For much of Manny Ramirez’s career in Major League Baseball he seemed destined for a spot in the Hall of Fame.
The former Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox slugger put up MVP-caliber numbers for the majority of his 19 seasons. And though he never won the award, he did earn 12 All-Star selections, nine Silver Sluggers, and added a World Series MVP for Boston in 2004.
So why is it, then, that Ramirez is going into his fourth season on the Hall of Fame ballot without any real hope to be elected?
Three simple letters — PEDs. Otherwise known to sports fans as performance-enhancing drugs.
In 2009, Ramirez was suspended 50 games for violating MLB’s drug policy. Two years later, he tested positive again. This time he received a 100-game ban that effectively ended his career and muddied his previously clear path to Cooperstown.
Now, eight years removed from his final MLB game, Ramirez says he’s looking back at those mistakes and his controversial exit without any real regrets.
‘It made me grow up’
Since his final MLB game, Ramirez has attempted comebacks in the minor leagues and in Japan. He’s even done some coaching, serving as a hitting consultant for the Chicago Cubs from 2014-2016. What he hasn’t done much of is talk about how his career ended.
That changed Wednesday when the now 47-year-old opened up while speaking to reporters at a charity event in Boston.
According to Forbes, Ramirez expressed no regrets regarding his PED use. Instead, Ramirez says those experiences helped him ‘grow up.’
“Not really [any regrets],” he said. “I ask myself if it was a good thing for me, because it made me grow up. Maybe a lot of people they didn’t get caught, and they doing maybe so many crazy stuff but they’re not learning from it. So I think everything happens for a reason and everything is working for the good. I’m in a better place than I ever been even when I was playing, so I don’t regret it because it made me grow up.”
It’s good to hear Ramirez is in a good place. That trumps everything that matters within the baseball context. That said, it’s likely some fans and perhaps even Hall of Fame voters would prefer that Ramirez outright denounce his PED use.
That’s not Manny’s way, however, and we all know Manny is going to be Manny.
Hall of Fame optimism
Ramirez also expressed optimism that Hall of Fame voters will be willing to forgive his mistakes someday even it takes them 15-20 years. Under the current voting system, that means Ramirez sees himself being more likely to be voted in by a committee than the Baseball Writers Association of American.
“We’ll see. We’ll see what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure maybe in 15 or 20 years, we’ll probably get in.”
“It was the same thing like with Pete Rose. That’s it, let that guy get in. That’s it, everybody makes mistakes. I make mistakes every day. Everybody makes it, but we’ve got to keep moving, so what else can you do.”
Like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and other players who have either been linked to PEDs or suspended for using PEDs, Ramirez finds himself on the wrong side of the 75-percent required for election. Last year, he received less than 23 percent. Bonds and Clemens neared 60 percent, which suggests it will be difficult for Ramirez to break the ceiling in the seven years of eligibility he has left on the BBWAA ballot.
Hall of Fame credentials
What’s certain is that Ramirez’s body of work is Hall of Fame worthy.
Ramirez’s 555 home runs rank 15th on the all-time list (555), while his 1,831 RBIs rank 19th. He produced year after year, and did so as the core piece of several very good lineups. While some might question if he was truly clean during his peak seasons, the production is remarkable and impossible to ignore.
The Hall of Fame question is one that could linger for another decade or two. Maybe Ramirez’s day will eventually come. Maybe it won’t. But it sounds like he’ll be able to live with either outcome.
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