Tom Verducci penned an interesting coda to Manny Ramirez' career. Verducci is one of the best baseball writers around so it is worth reading his entire article but one key statistical point must be emphasized: In the 180 games before Ramirez was suspended by MLB on May 7, 2009 he batted .334 and bashed one home run in every 15 at bats but in the 172 games after he was busted for being a cheater he hit just .277 and managed just one home run in every 25 at bats. Contrary to what some economists may believe, performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) do in fact enhance performance; that is why big league players take such drugs even at the risk of sexual dysfunction, various other health problems, possible federal prosecution and public humiliation. Ramirez retired on April 8, 2011 after another failed drug test that would have prompted an automatic 100 game suspension.
Ramirez and the other PED cheaters must never be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, which should instead honor players like Andre Dawson--the Hawk was finally welcomed into Cooperstown last year--who played the game the right way. It is ridiculous to say that because we don't know for sure who used PEDs that Hall of Fame voters should just base their choices purely on a player's statistics; should we set convicted murderers free because we have not arrested every single murder suspect? The legal system punishes whoever it can arrest and convict. The Baseball Hall of Fame voting guidelines stipulate that "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played." Anyone who has tested positive for PEDs, admitted using PEDs and/or been credibly linked to PED usage has certainly shown a lack of "integrity, sportsmanship (and) character," which is more than reason enough to exclude him from Hall of Fame consideration. The fact that some bad apples may have already been inducted is no justification for honoring more cheaters and scoundrels.
A sidebar chart to Verducci's article listed the seven most prolific MLB home run hitters from 1996-2003 (the years immediately preceding when MLB instituted PED testing with penalties):
1) Sammy Sosa, 444 home runs
2) Barry Bonds, 399 home runs
3) Rafael Palmeiro, 373 home runs
4) Jim Thome, 351 home runs
5) Alex Rodriguez, 345 home runs
6) Mark McGwire, 345 home runs
7) Manny Ramirez, 328 home runs
Six of those seven players have been credibly linked to and/or admitted using PEDs. The lone exception is Thome, who is either the greatest slugger of all-time--the one clean power player in an era dominated by dirty hitters (and dirty pitchers)--or...you be the judge; here are a couple interesting pictures:
Memory can play tricks on us; some people believe that Thome is just naturally big and strong but in the first picture (from his rookie card) we see that a young Thome looked like someone who would get sand kicked in his face at the beach while in the second picture (from a decade and a half later) Thome has blossomed into Mr. Atlas. I am not accusing Thome of anything because I have no way of knowing what he did or didn't do; all I am saying is that if he was in fact clean then he almost has to be considered the greatest slugger of all-time, because he would be the only non-enhanced human who put up numbers comparable to those posted by the PED cheaters.