Posted By Jeff Fletcher on April 11, 2011 8:50 am
Manny, Manny, Manny. You’re killin’ me.
As longtime followers of my work know, I am in the camp of Hall of Fame voters who give a pass to the steroid guys. In fact, I wrote what I consider to be my definitive treatise on the subject in the wake of Manny Ramirez’s 50-game steroids suspension in 2009.
I don’t think using drugs to make yourself better at your job is that egregious of a character flaw, considering the overall atmosphere of the game during the peak of the steroid era. Lots of guys used steroids. Baseball didn’t give any indication that it cared to stop them. The commissioner, the owners, the GMs were happy to look the other way and reap the rewards.
I understand that a lot of my colleagues disagree with that, and I respect their right to do so.
Anyway, that logic served me well when considering the steroid users, and suspected users, from the ’80s and ’90s, and up to about 2004, when baseball started imposing real penalties for using.
Then Manny came along.
He spit in the face of my logic once, by getting caught in 2009, but at the time I still didn’t feel like throwing out his whole career based on one positive test. He’d been getting tested since 2003, and this was the first time he was busted, so maybe he really had just started juicing late in his career, after he’d already put up HOF numbers.
So I was willing to give Manny a pass, along with Bonds and Clemens and McGwire. (Rafael Palmeiro is a different case. Aside from the fact he actually failed a test, I don’t feel like his numbers were quite good enough, relative to his era, steroids or not. He was not one of the dominant first basemen of his era, but that’s a whole other subject.)
Then Manny thumbed his nose at me again. “Hey Jeff, let’s see what you think of this!”
He cheated again. In 2011. Can’t make the case that he was just going along with the practices of his era now. How dumb do you have to be to do that again? And he didn’t even appeal or try to sell us a story about a mistake or a bad test. I guess I ought to be glad that he spared us that sham, but it’s basically an admission that he knowingly cheated.
So to me, cheating two times, in 2009 and 2011, feels worse than cheating two dozen times in 2002. It’s the context.
Because of that, I’m inclined to split Manny out of the group with the other steroid guys, and penalize him for using more than them.
I admit that doesn’t totally feel right either.
Isn’t the main issue whether he used steroids? And if I am going to penalize him for that, shouldn’t I penalize them all? And I don’t want to eliminate them all for using steroids because I feel that most of the guys in the Hall right now would have used steroids if they believed they could get away with it. (Skip to the end of this, or this.) Many of those guys did use greenies. Greenies aren’t as effective as steroids, but that just means the old-timers had worse science, not more integrity.
So by that logic, I ought to vote for Manny.
But I won’t. Not as I ponder it today, anyway. It may seem arbitrary and capricious to single out Manny, when I’m prepared to vote for Barry Bonds, but that’s how I feel. It feels like I gave Manny a Get Out of Jail Free card the first time, and now he’s back in jail.
So, sorry Manny. You blew it.