Red Sox: Case against putting Manny Ramirez in Hall of Fame

May 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox former player Manny Ramirez throws out the first pitch before the game against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
May 28, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox former player Manny Ramirez throws out the first pitch before the game against the Atlanta Braves at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

Several former players tied to PEDs are seeing more support on Hall of Fame ballots, but is former Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez a different case?

Steroids, the dirtiest word in baseball, leaves behind a stigma that has kept players with tainted pasts from being enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Voters may be changing their tune on how they view candidates tied to performance enhancing drugs, but one former Boston Red Sox star hasn’t received the same benefit.

Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds are practically the poster children for the steroid era, yet each has received a significant boost in support this year based on the early returns tracked by Ryan Thibodaux. Both of these controversial former stars currently sit at 71.3 percent, with only 32.9 percent of the ballots known. It’s too soon to tell if either will close the gap to reach the 75 percent required for induction into Cooperstown, but their sizable leap from last year’s results shows a significant shift toward voters becoming more accepting of PED abusers.

I’m already on record for stating that Clemens and Bonds both belong in the Hall of Fame. It’s not because I don’t believe that they cheated or because they deserve the recognition. This opinion is based partially on the belief that the Hall of Fame is a museum dedicated to baseball history and, like it or not, steroids are a part of that history. As I’ve detailed already regarding Clemens, there is also a case to be made that they were both worthy of enshrinement based on what they accomplished before their alleged drug use began. Therefore, if I were given the honor of casting a Hall of Fame ballot, I would check off the names of both Clemens and Bonds.

I’m not ready to go there yet with Manny Ramirez.

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While this may seem like a hypocritical stance on the surface, it appears that the majority of writers that do have a vote are on board with the same philosophy. We only know the results of less than a third of the ballots, but at this point Ramirez’s 29.4 percent leaves him well outside of a realistic chance to get in this year.

Why is Manny being treated differently than others tied to PEDs? I can’t speak for every writer that has thus far refused to vote for him, but in my mind the biggest factor is that Manny got caught.

We have overwhelming evidence that Clemens and Bonds are guilty, yet neither failed a drug test in their careers. Their alleged PED use can also be traced back long before 2003, when Major League Baseball finally decided to do something about the steroid epidemic. PEDs may have been against the rules when those two started using, but if MLB didn’t care what they were taking at the time then why should we?

It’s a different story with Ramirez, who did fail a drug test – twice.

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We don’t know exactly when Ramirez began his sordid affair with PEDs, with his inclusion on the infamous Mitchell Report from a survey conducted in 2003 serving as our only clue. What we do know is that he was suspended for 50 games following a failed test in 2009 when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Two years later, Manny tested positive again. Rather than serve a 100-game suspension, Ramirez bailed on the Tampa Bay Rays by choosing retirement instead.

What separates Ramirez from the other high profile cheaters is that guys like Clemens and Bonds weren’t worried about getting caught during the height of the steroid era because MLB turned a blind eye toward the rampant drug use in baseball. Manny was caught years after the system was put in place enforcing stricter drug testing. He knew what the punishment was, knew he’d get caught, yet had the audacity to do it again anyway!

Ramirez’s affable personality has always portrayed him as a bit of a goof, with the “Manny being Manny” antics becoming part of what once endeared him to Red Sox Nation. Despite acting like a fool at times, Ramirez isn’t an idiot. He had to have known better, particularly the second time, which means the alternative explanation for his continued PED use is that he simply didn’t care.

Manny’s indifference to the rules is a slap in the face to those that worked hard to implement a system that has helped clean up the game. It’s not a perfect system, but it has resulted in a drastic reduction in the number of players using PEDs to get ahead of the competition.

One day Manny will probably get in the Hall of Fame. He certainly has the numbers to be considered, and just like Bonds and Clemens, that needs to be recognized in the monument to baseball built in Cooperstown.

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Just don’t let him in yet. Bonds and Clemens have already waited several years, which several voters seem to believe has been punishment enough. This is Manny’s first year on the ballot, so let him sweat it out for a few years before eventually coming around to putting him in beside the other steroid users that will undoubtedly have been enshrined by then.