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Voice of the 'Fan

Manny and the Enablers

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Just when you thought Major League Baseball was showing some backbone and some teeth by suspending a star athlete the caliber of Manny Ramirez for 50 games because he used performance enhancing drugs, they turn around and, because of a provision in the collective bargaining agreement with the Players' Association, send Manny off to the minors on a "rehabilitation assignment", as if he had been injured, not suspended. What a joke! And it's on us!

No matter where Ramirez has been the last couple of weeks, television cameras have followed him, recording every at-bat and significant defensive play. That makes MLB guilty of glorifying what he did, and that sends the wrong message to the younger viewers MLB and its television partners are trying to reach.

This week, though, Manny's back home in New York, and his presence will take the rabid New York tabloid media's attention away from the Mets, aka the Flushing M*A*S*H Unit with all those injuries. He won't be booed out of Citi Field, that's virtually certain. He'll have family and friends from Washington Heights, where he grew up, cheering him on. There will be, inevitably, a few over-inebriated idiots looking to get the publicity rub from Ramirez being in town, if not at the games, but almost certainly via talk radio.

In sharp contrast, Phillies reliever JC Romero, having served a 50 game suspension himself at the start of the season, quietly returned to Philadelphia when his time was over, and has put it behind him. I do not know if he was on a rehab assignment like Manny, nor do I really care. He did his time, paid the price for his mistake, let him get on with his career.

But because Ramirez has presented himself in recent years as not only a prolific hitter (he's a former AL batting champ) for both average and power, but as a bit of a flake for his antics in Boston, MLB deems it necessary to continue the charade of treating him like a conquering hero. It will remain a charade, of course, until the Dodgers reach the playoffs and perhaps win the World Series. Then and only then can you treat him like a hero. Yes, Manny has paid for his mistake, just as Romero did, but MLB sees it as "Manny being money". Money as in merchandising and advertising revenue, the latter generated by television ratings.

It's like Bud Selig is signing off on this and basically telling the world that, yes, Manny is a bit of a goof, but he's our goof, and we love him like that. No wonder baseball is becoming a second class sport in some people's eyes, after basketball & football. They want us to celebrate the fools. And yet they're not throwing us a party any time soon, since they're treating us like fools.


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