether it’s on Twitter, Facebook or in sports forums, people continue to utter the statement: “What’s the big deal? It’s only steroids. I like home runs! Steroids make the game more exciting!”

Honestly, I have rationalized at least part of this argument in the past. I couldn’t care less if someone wanted to take steroids – including athletes. Do you know what the yearly average is for deaths caused by steroids? Three. As in: three people. For comparison sake, tobacco kills 5.4 million people per year, which is a shade more than three.

That’s not to say I condone the use of steroids. When the day comes where I have children of my own, I’m going to make sure they understand how dangerous steroid use is. The potential side effects of misusing steroids are well known and if a doctor does not prescribe them, the risk just isn’t worth the reward in my eyes. We’re talking about highly dangerous stuff here, especially for those who don’t know what they’re doing.

But if a groan man wants to sink hundreds of dollars into drugs that will make him bigger, stronger or heal faster, then whatever. It doesn’t affect me and quite frankly, this country is dealing with way more pressing issues at the moment.

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Manny: “I’m at ease” with decision

Tampa Bay Rays’ Manny Ramirez reacts to a pitch during the seventh inning of their MLB American League baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in St. Petersburg, Florida, April 1, 2011. REUTERS/Brian Blanco (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

If you thought Manny Ramirez might have some regret about the way he abruptly retired instead of serving a 100-game suspension for his second positive test for performance-enhancing drugs in the last three years, well then you just don’t know Manny.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

“I’m at ease,” Ramirez told by phone Saturday from his home in Miami. “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.”

I’ve never met God but from what I’ve read about him, I don’t think he would have approved of Manny’s actions over the past three years. This is a man who tested positive twice for performance-enhancing drugs and instead of serving his second suspension and remaining committed to a team he signed a deal with this offseason, he just up and walked away.

Hey, if he wants to go to Spain with his old man, good for him. But we’re not talking about someone who tried to play and in the end couldn’t physically endure another season so he retired. We’re not talking about someone whose heart just wasn’t in it anymore a la Ken Griffey Jr. in his final year. We’re talking about someone who quit just so he didn’t have to face punishment after he broke a rule.

If he can rest his head on his pillow at night and not have any regrets, then so be it. But if it were me, I wouldn’t have gone out like that and I’m sure many other fans feel the same way.

Manny Ramirez tests positive for PEDs again, abruptly retires

Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Manny Ramirez watches a MLB spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles from the dugout at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida, March 1, 2011. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

In a rather shocking development, Major League Baseball announced on Friday that Rays’ outfielder Manny Ramirez has decided to retire.

As has always been the case with Manny, there’s more to the story. Michael Schmidt of the New York Times reports that Ramirez tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in spring training and he would have faced a 100-game suspension had he not retired. After he served a 50 game suspension in 2009, it would have been Manny’s second suspension for PEDs in the last three years.

“Rather than continue with the process under the program, Ramirez has informed MLB that he is retiring as an active player,” a statement from MLB said. “If Ramirez seeks reinstatement in the future, the process under the Drug Program will be completed. MLB will not have any further comment on this matter.”

Wow. Manny finishes with a .312 career batting average, 555 home runs and 1,831 runs batted in. As previously mentioned, he was a 12-time All-Star, a nine-time Silver Slugger Award winner, a two-time World Series champion and he also led the AL in RBI (1999), batting average (2002) and home runs (2004).

But even given his outstanding numbers, his career has definitely been marred by these two positive PED tests. Manny has always kind of been given a free pass because he’s goofy and entertaining. But Roger Clemens is vilified for his (supposed) use of PEDs. Barry Bonds is a monster. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa are cheaters. What about Manny? This is a guy that was suspended for 50 games in 2009 for a positive PED test and then two years later he tests positive again? Did he think he wasn’t going to get caught the second time? Did he think baseball would leave him alone after the first positive test?

“Should we test Manny again?”

