The Week Ahead: Manny hits Big Apple

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Manny Ramirez’s return from a 50-game suspension this past week was met
with a mixed reaction, helped no doubt by the games being played in
“Mannywood South”, also known as San Diego’s PETCO Park.

But this week, Manny and the Dodgers head to New York for a
three-game series against the Mets beginning Tuesday. Will Ramirez’s
reception be any different? Will the boo birds come out in force, or
will it be more of the rainbows and puppy dogs we saw in San Diego?

Ramirez’s reception so far has been fascinating to watch, a mix of boos and cheers, with the booing seemingly half-hearted. (Video, here)

Can you imagine Barry Bonds receiving that kind of treatment anywhere outside of San Francisco?

Stephanie Armijo, 27, fell into the category of indecisive fans who
don’t hold an opinion concerning Ramirez. She brought along three
friends, all San Diego residents, and made creative signs in the hopes
of finding tickets to Friday’s sold-out game.

“Baseball is entertainment,” she said. “Manny is just being Manny.”

Ahhh! Manny being Manny. I guess that’s the difference. Very few
ever found “Barry being Barry” to be particularly charming. But if you
wear dreadlocks, smile a lot and appear to float through life on a
childlike cloud of indifference, they cut you some slack.

It will be interesting to see if New Yorkers treat Manny any
differently. It seems to me he deserves at least as much scorn as Bonds
received. For all his faults, at least Bonds never failed a drug test,
as Ramirez did. At least Bonds was never suspended by baseball, as
Ramirez was.

But Manny wasn’t caught with a steroid, you say? It was only a female fertility drug?

My answer then, is this: Why was this substance banned by baseball
in May of 2008? Why are they testing for it? Why, if you are caught
with it, does it result in a 50-game suspension?

The N.Y. Daily News sheds some light on these questions:

While it’s not technically a steroid (a point Ramirez strove to make
early on) hCG is well-known to bodybuilders, who use it as an adjunct
to their testosterone regimens, according to experts interviewed by the
Daily News.

“Every steroid dealer carries hCG because he knows his customers
will use it,” says Anthony Roberts, a trainer, blogger and steroid
expert who has written two anabolic reference books. “That indicates he
was a longtime user and that he knew what he was doing. The fact that
he was using hCG is as damning as a positive drug test to me.”

Manny being Manny? Not so charming now is it?

More after the jump …

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

**Rangers at Angels, July 6-8: The Rangers enter the week
on a four-game winning streak, while the Angels have won their last
two. Oh, and they’re tied atop the AL West. The Rangers took two of
three from the Angels last week.

**Giants at Marlins, July 6-8: Two surprising second-place
teams go at it in Miami. The Giants have managed just enough offense to
back a great pitching staff, while the Marlins have been boosted by the
return to form of starter Ricky Nolasco, who struck out 12 in eight
scoreless innings on Sunday.

**Cardinals at Brewers, July 7-9: The top two teams in the
NL Central battle this week, although no one seems able to run away
from this division. Even the last-place Pirates are only seven games
out of first.

**Dodgers at Brewers, July 10-12: After Manny braves New York, he and the Dodgers head to Milwaukee. Should be a welcome reprieve … or will it be?

**Yankees at Angels, July 10-12: The red-hot Yankees enter
the week having won nine of their last 10. After a series against
Toronto, they head to Anaheim. Should be a good test.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Braves at Cubs (ESPN)
Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.: Dodgers at Mets (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Yankees at Angels (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Cardinals at Cubs (FOX)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Dodgers at Brewers (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Cardinals at Cubs (ESPN)
*Check local listings

The Mets are among six teams that help Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - APRIL 19:  A detailed view of the blackboard with theoretical physics equations in chalk by Alberto Ramos, Theoretical Physics Fellow and visitor, Antonio Gonzalez-Arroyo from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (both not in frame) at The European Organization for Nuclear Research commonly know as CERN on April 19, 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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In a special for USA TODAY Sports, Mike Vorkunov details how six teams — the Mets in particular — provide an education program that helps their Dominican prospects earn high school diplomas. It seems like an obvious win-win: smarter players make smarter decisions, making them more likely to achieve their potential as athletes. That, of course, requires spending money, which is why only six teams make the investment. For the players, if baseball doesn’t work out, they are better able to support themselves in other ways.

Vorkunov lists the Pirates, Tigers, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Mariners as the other teams who provide an education program for their Dominican prospects. We learned earlier this month that the Phillies were also investing in making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. As Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “few teams” supply their minor league players with healthy food options.

Juan Henderson, the head of the Mets’ Dominican academy, said, “We see the benefit of it. I gotta tell you, we’re working with a new generation of baseball players. You see in the past that players just carry a bat and a glove and a helmet on the baseball field and in the academy. Those years, I think, are going to be pretty much over. Now they also do that, but they also carry books, they also carry an iPad, they also carry a laptop.”

Kudos to the six teams for making a great decision and here’s hoping the other 24 teams follow suit.

Video: Albert Pujols hits 569th career home run, tying Rafael Palmeiro

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 22:  Albert Pujols #5 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 22, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Angels first baseman Albert Pujols cranked out a two-run home run in the third inning against Rangers starter Derek Holland, breaking a scoreless tie. It’s the ninth homer of the season for Pujols and the 569th of his career, putting him into a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for 12th on baseball’s all-time home run leaderboard.

Harmon Killebrew is Pujols’ next target at 573, followed by Mark McGwire at 583 and Frank Robinson at 586.

Pujols hadn’t homered since May 13. He entered Monday night hitting a mediocre .228/.309/.395 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 188 plate appearances.

Alex Gordon to miss three to four weeks with a fractured scaphoid bone

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 22:  Alex Gordon #4 and Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals collide going for a foul ball against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on May 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Royals 3-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Monday has unfortunately been a day of injury news. Royals outfielder Alex Gordon is the latest to hit the 15-day disabled list, as he has been diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone in his right wrist. The club has recalled infielder Cheslor Cuthbert from Triple-A Omaha.

Gordon suffered the injury colliding with third baseman Mike Moustakas attempting to catch a fly ball on Sunday afternoon. He is expected to miss three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan reports.

Gordon was having a tough 2016 campaign and the injury only makes it worse. He’s hitting .211/.319/.331 with four home runs and 10 RBI in 166 plate appearances on the year.

The Royals will likely use Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando in left field in Gordon’s absence.

Orioles trade reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  Brian Matusz #17 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning on May 17, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Orioles announced on Monday night that the club has traded reliever Brian Matusz to the Braves in exchange for minor league pitchers Brandon Barker and Trevor Belicek. The Braves are also receiving a Competitive Balance Round B pick (76th overall) in the 2016 draft.

Matusz, 29, made his season debut on April 23 after battling a back injury since early March. It’s been a struggle, as the lefty has yielded eight runs on 11 hits and seven walks with just one strikeout in six innings. He is earning $3.9 million and can become a free agent after the season.

MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves are expected to designate Matusz for assignment. Essentially, the Braves bought the draft pick for Matusz’s remaining salary of $3 million of $3.9 million total.

Barker, 23, has been pitching at Double-A Mississippi after getting a taste of Triple-A last year. So far this season, the right-hander has a 2.00 ERA with a 40/12 K/BB ratio in 45 innings spanning eight starts and a relief appearance.

Belicek, a 23-year-old left-hander, has spent most of the year with Single-A Rome, compiling a 2.49 ERA with a 29/1 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings over 11 relief appearances.