Thursday, May 07, 2009

Et Tu?

Right now, has the Manny Ramirez suspension as its number one, front page story, linking to the Sports Illustrated synopsis of this fairly shocking news. After I learned about it this morning, I literally felt as though someone had punched me in the stomach. Christine told me she felt guilty, even though she hadn't done anything wrong, and I think that sort of sums up the way I felt, too.

It's been easy to laugh at Alex Rodriguez's troubles with steroid allegations, since he's a Yankee and I'm a known Yankee hater. Plus, he's just an unlikable kind of guy. Same goes for, say, Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds. The rumors have always been out there about players I've liked (Nomar, for example), but they've never come to full fruition, so it's been possible to pretend they don't exist. But now this is hitting as close as possible to home, and I've actually got to face it.

First, there's the trouble with not really knowing how I feel about the steroid issue to begin with. A couple of years ago, I was ready to dismiss any player who was ever accused, ready to completely write him off as a cheater. But being a blogger has opened me up to other points of view, and while I'm unwilling to say that I think it's okay to use steroids, a bigger part of me now has a hard time seeing it as such a big deal. These are multimillionaires who are expected to perform at superhuman levels; it's not out of the question to assume that they might feel compelled to improve themselves through whatever means necessary. This doesn't mean that I think it's right, but rather that I can at least try to understand the impetus.

On the other hand, this is just a game. And the idea that anyone would put crap into his body just to hit a ball a little further is something outside of my level of comprehension. This is particularly true considering we're dealing with professional athletes whose bodies are their livelihood, and yet they seem perfectly willing to risk that livelihood for the short-term glory. I am not an athlete. I do not understand the pressure, and I will not pretend that I ever could. But I like being healthy and alive, and if there's a chance a steroid or other PED could jeopardize that, I wouldn't want any part of it.

Maybe I'm contradicting myself here. I don't know. I've resolved myself in the last year or so to focus on the future--if a guy is stupid enough to still fail a drug test now that MLB has finally cracked down, then he deserves whatever punishment he gets. We can't change the past, and there is no fair way to punish the players who we might assume were using before the policy was officially implemented. And even now, there seem to be questions about the way MLB handles the current policy. J.C. Romero, while pitching with the Phillies, apparently took a mislabeled supplement. He could prove what he took, but MLB still suspended him for 50 games.

Ramirez is essentially making the same sort of claim. He says a doctor prescribed him something without knowing that it was on the banned list, but once that something goes into Ramirez's body, he's responsible for it, and thus the suspension. This is flawed, to say the least. Intention needs to be considered here. The courts do it: to be charged with murder one, you have to show premeditation. Alex Rodriguez has been accused of deliberate, long-term abuse of a steroid. If this report from Yahoo! Sports is true (thanks to SoSG for the link), then Ramirez took something without intending to have it improve his bat speed or hand/eye coordination, or whatever. The punishments for these two can't be the same.

Now, if it turns out that Ramirez took an anabolic steroid, and knew he was doing it, then they should throw the book at him. And that hurts me to say, even though I'm also a Red Sox fan who realizes that Ramirez sort of screwed Boston last year. There will be more reports, accusations, and who knows what in the coming days. I'll try to report on the ones that seem legitimate, because god knows others will be out there trying to have their moment in the sun on this issue. For now, the most important thing is that the Dodgers are going to be without their biggest hitter until at least July 3. The attack from this team has been balanced lately--Manny certainly hasn't been carrying them--but this is still going to be a big blow. On the field it will hurt (since Juan Pierre is the replacement, though Xavier Paul has been called up from the minors), and off the field it's going to be tough for the players to deal with all the attention over this issue. We'll have to see how they come out tonight against the Nationals.

By the way, the Sons are all over this one, so check in with them for updates if I'm not giving them to you.


Erin said...

Jack Cobra can't comment from work, so he emailed me and said this:

"There is a procedure, called the TUE, in place in MLB for players to use prescribed medication and not get in trouble for it. I believe it’s the same procedure Zack Grienke had to go through in order to get the OK for all of his maladies. ‘Manny being Manny’ doesn’t cut it as an excuse for not getting the meds cleared. That type of attitude was going to catch up to him at some point. Some might call that karma."

I can't disagree with him here. If you're livelihood is your body, then you need to be responsible for what is put into it. Don't just assume that it will be okay because a doctor says so. This could be an example of Manny's laid-back attitude, or it could be blatant disregard for the rules. Either way, Manny does bear responsibility on the matter.

He also said this:

"That’s essentially why they do it. To be better, to hit further, to pitch more frequently. Better performance leads to better contracts. Just because a player is using a PED or on steroids doesn’t necessarily mean that they are close to death. As long as they aren’t abusing the products they should be ok in the short and long term. When players abuse them is when they die, have heart/liver/etc. issues."

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Cobra. He has to be the responsible one here, especially when it comes to what you are putting in your body. As a fan of the Dodgers, and Manny, I feel embarrassed and disappointed. I feel he has cheated himself and the team as well as his fans who enjoy watching him play. It will take more than 50 games for me to cheer for 99 again.


Erin said...

To be fair, I never said I was on Manny's side in this. I'm disappointed, too. And when I wrote this, it looked like he wasn't taking steroids, but that it was a mistake made with some sort of legitimate prescription. Now, reports suggest this is a steroid issue, in that what he took is used after a cycle of steroids. It's only been a few hours since the announcement, so more will be coming out as the days go by, I'm sure.

But yes, I can't say for certain that I will be cheering for him at Dodger Stadium in July. I don't know if I'll be booing, either, though. I guess that depends on what else we learn.