I'm sorry for sounding a bit grouchier than usual, but please explain to me what the hell is wrong in Dodger Country? On Friday night, Manny Ramirez returned to the Dodgers at Petco Park in San Diego. This was inevitable. He served out his punishment and we all knew that eventually, he would return to the"office." However, why were the thousands of Dodgers fans in attendance cheering for him as if he was Def Leppard stepping onto the field for an impromptu reunion show (please note that this is something I'd completely embrace, teased hair and all)? I mean, we're cheering for cheaters now? Is this what the Steroid Era is teaching us? To become accustomed to this behavior so that we're not appalled when a player is caught doing it? If I got caught stealing a computer and as punishment, was forced to serve a suspension instead of being fired, I sincerely doubt my co-workers would applaud my return. In fact, I'd bet that most of them would be pretty peeved that I had been given a second chance. I'd applaud my return. I'd be so grateful to my boss that I'd send him flowers and assorted food items every single day just to show him how much his generosity meant to me. That being said, I repeat, other than myself, I sincerely doubt anyone else would be pleased with his generosity.
Don't misunderstand. I am not saying that people do not deserve second chances (unless you're Michael Vick, puppy killer, then you can just go straight to hell). What I am saying is that if a person screws up, they shouldn't be celebrated. Why is it acceptable for Manny when it wasn't for Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, etc? I am not saying any of these men don't deserve the criticism that they've received. They screwed up. They cheated. They lied to us. A few continue to lie to us. What I don't get is why Manny is being cheered for when the public ripped these other men a new one? You better believe that Alex Rodriguez did not return to the field after being outed as a conquering hero. To use a less severe example, when Johnny Damon returned to Boston the first time after signing with the Yankees, many Red Sox fans threw change at him. Is this a bit childish? Yes, but they had every right to react. He betrayed them for some extra change in his pocket. He showed absolutely no loyalty to the fans who put him on his pedestal. The point is, despite being a long time and successful Red Sox player, the Red Sox fans found it hard to forgive his decision to sign with the enemy. All Damon did was sign with a different team and he got hell. In fact, I continue to give him hell every chance I get, but unfortunately, my seats are never close enough to the field that he can hear me. The surrounding fans in my section, I'm sure, find my insults quite charming.
Another non-steroids related example is Barry Zito (I know...I can't have one stupid blog without mentioning the man. It's a problem). He signed a ridiculous contract with San Francisco. Besides the fact that they gave him a 7-year contract (in my opinion, this is a completely bonehead offer to make to a pitcher, above all positions), they sign him for a crazy amount of money. If I am not mistaken, I believe that his contract had set the record for most expensive contract signed by a pitcher. I also believe that this record has since been broken. The man has been inconsistent, to say the least, since signing with the Giants. He hasn't cheated, yet his name has been dragged through the mud everywhere from fans to the media. All he's done is become a very expensive fifth starter that could potentially pitch you a gem or a horror show. Does that really warrant the nasty jabs he's been getting? Personally, yeah, I do think that a little ribbing is in order and I am more than willing to give it. I've been in love with his curve ball since before the Cy Young Award. I am entitled to be disappointed in his recent performances. Cry me a river, you overpaid jock. I have no sympathy. Then again, I am not a person who applauded when I found out that Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettite, and Jason Giambi had all tested positive for steroids. As a Yankees fan, I was ashamed. Not so much with Jason Giambi, but definitely with Rodriguez and Pettite. The revelation that Andy tested positive actually broke my heart. Andy? Andy Pettite?! It was completely devastating! Why don't you tell me that Bernie Williams has tested positive for steroids and just send me to my grave? Alex didn't break my heart, but the overwhelming sense of disappointment that had taken over my being was enough. I always thought that if there is one player in this league that didn't use performing-enhancing drugs, it was him. Call him what you will, he is one of the most athletic and overall players in the game and now his legacy will be forever tarnished. There is nothing he will be able to do with his career that will erase the black mark attached to him.
Which brings me back to Manny Ramirez. What are these Dodgers fans teaching players like Manny when they greet his return with this overwhelming display of warmth? I feel that they are telling players that it's okay to cheat. We'll still love you. You'll still get that enormous contract. We'll still buy your jerseys. Don't worry. You can do no wrong. This is half the problem with these professional baseball players. They are too coddled! Gone are the days of real men like Thurman Munson and Carlton Fisk playing the game. These players get away with the most ridiculous things and we love them for it. We applaud them for it. It has to stop. It's okay to forgive, but it's not okay to forget. You don't want people to boo you for messing up, but people certainly shouldn't celebrate your mistakes either. The same should apply to the athletes.
I propose that what these baseball players need is one afternoon on a football field with Brandon Jacobs, Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, Brian Urlacher, and Ray Lewis. Come to think of it, throw them onto a rink with Chris Simon, former left wing for the New York Islanders and Rangers. Now that's one crazy SOB who will certainly give these pretty boy baseball players a reality check. : )
At least no one can call me a hypocrite. I am critical across the board no matter who you are and what team you play for.