Friday May 8th, 2009

1) A private physician gave Manny Ramirez a banned substance to take care of a "personal medical issue." That is Ramirez's tale to explain away his drug bust.

Are busted ballplayers the unluckiest people in the world or what? Rogue doctors slipping them banned substances, rogue trainers concocting elaborate lies or disguising steroids as flaxseed or topical balm, tainted supplements, a bust upon the first and only time they even tried the stuff, the drive to get back in the lineup as quickly as possible (not, of course, to enhance performance), being young and naïve and at the mercy of helpful cousins ... geez, what a shame these extraordinary events keep happening to just about every ballplayer caught using banned drugs.

Of course, Ramirez didn't bother to explain himself in person, leaving that responsibility to his handlers in a brief, canned statement. In that statement, Ramirez actually said, "I have been advised not to say anything more for now," as if he were under some legal gag order.

So go ahead, you can believe Ramirez's explanation makes perfect sense: in this post-Mitchell Report, tightened-testing culture, a doctor gave him a notorious testosterone booster and Manny, in the legacy-building phase of a prolific career, dutifully took the stuff thinking everything was legit. Sure, it's possible. But you should also know that HCG, his drug of choice, has been banned by the IOC for about 20 years as a notorious agent to lessen the side effects of steroids. Steroid users typically take the stuff three weeks after an injection.

2) It might seem harsh that Arizona canned manager Bob Melvin 29 games into the year with his ace (Brandon Webb) and shortstop (Stephen Drew) on the disabled list. But wait. The Diamondbacks were 74-88 in their past 162 games under Melvin and showed little growth in the development of players such as Chris Young, Connor Jackson and Chad Tracy.

If Arizona is going to make any kind of move in the NL West, it must do so in the next two months while the Dodgers don't have Ramirez. And the worst fate that can befall a franchise is to drop out of the race before the school year ends and the peak summer drawing period is at hand. So GM Josh Byrnes could no longer afford to wait. But even then it might be too late for the D-Backs. If the Dodgers go a pedestrian 69-63 the rest of the way --- and Ramirez will be back for 82 of those 132 games -- they still will win 90 games. How high of a mountain is that for Arizona to climb? Over the past four years not one team in the NL West has won more than 90 games.

3. That was a very impressive home-run daily double by Evan Longoria on Thursday: homers off Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera at Yankee Stadium. (Longoria was the first player to homer off Rivera immediately after Rivera just gave up a dinger.) Longoria is no longer a rising star; he is a star period. Thursday marked his 150th career game. Check out how his first 150 games compare to those of some of the best right-handed hitters of this generation:

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