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Was Ramirez just another cheat, ignoring the rules?



And now, another episode of that long-running series, Much Ado about Manny.

This time, however, the issue is far darker. A failed drug test. But then, we can’t expect Alex Rodriguez to be the star of all the controversies.

Manny Ramirez says it was all a mistake. The doctor did it. He says it was one of those tricky prescription medicines that shows up on baseball’s banned list, which admittedly can almost stretch from home plate to first base.

He says he’s sorry, to the teammates who now must now fight the National League West without him, and to all those customers helping pay his $25 million salary.

He says he wants people to remember that he’s sent a good many specimen bottles to the lab in his time, and none came back positive before – a proactive spin, before anyone tries to turn him and his 533 home runs into Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire.

Except, some will anyway. Some already have. A story like this is never, ever neat. A women’s fertility drug? Only Manny.

Ramirez has reached the fork in the road so many glittering names have before him – where the sport and the public and the Hall of Fame voters will have to go one way or another. They will believe him when he says it was an honest mistake, or else throw him onto the growing pile of defrocked cheaters.

Have to be careful, though. Ramirez should not be tarnished just because he has acted like a knucklehead in the past. The evidence is either there to suspect him, or it isn’t. And as happens so often when a star falls, much more needs to be known. Not that it ever will be. We always look for the smoking vial and seldom find it.

Still, this will be a loud reminder of how quickly one test can rock a sport. Baseball keeps hoping to leave these days behind, but it can’t. The two Red Sox championships, those glorious curse breakers, just came under a shadow.

Whatever led to this 50-game vacation – malfeasance or misunderstanding – the fault clearly rests with Ramirez. The baseball rules that govern drugs have not been exactly out of the news. A man who turns 37 this month is old enough to know what goes into his body. Carelessness is no defense.

But then, life with Manny Ramirez comes with a number of givens. Any team that hands him a uniform and a paycheck knows there will be hits. Knows there will be runs. Knows, sooner or later, there will be fuss.

Thursday dawned with the Los Angeles Dodgers owning the best record in baseball at 21-8. They were 13-0 at home, setting a major league record. Ramirez was hitting .348, gluing the lineup together. It has been a smooth and carefree spring.

Until now.

Now, they will have to maneuver around the Manny mess, like race drivers zigzagging through the debris of an accident. Good thing they have a cool, old head in Joe Torre to lead them along. Plus, their division is not exactly loaded. The Dodgers have wiggle room.

But what do they do about the section of the stands they marketed this year as Mannywood? Do they ask the fans to still come sit in Mannywood – and watch Juan Pierre play left field?

So this is big news.

Or is it?

The outside world doesn’t seem that aghast about these things anymore.

The whiff of scandal has grown too familiar. There are Dodger fans who would be no more or less disturbed if Ramirez was out with a strained oblique muscle. And when he returns July 3, the cheers will be mighty.

But something else is at stake here.

Players often don’t care about headlines. They don’t care about talk shows. They don’t care about blogs. You can’t blame them.

But surely, they care about their credibility as athletes, if they are worth the natural gifts given to them.

Manny Ramirez’s credibility just came into play. He has a new legacy, starting today. We still know what he’s done. We’re no longer sure how he did it.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre (right) listens to general  manager Ned Colletti during a news conference concerning suspended  Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on  Thursday.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre (right) listens to general manager Ned Colletti during a news conference concerning suspended Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Thursday.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

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