Manny Ramirez has the statistical resume of a Hall of Famer. Now, in light of his second drug “issue” — which is being reported as a positive drug test — the viability of his candidacy is probably nil. It may have been anyway given his 2009 PED suspension, but if there was any doubt about it, this has ended it. Barring a sea change in the attitude of Hall of Fame voters — remember, these guys won’t vote for someone who they even suspect may have used PEDs –Ramirez will be a one-and-done candidate when his time comes up in a little over five years. Then he’ll be the Veterans’ Committee’s problem someday.
The real question about Manny Ramirez, then, is not whether he’s a Hall of Famer, but what his legacy as a player is beyond the yes/no world of Cooperstown politics.
His accomplishments are outstanding: 555 home runs. 1831 RBI. 2574 hits. A career line of .312/.411/.585. A .937 career postseason OPS and two World Series rings, one of which came with the 2004 Red Sox which, some argue, counts for more than your typical playoff jewelry given the historic nature of it all.
But he is also now and will forever be tainted by his PED suspension and this final, retirement-inducing “issue.” He was a player of undeniable talent but one who, more than any other Hall of Fame-level performer, had his career correspond with the heightened offensive environment of what is now known as the PED era. He broke in as things went a bit nutty in 1993 and his time as an elite player ended almost exactly when he got caught by baseball’s drug testing program in 2009.
Manny Ramirez will almost certainly be characterized, at least in the short term, as a creation of PEDs. This conclusion likely won’t explain how he was able to play at an elite level for four years after PED testing came online, and it will overlook the fact that, if his skills were purely the stuff of chemicals, few if any other players were able to do what he did. I mean really, if one could take drugs to become a baseball player like Manny Ramirez, wouldn’t you expect to see more Manny Ramirezes around?
Time will help us sort that out, one way or the other. Time and perspective. We’ll have a better sense of what to make of Manny Ramirez some day. We have to. Because God knows we’ve never had a good idea of what to make of him these past 18 years.