There is a saying in the drug testing business that a drug test is not a drug test at all. It's an IQ test. Manny Ramirez was dumb enough to run afoul of baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program -- not once, but twice.
Ramirez decided to retire Friday rather than face a 100-game suspension on what was his second violation for a performance-enhancing drug, according to sources familiar with his case. Ramirez, as a prior offender of the program, was subject to increased testing -- 6 additional tests in a 12-month month period above the normal two or three all players face. Many players have been caught in the snares of drug testing or the Mitchell Report, the 2007 white paper on the steroid era. But Ramirez becomes the first player driven out of the game by PEDs.
There was a time when Ramirez was considered one of the best righthanded hitters of all time. Cooperstown awaited him. Instead, the legacy now for Ramirez is his connection to PEDs.
It is a sad chapter in baseball history, but one that reminds us that the joint program -- something put together by both the players and the owners -- works. Sources said Ramirez was going through an appeal process after being informed that a positive test came back in spring training.
As part of that appeal, Ramirez has the right to bring in his own doctors and experts to supervise the re-testing of a so-called B sample. Also as part of that appeal, MLB has the right to interview the player in order to derive some kind of explanation. It never got to that point. In the middle of the appeal, Ramirez suddenly informed MLB that he was dropping the appeal and retiring. He chose retirement over continuing the appeal and facing the possibility of a 100-game suspension, which would knock him out of most of the season at age 38. He did not notify his team, the Rays. Instead, the club found out through MLB that their cleanup hitter was going home.
And so the last chapter of Ramirez's career becomes the defining one. Ted Williams, another former Red Sox great, wrote the book on heroic endings when he homered in his last at-bat at Fenway Park. He rounded the bases and metaphorically kept right on running out of the game with the cheers of adoring fans still in his ears.
Ramirez has written a new modern day exit song. It is a sad one. His career ends by choice, but also in shame.