It appears that we now view Major League Baseball in the same vein as wrestling and football. At least, in regards to steroid and HGH abuse. Nothing else can explain how Manny Ramirez, suspended for 50 games on May 7th, can be ranked 4th for outfielders in the National League in All-Star voting, only 34K votes behind 3rd place vote getter, Carlos Beltran.
Now, the voting is still early, and actually goes for several more weeks before it’s finalized, but the early trend is disturbing.
At first look, this just seems wrong on so many levels. How can someone who has only played 27 games this season prior to a disgraceful suspension even be considered for inclusion as a 2009 All-Star? At the time of his suspension, Ramirez had 6 HR, 20 RBI, and was batting .348.
First of all, he only played 27 games. Secondly, he was suspended for use of performance enhancing drugs. What else do we need to know not to include him in the 2009 All-Star Game?
This really is the fault of the MLB commissioner’s office. When Bud Selig put the 50-game suspension into the regulations, he should have had the foresight to include the following statement in the rules:
Any player who is suspended at any point in the season for violation of MLB’s drug abuse policy will not be allowed to play in that season’s All-Star Game, regardless of number of votes received.
Selig should have known, based on past history, that many steroid abusers will be good enough to make the All-Star team. He could have stopped it before it could happen and he should have.
Now, an argument certainly can be made that since the All-Star Game is now determines the World Series home field advantage (another ridiculous notion, by the way), a league should be able to put anyone in there who the fans vote in. After all, why wouldn’t a Dodger fan, or a Phillies fan, or even a Brewers or Cardinals fan, want someone who can hit the cover off the ball, like Manny, in the game? His presence will only help the National League team win, thus earning home field advantage in the World Series. This could easily persuade a fan to look the other way and vote for him.
In October, 2006, Shawn Merriman, a defensive end for the San Diego Chargers, was suspended for four games for violating the NFL’s drug abuse policy. In September, 2007, New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison was suspended for four games for steroid abuse. No one batted an eye.
Wrestling is saturated with steroid freaks, yet Wrestlemania sells out every year and WWE Raw is a huge weekly ratings grabber for USA Network. Even this week Raw ranked 8th and 9th on the Cable Neilson Ratings top 10. My point: No one seems to care about steroids in these sports. In fact, people have come to expect it and accept it.
Baseball, on the other hand, has always set the bar a little higher. Some of the biggest names in the sport have been ruined due to links to steroids or HGH. Roger Clemens, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, is still being vilified for his involvement with steroids. The games greatest hitters of this generation, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmiero, all left the game in disgrace. Alex Rodriguez will always be known as “steroid user, Alex Rodriguez”.
By the way, the argument that if Manny shouldn’t go to the All-Star Game than neither should A-Rod just doesn’t wash. Even though Rodriguez came clean this year, what he did was supposedly several years ago, plus, he never got suspended. Big difference.
Now we have the case of Manny Ramirez. Manny is largely considered to be the greatest right-handed hitter in the past quarter century. His 50-game suspension made headlines all over the country.
Logic says that he should be viewed in the same light as the others who we now know, or largely suspect, of abusing steroids. But there seems to be a change in the wind over the past month. Alex Rodriguez gets huge ovations in Yankee Stadium, like nothing ever happened. And Manny has the potential of being a starter in this year’s All-Star Game.
Are our memories that short or have we just given in? Or even worse, have we reached the point of acceptance? If so, that is a sad commentary on us as baseball fans. What’s next? Voting McGwire, Clemens, et al, into the Hall of Fame?