I don't know what Manny Ramirez's "drug-related issue" was, but I'm guessing he did not test positive for excessive brain cells. Ramirez isn't any worse than a lot of guys who juiced -- but they are smarter than he is.
Ramirez is running from Major League Baseball's drug-testing cops, the first time anybody can remember him running anywhere. He is doing so in a fit of idiocy. With 555 home runs, 1,830 RBIs and one positive drug test to his name, he decided to ... juice again, evidently. His apparent positive test killed any chance of ending his career on a happy-go-lucky note. It probably killed his Hall of Fame chances, too, at least for the next decade or so.
If you really think about this, which Ramirez clearly did not, it is dumb on several levels. Ramirez was on his last chance -- with the public, if not with baseball. The last time he tested positive, Ramirez had a good excuse: He was trying to give birth to a baby panda. I think that's what he said. I could be wrong. Whatever he said, it was a ridiculous excuse. Generally, Americans will buy one ridiculous excuse. But two? Forget it.
Also: How do you get caught twice by the testing system? I mean, baseball is pretty clear about what they test for. If you have a way around the system, morality aside, then at least there is some logic to what you're doing. But if you get caught twice, maybe you should read the label on the bottles a little more closely.
If we can all step down from our high horses -- and I'm a sports columnist, so it's a long way down for me -- then let's acknowledge the temptation to use performance-enhancing drugs. We all like to think we would never do it. But if I said that you could make millions and be famous doing what you love, as long as you took performance-enhancing drugs, and the alternative was scrapping to pay the rent ... well, you can at least understand why somebody might do that, right?
And that's the amazing thing about Manny. He had less to gain and more to lose than almost anybody else in baseball. He has already made more than $200 million. He has played for two World Series champions. The first positive test was part of his legacy, but it didn't have to define him. He could have sold people on the idea that he made a mistake late in his career, regretted it and learned from it.
Not anymore. Now he looks like he couldn't play without steroids. I suppose he could argue that the bulk of his accomplishments came before he tested positive, but who would buy it? He hit 347 home runs before Major League Baseball instituted mandatory drug-testing ... and 208 after. Who would believe that he was clean when he wasn't being tested, and dirty when he was? Not even Manny is that dumb.
Ramirez was one of the great righthanded hitters of alltime. This is undeniable, no matter how he got there. It is also, apparently, why he played the game.
Ramirez has reinforced the perception that he never cared about anything except hitting a baseball. (And making money, of course.) Ramirez never seemed to care about being a great fielder, or running out ground balls, or what the score was or who the President is. But he loved, loved, LOVED hitting baseballs. It's bizarre -- he worked so much harder on hitting in the batting cage than he did at everything else in a real game. But that was what mattered to him.
Maybe that explains why he did something so foolish. Manny wasn't thinking about his legacy, or right and wrong, or the Hall of Fame, or getting caught. He just wanted to hit baseballs. For better and for worse, that is his legacy.