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An End to Manny Being Manny

April 8, 2011

As January came to a close and teams filled out the final few openings on their respective rosters, the Tampa Bay Rays agreed to sign one of baseball history’s greatest right-handed hitters to a modest one year, $2 Million contract. It was your typical low-risk signing. If things worked out they’d have a future Hall of Famer in their lineup in one of his final seasons. If things didn’t work out they could cut ties without having given up a significant portion of their payroll. Most of us believed it was an interesting signing and one that could potentially pay dividends as the player in question was due for one last solid season.

The thinking that Manny Ramirez could put together one last productive season did not seem like such a far-fetched idea at the time of the signing. He had just come off of a 2010 season in which he batted .298/.409/.460 with 9 HR and 42 RBI in 90 games (320 plate appearances) split between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox. While those numbers appear good at first glance, they were below his career averages and as the season progressed it was becoming more and more evident that Ramirez’s time in the Major Leagues was coming to an end. However, there was little reason to believe he could not produce again, at least at a semi-respectable level.

After the season’s first five games Ramirez was merely 1 for 17 (.059 batting average) and some were already beginning to question whether we had all made the wrong assumptions throughout the Spring. Many of us looked at the remarkably small sample size and recognized that it was really too early to make any true assessments of what the season would hold for Ramirez. This afternoon, however, we all learned that this was a moot point as Ramirez would instead retire, effective immediately. In an announcement by Major League Baseball (not the Rays) we learned of the retirement and the details that brought it upon us. According to multiple sources, Ramirez had an “issue” resulting from a drug test administered during Spring Training that he was recently notified of. As you may recall, Ramirez previously served a 50 game suspension at the start of the 2009 season for an excessive level of fertility hormones being discovered in his system. A second failed drug test would result in a minimum 100 game suspension this time around. Ramirez, always taking the unexpected path, opted to call it a career rather than complete the appeals process. He would have been the first Major Leaguer to face such a lengthy suspension since the implementation of MLB’s drug policy. It is as surprising and disappointing an ending to a storied career as one could envision.

The official statement from Major League Baseball reads as follows:

Major League Baseball recently notified Manny Ramirez of an issue under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Rather than continue with the process under the program, Ramirez has informed MLB that he is retiring as an active player. 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.

Neither MLB nor the Rays have formally confirmed that Ramirez did indeed test positive for a banned substance during the drug test performed during Spring Training. However, neither side denied such an allegation’s validity. We are left to wonder and speculate, but it seems fairly evident that Ramirez had once again done something prohibited under MLB rules. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the surprising retirement we can likely be certain that we have seen the last of Ramirez on the diamond. In all likelihood, we can also be certain that walking away from the game under such circumstances likely means that one of baseball’s more feared right-handed hitters will not wind up in the Baseball Hall of Fame. With the entire PED era under such scrutiny by the Hall of Fame voters, a player with multiple infractions surely will have a near-impossible chance at overcoming voter objections in order to receive enough votes for enshrinement. Ramirez will likely find himself as part of the “Mt. Rushmore of players not in the Hall of Fame” alongside Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, and Pete Rose.

After originally being drafted in 1991 (1st round, 13th overall) Ramirez would make his MLB Debut for the Cleveland Indians in September 1993, going 0 for 4 in a win against the Minnesota Twins. He would spend his first 8 seasons with the Indians before joining the Boston Red Sox prior to the 2001 season. After another 8 seasons with the Red Sox, he was traded in July in a three team deal which brought him to Los Angeles. Ramirez finishes an 19 year career with 2,574 hits and a final batting line of .312/.411/.585. He hit 555 HR (14th all time) while driving in 1,831 runs. He participated in 12 All Star Games and won 9 Silver Slugger Awards (including 8 straight from 1999 through 2006). He was also named the 2004 World Series MVP after batting .412/.500/.588 with a HR during Boston’s sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals. According to Baseball Reference he totaled over $200 Million in career earnings.

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