So the first legitimate member (sorry, Eric Gagne) of the Red Sox championship teams has been tied to peformance-enhancing drugs.
Oh, was that not what you were expecting?
It's true, of all the players from which to choose as possible dopers (dopes) from the 2004 and 2007 teams, Manny Ramirez wasn't particularly high on my list. He was there, as any slugger should be these days if you're keeping such lists, but he didn't exhibit any of the signs that have cast suspicion on other big-headed, homer-happy sluggers from the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Kind of like Alex Rodriguez.
It's essentially impossible not to compare and contrast — mostly the latter — the sagas of these two men, baseball heroes-turned-pariahs, for nearly five years the formidable bedrock of a rivalry's opposng lineups.
Each entered this moment with an assumption by fans and media alike that he was clean. For the reasons stated above, they didn't match the profile of a PED user, so they were essentially given a pass. A-Rod's outing changed that idea forever, making it a far bigger story (never mind his being upheld as the potential "clean" home run king and that being a significant part of record-setting his contract), but until today, Ramirez seemed to float above the Steroid Era, in it but not of it — a convenient characterization undoubtedly fueled by his on- and off-field projection of nonchalance.
Once immediately tarnished, each issued an admission and a denial: A confession of what had been made public, a rejection of anything beyond that. The problem is their credibility is nonexistent — and unlike in the cases of Brian Roberts and Andy Pettitte, where the players' credibility was tarnished only by the accusations made against them — both these players have little basis from which to make any believable claim of limited use.
Rodriguez for his part lied multiple times during his admissions — first to Peter Gammons with the bizarre accusations against Selena Roberts, then to the New York press about the legality of the substances in the Dominican Republic. Beyond that, he had already lied to Katie Couric about steroid use at all and been involved apart from the steroid scandal in a number of incidents that, fairly or not, damage a person's credibility (the Arroyo slap, the third base "Ha!" play, the Toronto stripper).
Ramirez issued a brief statement and likely will say no more, as he is well practiced in doing. No previous statements about steroids or PEDs spring immediately to mind. Yet he too has significant credibility problems, apart from the failed drug test. Those problems begin and end with the way he forced himself out of Boston, pictured perfectly by his "injured knee" — which one he couldn't remember when the Red Sox called his bluff, and whichever one it was clearly didn't bother him when he tore apart National League pitching for the next three months.
Both men say they did not take performance-enhancing drugs while members of this rivalry. Frankly, neither has given us any reason to believe that.
So what does this mean for us Red Sox fans?
For this Red Sox fan, it doesn't mean much at all. Watching Ramirez's highlights was already difficult after he left — proving moreso as the realization of exactly how awful Ramirez's actions before leaving Boston truly were. Adding potential PED use isn't going to tip the scales much further.
Likewise, it's hard for me to imagine that Red Sox fans truly harbored the illusion that this team was free from the seemingly omnipresent taint of steroids, particularly in 2004. I frankly don't converse in circles where people are so willfully stupid as to engage in such ignorant delusions (at least I hope not), so I'll take Yankee fans at their word that there truly are Sox fans who called for asterisks on the New York titles of the late 1990s or believed steroids was something that afflicted only the Yankees.
I certainly harbored no such thoughts; I would not have been surprised to find Ramirez's or any other member of the 2004 Red Sox on that list. The surprise certainly is in Ramirez's testing positive now, not that he ever tested positive.
Yet, as unsurprising as it is, it's still sad. I'll never know what it was about Manny Ramirez that elicited such fondness for him. He was maddening for most of his nearly eight full seasons in Boston, yet he was likable, quirky, seemed to play the game because it was fun to play. Until his final days with the team, I was an ardent defender. I still look back at those Manny Moments with wistfulness, wishing everything could have turned out differently (even though they have inarguably turned out better for the Red Sox).
More than anything else, today marks the ignominous end for the legend of Manny Ramirez.
It came in small pieces, but one by one — signing with Scott Boras, fighting with the front office, feigning injuries when unhappy, resorting twice to physical violence when confronted, agitating his way out of town, and now testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs — we have been made to realize that Manny wasn't being Manny.
Manny was being just like any other spoiled baseball star. And now he's fallen just like them, too.