One sentence. That’s all it took. Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, the sluggers who propelled the Boston Red Sox to end an 86-year World Series championship drought and to capture another title three years later, were among the roughly 100 Major League Baseball players to test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003, according to lawyers with knowledge of the results.
Who cares about Manny Ramirez? Everybody already knows he’s a cheater and a prima donna manchild who will dog it on his own teammates to get his way. But David Ortiz? Big Papi? Say it ain’t so.
Oh, sure, the evidence was there. Anyone who watched him hit in Minnesota and then watched his complete turnaround as a hitter in Boston had to wonder. Was it enough to point to how much he’d drastically altered his swing once starting for Boston? Was it enough to chuckle when he told us that the only drugs he ever took were beans and rice? Was it worth it to ignore just how massive he was in Boston, how he became the ‘Big’ part of ‘Big Papi’? Could we just pretend all that wasn’t there because he seemed like everything that was right about a player- that he was a guy who’d put the whole city on his back with a twinkle in his eye, a gleaming smile and a swing like thunder? Well, yes. Yes, it was. Papi couldn’t be that kind of guy. He’s Papi, for God’s sake.
Well. We were wrong. And whether you believe his story that he had no idea he’d ever tested positive and doesn’t know how he could (even if you buy his cover that he may have bought some energy products from the Dominican in his youth) have tested positive for anything, or whether you so desperately want to believe this couldn’t be true, it is. Sure, nobody knows what he tested positive for yet. Sure, it was six years ago and there wasn’t a policy and accidents happen (just ask JC Romero) and blah blah blah excuses excuses. You know who else tested positive in 2003? Barry Bonds. Alex Rodriguez. Sammy Sosa. Manny Ramirez. Jason Grimsley. Not exactly innocent company.
I’ve calmed down from my earlier fury, during which I may or may not have called Ortiz a ‘hypocritical cheating douchebag.’ I’ve stopped being mad at him and just started being sad that someone who gave a lot of us such beautiful memories- memories that, for me, came as I watched the Red Sox win the Series the same year we buried my father, who never got to see them win it all- could have done this, both to himself and to us.
I’m still furious, but most of my unrelenting anger is focused at Major League Baseball for so stupidly undermining the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the MLBPA by not destroying these tests immediately, as they promised. I said the same thing when Alex Rodriguez went down. The MLBPA is well within their rights to tell the League to go screw the next time it comes to negotiating with them. They agreed to the initial testing solely on the condition that the results remain anonymous and that the samples and results be destroyed. Why don’t you ask Rodriguez and Ramirez and Ortiz how well that worked? ‘Trust us,’ said the front office. ‘We’re just trying to get a sample size to determine whether we need a comprehensive policy.’ Why should the MLBPA ever trust them again? Why should the MLBPA trust them to take the next step in putting more teeth in the existing lousy PED program? Why should the MLBPA trust that the front office is going to stick to a single aspect of any Collective Bargaining Agreement when they couldn’t even get this right?
I’m not defending those who tested positive, mind you. Cheating is cheating. The fact remains, however, that the only reason we have a testing system in place now is because the League promised the MLBPA that if they only agreed to the 2003 test so that the League could see how rampant the problem really was, any current user wouldn’t be identified. Heck, those who tested positive wouldn’t even be informed, because the testing was anonymous and would be destroyed immediately afterwards. Were I a member of the MLBPA, I’d be a little hard-pressed not to feel betrayed by the front office right now.
And as for those lawyers who confirmed the positive test to the New York Times, but did so anonymously as that information was in records that had been sealed by a court order? Hi, you’re lawyers. I’m pretty sure that you understand what ‘sealed by a court order’ means. Enjoy getting disbarred.