Whatever really happened, whatever you believe, here’s the bottom line.Considering what happened in Boston, where Manny Ramirez tarnished his reputation by essentially quitting on the Red Sox, he couldn’t get in trouble again. He had to be a model citizen with the Dodgers, like he was last season. He couldn’t do anything that would remotely prove his antics outweigh anything he does on the field.But when Ramirez was suspended for 50 games last week, baseball’s way of punishing cheaters, there was no way to defend one of the game’s all-time great hitters.He’s branded forever and his statistics are in question. And that’s proper.I went to Dodger Stadium for Saturday’s game against the Giants and listened to some interesting theories in the press box, where media people, club officials, and scouts from other teams gather. It was a day for me to listen, not talk as I gathered information for this piece.The most interesting theory I heard was that Ramirez did nothing wrong with the Dodgers, except going to a private doctor instead of the team physician for a solution for what he described as a personal medical issue.Instead, as this theory goes, Ramirez might have broken rules in Boston although he passed drug tests, but the effects showed up only in a more recent one.Nobody had information about what he did, so this is only speculation, but it speaks volumes that Ramirez accepted his suspension without filing an appeal.If he was innocent of doing anything wrong, wouldn’t he have fought any charges that he did?The drug he took which earned the suspension is commonly used by players who have taken steroids to restore testosterone production to normal levels. There’s no proof he has taken steroids, but the suspicion exists, especially since he was able to have a great year at age 36.And there was enough suspicion throughout baseball that no team offered the long-term contract Ramirez sought following his terrific half year with the Dodgers. Every team seeking a productive free agent had doubts about something, perhaps more than his inexcusable behavior with the Red Sox which included shoving an elderly club official and declining to play in some games.Ramirez will have to repair his image, or at least try, when he returns on July 3. He’ll have to reach out to fans and attempt to charm them into forgiving him. But it won’t be easy if he doesn’t play well.The Dodgers have a good team playing in a weak division and could be a playoff contender again. They won the division last season sparked by Ramirez’ hitting and winning influence and will get him back a month earlier this time.But they made a mistake in marketing him so heavily with the Mannywood campaign that included a special section in the stands. Considering his situation, essentially as a citizen on trial, he didn’t merit that and why did they have to do it? They draw well over three million fans each season.Why market him so much, and is that fair to the other players, a list that includes some of baseball’s best young talents?I’ve been around overzealous sales people before and understand they sometimes run amok. But wasn’t there someone in charge to say no, we’re not going to do that?Now the embarrassed Dodgers have abandoned the Mannywood idea and for what is considered one of baseball’s model organizations this is a huge backward step.On his telecast the other night Vin Scully said baseball is bigger than any one player. He’s right, the fans continue to turn out and I don’t think Joe Torre’s team will collapseBut unfortunately, Manny was being Manny, and sometimes that’s not very good at all.
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