How quickly things change, right? Just a few short hours ago, I was in the middle of working on a post about how Giants fans, bloggers, and columnists are less angry at their team’s horrific offense than they are at the Dodgers for simply being good. I was all set up to display the hilarious response to the FanGraphs prediction by the McCovey Chronicles and the almost-but-not-quite-factually-true suggestion by San Francisco Chronicle writer Ray Ratto that the Dodger fans aren’t supporting the team.
Oh, what fun we would have had.
Let’s delve into the suck.
* Everything we know this far suggests that this was NOT a steroid. Yes, much of the mainstream media will frame this in the same way as admitted users like Alex Rodriguez and Jose Canseco, off in the corners of the training room injecting people’s asses with needles. But know this – based on what we know, that is entirely untrue. Manny visited a doctor for a legal prescription, not on the banned list, and it still came up as a positive on the tests. As his official statement says,
“Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.
You can make any personal “he should have known” judgements about Manny that you want, but if this is the truth – that his doctor gave him a legal medication - then you can feel free to laugh in the face of those who say that Manny is just as bad as A-Rod, Canseco, Bonds, and the rest. I’m fully aware of how much of a homer apologist I sound like right now, but regardless of how much guilt you place on Manny, it’s important to note the difference between this and your standard “steroid” cases.
So what was Manny taking a prescription for? Yahoo’s Tim Brown says:
LOS ANGELES – A source close to Manny Ramirez said Thursday that the illegal substance for which the Los Angeles Dodgers slugger tested positive was not “an agent customarily used for performance enhancing.”
At least not on the baseball diamond. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the substance is supposed to boost sex drive. It is not Viagra, but a substance that treats the cause rather providing a temporary boost in sexual performance, the source said.
* Wait, did that just say what I think it did? Uh… jesus. I sure hope not. Manny’s statement did mention a “personal health issue”. This sort of brings to mind NHL goalie Jose Theodore’s suspension for failing a drug test, due to his use of hair-growth drug Propecia, which can be used as a masking agent. Of course, as embarrassed as Theodore must have been, this would be even… you know what? I’m not even prepared to talk about this right now. Let’s move on.
* So, is there any good news to come out of this? Well, the suspension is unpaid, so the Dodgers are off the hook for $7.7 million of his $25 million salary. That’s a nice chunk of unexpected change to come back your way, especially for a team that’s likely going to be in the market for a starting pitcher in the next few months. And there’s the possibility that a 37-year-old outfielder could benefit from two months off and have strong legs down the stretch and into the playoffs. Finally, even without Manny, the Dodgers should still be strong enough to hold off the NL West. I mean, when the other two-thirds of your outfield is Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, you could throw in the worst player in baseball to fill that void and still have a decent outfield.
* Your new starting left fielder is… Man, there’s not much more of a dropoff you can get than “Manny Ramirez to Juan Pierre” – though I suppose “Alex Rodriguez to Cody Ransom and Angel Berroa” is pretty close. Yeah, that’s right – looks like Juan Pierre’s back in the lineup again. You hope that the rest of the lineup can overcome this hit, especially with Russell Martin hopefully heating up, but there are some things that Joe Torre can do to make this work. Like…
* Do NOT hit Pierre high in the order. Torre’s actually shown some admirable out-of-the-box thinking by hitting Pierre 9th a few times, and that needs to keep up. If Torre wants to go 9th with Pierre full-time, that’s fine by me, but if not that, then Pierre at least needs to hit 8th, with everyone else moving up. The offense is going to take a massive hit as it is in going from Manny to Pierre; no sense in making it any worse by giving Pierre any more at-bats than is absolutely neccessary. Finally…
* Give Xavier Paul a chance! Look, if it were me, I’d be playing the kid every day over Pierre, but we all know that’s not going to happen. However, it doesn’t help anyone to plant the kid on the bench, because after 3 years in a row of improving OPS marks in the minors and a hot spring, he’s been killing the ball to start off the year in AAA – how’s a .344/.385/.542 line strike you? He’s also got a strong arm and good speed (8 SB already), and at 25, he’s not some unprepared rookie. He’s ready now, and though I know he won’t get a shot to be a starter, he at least needs to be Pierre’s defensive replacement and get a start or two a week all over the outfield.
Look, friends, this isn’t good – far from it, and the charmed life this team was leading just 12 hours ago is over. But it’s not time to panic. This team is good enough to win without Manny, and the division is bad enough to give them a cushion until Manny returns for the second half. Just remember, unless new information comes out, Manny did not use steroids – and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.