Manny Ramirez retired in surprising fashion on Friday in wake of his second positive test for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Had Ramirez not retired, he would have been the first player since Major League Baseball instituted the new steroid policy to serve the 100 game suspension handed down as punishment for second time offenders. The .059 batting average Ramirez boasted through 17 at bats this season was a far cry from his career mark of .312. The question everyone is asking now is – will Ramirez ever make it to Cooperstown? The Hall of Fame has slammed the door shut on alleged steroid users to this point and with Ramirez being a noted two-time offender his chances don’t look good. Many argue that Ramirez played and dominated in an era where steroids were as prevalent in the clubhouse as sunflower seeds and bubble gum. The argument being that if everyone was doing them, then the greats of that era would still stand out because of natural God-given ability (all be it enhanced). After all we’ve all heard the steroid sympathizer argument that for every guy who used steroids and stared in the majors, there were a thousand who juiced and never got past Double A. If you want any proof that it takes more than ‘roids to jack a ball out of a park just look at Jason Giambi this past week. Giambi, an admitted former steroid user, hit a home run in his first start of the season for the Colorado Rockies. Sure Giambi could hit 50 dingers a season when he was getting injected with PEDs, but he proved that he could still do it clean and at 40 years of age to boot. Hitting home runs takes patience at the plate, good vision, fast bat speed, quick wrists and excellent hand-eye coordination – all things steroids can’t give.
Baseball is a stats game. You hit 500 home runs and you’re in the hall. Get 3,000 hits and you’re in the hall. Win 300 games as a pitcher and you’re in the hall. While Ramirez often had a reputation for being a goofball – “Manny being Manny,” his numbers speak for themselves – 555 home runs and an OPS (on base + slugging percentage) of .996. Those numbers have only ever been accomplished twice before in baseball’s entire professional history dating all the way back to the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, by Barry Bonds and you guessed it, Babe Ruth. The lesson we can learn from this is – if you want to be a really good baseball hitter either inject yourself with PEDs (Bonds and Ramirez), or smoke a lot of cigars while drinking a lot of beer and eating a lot of hot dogs (Ruth).
The real answer to the question as to whether or not Ramirez will ever make it into the Hall is – NO!
… At least not for a long time anyway. The Baseball Writers of America (BBWAA) is an old boys club. They are a bunch of sports writers who think they deserve the too much power they are given when voting players into the hall. Having been neither athletically gifted to play baseball (come on Prince Fielder can do it), nor wise enough to use PEDs themselves, they stick their noses up to any and all of those players they feel cheated throughout the steroid era. Taking it upon themselves as their own righteous duty, they feel they are reserving a sanctity, cleanliness, or purity if you will, by trying to keep players who allegedly used steroids locked out of Cooperstown. By doing so, however, they’re making the Hall look a lot more mediocre. Mark McGwire only got 19 percent of the votes needed to get into the Hal, and it appears he may never make it and his name is far more recognizable that Bret Blyleven, who got it this year. The members of the BBWAA grew up watching guys like Bob Gibson, Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron. They see them as the true legends of the game and the thought of Bonds’ bat sitting next to Aaron’s in the Hall, or their plaques being even remotely in the same vicinity disgusts them.
Ramirez will get in though … that is if those future BBWAA who are currently my age aren’t brain washed by the current members into never voting for those accused of using PEDs. The truth is Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and Ramirez are the Mantles, Aarons, and Robinsons of this era. There isn’t a baseball fan my age that can say they didn’t sit in awe of McGwire and Sosa’s powerful abilities in that 1998 home run race. What about the exciting splashes off Bonds’ maple bat as balls plunged into McCovey Cove? If we hold onto that nostalgia then eventually all the greats should make it into the Hall, all-be-it by those who replace the current BBWAA or perhaps the Veterans Committee.