What They're Saying About Manny and Ortiz

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The news has only been out a couple of hours, but the blogosphere, she already rumbles:

Tom Tango at The Book Blog: Redsox
Nation will defend him, the others who want to fight will villify him,
and even those Redsox fans who are bothered by it will simply hold
their noses as they cling to the dream of a clean ring. The rest of us
who don’t cling to the idea that baseball is a virgin to be protected
at all costs will shake our heads for a second and move on in peace,
while leaving the battlefield to those too holy for us.

It’s About the Money: There’s
a part of me that should really be happy that another player from the
RedSox has been outted, but really, it’s just another gut-punch to
baseball. Sure, there might be some of you (myself included), that
might jump up and say: “See, THAT explains it all!” Except it doesn’t.
Every team was dirty. Some more than others. But to think assume that
your favorite player(s) are clean is just folly.

Bronx Banter: Nothing shocking here.

Over the Monster: If
this is true about Ortiz, it is a real shocker. I’m not surprised about
Manny, but with Ortiz it goes back to everything he was saying. He said
he was clean, he said he never did anything illegal. I think we all
believed him. Of course with his struggles this season, it may have
said, “hey, I’m off the juice,” but how are we supposed to know? If
this is true, this is quite sad.

The Big Lead: Wonder
if Ortiz wishes he could take back this quote from February: “I think
you clean up the game by the testing. I test you, you test positive,
you’re going to be out. Period.” What a fraud. Nobody should be
surprised that Ortiz and Ramirez tested positive.

Rob Neyer: When
Ortiz said players who fail drug tests should be suspended for a whole
season, he actually meant, “Anybody who gets caught now should be
severely punished not for using drugs, but for being stupid enough to
get caught.”

Fire Brand of the American League: In
my experiences watching baseball, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez were
of shady character enough that it was easy enough to see and believe
they had taken steroids illegally and knowingly. I don’t have that
sense about Ortiz. It’s possible he’s crafted an outstanding, fake
public image and he’s not the person we all thought he was, but I’m not
cynical enough for that. I think right now, David Ortiz deserves my not
rushing to judgment. Not based on all these home runs he’s hit for the
Sox, but for what he says and what he stands for.

Bugs & Cranks: I’m
not going to pretend otherwise: I believe this report. Deep down, I
knew this day would probably come. Too many stars on too many teams
were taken down with the Red Sox managing to dodge most of the bullets.
Then when Manny tested positive, I knew it was probably when not if.
But I didn’t want to believe it. I still don’t. Ortiz? On steroids?
F*CK.

Mike Herz, NJ.com: It’s
time people accepted just how pervasive performance enhancing use has
been in the game (going back to amphetamine use starting in the ’60s),
to the point of defining the game over much of the last two decades.
With each new big name that comes out, it becomes harder to chastise,
because it’s more of an indictment of an entire era rather than an
individual. It’s becoming exceedingly clear that juicing was not
isolated to a small group of “cheaters,” but something that was
commonly practiced and accepted throughout baseball as part of the job.

Obviously a ton more out there, but this covers the bases of the
immediate reaction. Sox fans are sad and surprised, Yankees fans are
not surprised, but are withholding the “ha-has!”, and smart people
everywhere are starting to acknowledge that steroids is way too
complicated and pervasive a problem to allow us to live in a fantasy
land in which there are “cheaters” and “clean people.”

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.