“Nah, dude isn’t stupid enough to try it again. Let’s just go on the honesty policy…”

And now Ramirez just ups and retires instead of serving the 100 games. What a slap in the face to the Rays. They made a financial commitment to him, he made a commit to them that he would play and then he turns around and retires a week into the season after an 0-6 start and a positive PED test. What a joke.

But hey, that’s just Manny, I guess. The term “Manny being Manny” has always allowed him to come and go as he pleases. He’s going to leave the game just as strangely as he came into it.

Are we easing up on Bonds?


Art Spander of RealClearSports currently has a piece up concerning Barry Bonds’ status amidst reports of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez using steroids. Spander feels the public is beginning to evenly spread their disgust towards all steroid users in baseball instead of just focusing on Bonds.

Bonds now is insignificant. We went after him and his silent partner, Greg Anderson, the trainer, so long ago it’s almost ancient history. Mark Fainaru-Wada and his then San Francisco Chronicle colleague Lance Williams left no syringe unturned. We acted like the sky was falling then shrugged.

What’s falling now are other names into place, the latest of those Ortiz and Manny, who in 2004 combined to help the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years. And just an aside, you think any of those self-righteous Boston fans would give back the title because like the Bonds homers they yelped about it might be tainted?

Barry Bonds has a different problem. He’s being hounded by the government on charges of perjury, the U.S. claiming he lied under oath when in December 2003 Barry said he never used the stuff.

But the guess is Barry never will come to trial. And who cares anymore. He took his grief.

He was the Lone Ranger, the one who stood alone until it seems there was no room left on the list for all players who were guilty. The line forms to the right.

For the most part, I agree with Spander. Still, I think the only reason people seem to hate Bonds less is because he’s been forced to retreat from the public eye. You never hear about his whereabouts other than when he shows up at a Giants game. And rightfully so. Spander points out that Bonds received the brunt of the blame while Sosa and McGwire received much less. Look, I don’t like any of those three guys, but the main reason Bonds was cast as the scapegoat was because he actively pursued two of baseball’s most prized records. Since Barry Bonds was so jealous, as Spander claims, he used the remainder of his career to surpass Hank Aaron’s all-time home run record. While Sosa and McGwire retired, Bonds stayed in the game for the sole reason of earning the recognition he felt he deserved. That is his greatest sin. He knew the Giants weren’t going to win a championship, but but he cheated his way into the record books while he still could.

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Pedro Martinez weighs in about steroids

When asked recently about his opinions regarding former Boston teammates David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez testing positive for steroids in 2003, Phillies’ pitcher Pedro Martinez shared some interesting answers.

“I’m not going to say anything, because I don’t agree with it. I believe the game should be played clean. They’ve got my total support. They weren’t the only ones. There were a lot of guys.”

“There’s no crying in baseball,” Martinez said. “We won in 2004. That’s it. Are you going to tell me that the other guys, who used it on other teams are now whining? They used it, too. One thing that’s really caught my attention is — why is it all Dominicans? What’s going on? Why is it all Dominicans that all of a sudden come out positive? The last one standing might be me.

“That’s a big question to ask. What’s going on here? Why is it I’m the only one who might be left standing? All of a sudden, they’re going to come up and say: ‘Pedro [did it], too.’ That’s when I’m going to start stripping my clothes off and showing everybody I’ve never had acne on my back. If I did use it, it didn’t help me. They need to give my money back. It didn’t work.”

Martinez raises a great question that most media outlets are afraid to touch: Why are there more Dominican players testing positive for PEDs?

Granted, we don’t know what percentage of the 104 is Dominican and we may never know. But of the seven players whose names have been linked to the media, four are of Dominican descent: Ramirez, Ortiz, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez. Barry Bonds, Jason Grimsley and David Segui (who was born in the U.S., but his father is Cuban) were the other three names.

It’s an interesting topic and surely something that will gain further attention if the names of more Dominican players are released from that ’03 list.

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