Manny Ramirez returned to the field last night, playing for the Dodgers' top minor league team - the Albuquerque Isotopes. It was obviously huge news in New Mexico, where the game was a sellout. Tickets, according to reports, for the remaining games on their homestand are selling like wildfire too. A young fan - fifteen year old J.J. Gutierrez - was quoted by the Associated Press as saying "he's a cheater, but I still want to see him play." Many other fans in Albequerque agree with the teenager.
It's just another piece of evidence that fans have gotten over the steroid mess baseball has found itself in for the last several years. It's clear that fans won't demonize players who use steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. When was the last time Alex Rodriguez got razzed by fans for his steroid use? Not only has it not happened very often, in many ways, his steroid use isn't even an issue anymore as far as fans are concerned.
The national media knows this. They strive to give the fan what he or she wants. And today, the fan wants Manny. They want news about Manny. They want to see the hilites from his return. Check out some of the big websites today. They all have stories on Manny's return. Sportscenter was all over the story. National radio shows were all over the story. Part of the reason is that there isn't much else going on, but the main reason is the media knows there is an appetite for Man Ram, and they are doing their best to satisfy that hunger.
I'm not sure about you, but I'm starting to believe that my fellow media colleagues are being somewhat hypocritical here. On the one hand, writers, radio guys, television talking heads - they are all taking Ramirez to task for getting caught using steroids and the subsequent fifty game suspension. Yet, at the same time, their papers, websites, radio stations, networks, and television outlets are covering his return to Triple A as if the Lakers had just won the NBA championship. Why else would ESPN send Colleen Dominguez to New Mexico to cover a minor league rehab stint?
Would ESPN have done the same thing had a player of lesser talent and popularity - say a journeyman - made a minor league rehab appearance after getting caught using illegal drugs? Hell no. But it's Man Ram. It's Manny being Manny. It's Mannywood. He's a popular guy. So, of course he's going to get more coverage.
I'm not sure about you, but I think there are media people who are being hypocrites here. I'm not going to tell them what to do. I'm not going to demonize Ramirez for using juice.
In fact, I'm not going to demonize anyone for using PED's anymore. Mark McGwire used? No big deal. Barry Bonds broke baseball's most hallowed record while using? That's okay. Roger Clemens won his 300 plus games and multiple Cy Young awards thanks to the help of some steroids? I'll give him a pass.
And I'm not being sarcastic.
It's a battle that I'm just not going to fight anymore. I've always known that fans were willing to overlook steroid use, especially if it was helping their team win ballgames. I've always maintained the players accepted what was going on for any number of reasons - chief among them being money. The more money one guy made meant there was more money for everyone. And speaking of money, the MLB clubs made it by the truckloads during the height of The Steroid Era. Everyone knew. No one did anything to stop it until it was pretty much too late.
And now you've got national media outlets doing big time coverage of a steroid user making a minor league rehab start. For me, that's just too much.
I won't speak for anyone else who may want to rip apart the next player that gets caught with his pants down, so to speak. I'm just speaking for me.
I'll fall in line with the fans from now on, especially when it comes to this issue. I won't get upset with the next star that gets caught using juice. And, If it were my vote, all these guys who got caught - McGwire, Clemens, etc. - they all would be voted in to the Hall of Fame.
I just can't fight the good fight anymore. And I'm no longer going to try.