Manny Ramirez retired on Friday rather than serve a 100-game suspension after his second violation of Major League Baseball's drug policy, according to reports. Ramirez was looking for a fresh start in Tampa as the Rays' DH, but the organization quickly soured on the slugger amid early season struggles. His unexpected retirement immediately led to a discussion about whether Ramirez deserves a spot in baseball's Hall of Fame -- his failed drug tests seem to be the driving force against him since there's no debating that he was "a bona fide star at the plate." While some can forgive Manny's misdeeds chalking them up to him being "a product of his age," several sports columnists this weekend have voiced their opposition to Ramirez ever joining the greatest of the game in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown. Here are some of the best:
Martin Fennelly, Tampa Tribune: "What a shameful way for Ramirez to ruin what would have been no-brainer, tape-measure Hall of Fame credentials. Now he gets in a line that might never move, with Barry Bonds, with Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire, with Roger Clemens and the rest. Manny will always be the guy who got nailed cheating not once, but twice, a tainted legacy."
Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press. "Watching Ramirez skulk off the diamond in embarrassment is actually a great day for baseball. The only way you can truly prove that you're clean is by relentlessly exposing the cheaters. Catching Ramirez also makes it easier to believe that the power displays from the past three years are more legitimate than from the Steroid Era." Miller continues, "Ramirez just torpedoed his own career completely, spectacularly and with finality. There is no more Manny Being Manny. There are only uncovered lies, and Manny exposed."
Scott Miller, CBS Sports: "Ramirez played people like a cheap banjo throughout his career, turning on the charm when applicable (and man, he really can be charming) and sinking into his dark shell whenever that would help (when he wanted a new contract, when he didn't feel like playing that night, when he no longer felt like playing in whatever city he was in)."
Troy E. Renck, Denver Post: "Ramirez was an idiot -- an idiot savant. He really knew hitting. It's hard to find a better right-handed swing over the past 20 years. It was simple, effective, punishing and featured a follow-through that was straight out of an instructional video. In my dealings with Ramirez, I found him initially amusing. He was a child. Immature. Funny." Renck adds: "Once Ramirez morphed from suspect to known cheat, there was no defense for his behavior."
Michael Rosenberg, Sports Illustrated: "He had less to gain and more to lose than almost anybody else in baseball. He has already made more than $200 million. He has played for two World Series champions. The first positive test was part of his legacy, but it didn't have to define him. He could have sold people on the idea that he made a mistake late in his career, regretted it and learned from it. Not anymore."
Monte Poole, San Jose Mercury News: With Bonds, Rose, Clemens, and now Ramirez, "It's getting crowded on the island, where baseball puts its pariahs, which leaves the sport in a prickly predicament." Poole goes on: "But when a sport is disgraced by its greatest, fans are forced to choose. Do they ignore? Deny? Enable? Or simply forgive? Baseball once measured its cultural influence by the nobility of its legends, the degree to which they were revered. Maybe it's time for another means of measurement."