Photo: Jill Weisleder/Los Angeles Dodgers — Slugger Manny Ramirez hits his fifth home run of the season and 532 of his career on April 30, 2009 at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres 8-to-5 in that game.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were on a roll with the best record in Major League Baseball when they hit a major hurdle. Ironically, that hurdle was thrown up in front of the team by its star player and power hitter, Manny Ramirez. This morning there are reports all over the media and on the Internet that Ramirez has tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and is suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball. This means Ramirez will not be eligible to suit up with his team until July 3.
The suspension begins tonight against the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium. Talk about bad timing. Last night, the Dodgers beat the Nationals 10-to-3, setting a league record for kicking off the season with 13 consecutive home wins. Also, the Dodgers have the best record in the league at 21-8. Clearly, the loss of Ramirez is going to take some serious adjustment for the boys in blue.
Off the field, this a huge blow to the team’s efforts to promote Ramirez with billboards, T-shirts, and even a section of seats at Dodger Stadium called Mannywood. And what about the fans? Thousands of them have been packing the seats at Dodger Stadium this season and Ramirez is part of the reason for that.
A Los Angeles Times report has reaction from Ramirez. In a prepared statement, the left fielder blamed the positive drug test on medication from a personal physician: “He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons.”
Also, Ramirez expressed regret for the mistake:”I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I’m sorry about this whole situation.”
Ramirez is the most high-profile player to be caught by the Major League Baseball’s drug testing program, which began in 2003. Since players are not paid while on suspension, this is going to cost the left fielder big time; an estimated $7.7 million of his $25 million salary this year.