Ann Killion
Tuesday August 11th, 2009

Every time you go to a baseball game you see something new. And that was certainly true at AT&T Park on Monday night.

In the bleachers a flurry of signs waved all night at the left fielder.

"Drugs Are Bad."

"Got Steroids?"

No, we'd never seen that before in the San Francisco Giants' home ballpark. The irony of the evening's entertainment was lost on exactly no one. A torrent of abuse was directed at the Dodgers left fielder. Manny Ramirez was making his first appearance at the House that Barry Bonds Built since serving his 50-game suspension for a banned substance.

And the taunting was coming from the same fans who bowed down in adoration to the Giants left fielder. "Barry had to deal with that everywhere he went, too," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said before the game.

Turnabout is fair play. Hypocritical but fair enough.

Portrayed as the lap dogs of the steroid era -- cheering every crack of the bat as Bonds relentlessly attacked Hank Aaron's all-time home run record -- the Giants home crowd was mocked for years.

This week those fans had the chance -- albeit a little late -- to join in on the finger-pointing party. Making the exercise slightly more satisfying, San Francisco's crowd directed its payback at a member of the rival Dodgers, in a series with the potential to swing the balance of the NL West.

The whole evening was inside out, a reverse image of the final years of Bonds' career -- the left fielder with the too-long pants, the one who doesn't make a move as a ball sails toward him, was being booed and not applauded by those in McCovey Cove.

That's what the drug era has wrought. The only dishonorable fraud is the one on the other team. The players in the appropriate laundry get a pass. Moral outrage depends on your seat. And with 100-plus names still on a federal list and untold secrets ripening, no one and no team is immune.

The steroid stain has spilled over from Bonds' record-breaking corner of the Giants clubhouse to almost all of baseball's biggest moments and brightest stars: the Red Sox championships, the Dodgers lineup, the Yankees clubhouse. David Ortiz is scorned in the Bronx, Alex Rodriguez is taunted at Fenway. Every team. Every storyline. It's exhausting trying to keep up.

Speculation that Ramirez had faded into a shadow of his pre-suspension self wasn't evident Monday. Though the biggest hit of the night was a three-run double by Matt Kemp, Ramirez was 2-for-4 and scored a run in the Dodgers' 4-2 victory. He appeared unfazed by the crowd's reaction.

"Some individuals come with a bag full of tricks," Torre said of the fans. "I'm sure Manny's used to that."

Those tricks included a row of pregnant Mannys -- wearing wigs and boasting protruding bellies. Signs that read "Manny, it's a boy!" and "'Roids 99." A T-shirt vendor selling "Fannywood" shirts -- with Ramirez' image complete with syringe poking out from an anatomically correct place.

In truth, they probably could have done better. Giants fans spent years studying the Art of the Steroid Taunt. There was the syringe thrown at Bonds from the stands at Petco in San Diego. The inflated steroid Michelin man that roamed Citizens Bank ballpark in Philadelphia. The nonstop chants of "Barry sucks" that usually started up before the national anthem at Dodger Stadium.

Rattling Ramirez, who thrived in the fire of Yankees-Red Sox, was going to take some serious initiative. "I don't want to throw a wet blanket on anything," Torre said when asked about the difference in West Coast and East Coast rivalries. "After experiencing 12 years of the Yankees and Red Sox, I'm glad I wasn't there last weekend. That was very exhausting."

In the later innings, when Ramirez came to bat, the booing had become less audible. The Giants fans seemed to have lost interest in their target.

Or perhaps they realized it's hard being on the other side of the taunting line. Too many players, too many scandals. Far easier to simply watch the game.

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