Manny Ramirez enters halfway house

Now if you turn your attention to the center ring, I give you Manny Ramirez, standing on his head while riding on the back of a flaming horse! Or something!

Ramirez, easing back into playing shape after a 50-game drug suspension, suited up for the Albuquerque Isotopes as they beat Nashville 1-0. Ramirez wore No. 99 for the Dodgers’ top farm club. He played four innings and was hitless in two at-bats. The capacity crowd of 15,321 was the largest in Albuquerque’s baseball history.

Fans lined the walkway from the clubhouse as Ramirez entered the field. They gathered near the dugout, clustering for autographs, and they seemed ready to forgive Ramirez for violating baseball’s drug rules.

“People love me everywhere I go,” Ramirez said before the game. “I’m excited to bring a lot of joy to a lot of people here. I feel good. I’m happy that I’m here.”

This will no doubt make the haters and moralists mad, many of whom think that Manny shouldn’t be allowed to live, let alone rehab in the minors before his suspension is over. On that note, I think I have come across the stupidest argument against Manny being allowed to rehab yet:

If someone goes to jail for 50 days, they don’t get released 10 days early so they can get used to the outside again. They have to adjust after their full sentence is completed. I know baseball and jail aren’t exactly similar, but the metaphor fits.

Except it doesn’t. Typically, a prisoner is allowed to leave prison several months before his sentence is over and go to a halfway house, the express purpose of which is for a guy to get used to the outside again. With all due respect to the minor leagues, they are like a halfway house in that, from Manny’s perspective anyway, they are not quite freedom while not quite being on restriction anymore either.

Sorry to get in the way of your Manny hate folks, but facts is facts.

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  1. Aaron Moreno said...

    Craig, you forgot that in many instances, you can do weekends in jail and spend the week out. I’ve seen a judge offer a kid 2 weeks of jail in lieu of a $5,000 dollar fine, telling him that he’ll do half the time at most, and never make that kind of money in that short a time.

    I love that there’s a baseball team named from a Simpsons episode.

  2. J.W. said...

    I’m not sure I understand the outrage over Ramirez playing in the minors. I suppose the real question is: what’s the underlying rationale for suspending a player? I suppose the four things that suspension acheives are:

    1) Financial disincentive for committing the violation that led to suspension. If you are suspended, you don’t get paid. Simple.

    2) You don’t accumulate playing time/stats. This disincentivizes committing infractions that lead to suspension because it’s important for player’s to accumulate big stats in order to get big contracts, or because they need playing time to reach arbitration and free agency. Again, simple enough, no playing time, no money, though this time through a more indirect avenue.

    3) The team loses the services of the player, thereby making it less likely that the team will sign/re-sign a player who has been suspended (on the assumption that they may be suspended again). This is a bit more oblique, but again it’s plausible to say that this disincentivizes breaking the rules.

    4) By not playing competitively, the player’s skills could theoretically regress, rendering him less valuable and thereby costing him money.

    As far as I can see, allowing a player to play in the minors 10 days before the suspension is up affects only the fourth point, which is suspect to begin with. The point of a suspension is to punish and to disincentivize cheating. I don’t see how playing in the minors for ten days lessens the punishment or disincentive. Can someone explain to me how it does? I’m sure I’m missing something. What is it?

  3. Sara K said...

    J.W.: I think you’ve covered the bases from a practical, pragmatic standpoint. The issue seems to be the understanding of a suspension as a moral message. By suspending Ramirez, baseball sent a naughty child to the corner to think about what he did. It’s the shame that matters in this situation. 

    Not that I support that viewpoint (I like your way of thinking about it), and there’s a case to be made that having to play AAA is shame enough (do you think he’ll have to carry his own luggage there or not?).  But it’s the “intangibles” that upset people, I think.

  4. Jack Marshall said...

    Wow. Craig—-where did THAT come from? I can’t hate Manny… for one thing, I don’t think he’s worth the emotional energy, and for another, I’m sure he’s more than a couple of raisins short of a Waldorf salad…but I think “moralist” is a bit loaded for those of us who have no respect at all for a guy who quit on his team more than once, knocked down a guy just trying to do his job, and was perfectly willing to kill the pennant chances of the team paying him 20 mil a year by dogging games and forcing a trade, not to mention intentionally striking out in a key game, which, having viewed the tape dozens of times, I am 99% convinced he did. Then he signs for a huge salary as the Dodgers built promotions around him, and gets himself suspended for banned substances. And lies about it. Do we really have to be called “haters” and “moralists” to object strongly to this kind of conduct? As with those who celebrate Richard Nixon’s birthday, admire Scooter Libby, think Chris Brown was provoked and cherish the writings of Jason Blair, I view cheering wildly for the likes of Manny Ramirez prima facie proof of a character deficit.

  5. Craig Calcaterra said...

    Jack—That wasn’t aimed at you in particular. There are many people writing with barely restrained outrage right now about Manny being allowed to play rehab games. Many of them are people with whom I otherwise agree on a lot of things.

    But I think your comment is illustrative: people are mad about the rehab assignment in large part because they don’t like Manny Ramirez. The policies behind the rule as it currently stands seem to be be distant considerations that no one really wants to engage in any serious way.

    Again, this doesn’t necessarily apply to you—you’ve talked about those policies in other threads.

  6. Sara K said...

    Jack, from your comment, it seems like you are interpreting Craig as having said that *all* those who are uncomfortable with Manny Ramirez are haters and moralists.  That would be like assuming that you mean to say that not being steadfastly against Ramirez is tantamount to “cheering wildly” for him.  Both those interpretations are extreme, yes?

  7. Jack Marshall said...

    Craig—I actually didn’t take it as a personal shot. And I don’t begrudge Manny his rehab, or a chance to ply his craft. I just would rather sew my lips together than cheer for the guy.

  8. Jack Marshall said...

    I was addressing myself to the Manny-worshippers, those who say that he’s the greatest right-handed slugger since Foxx,and that’s all that matters. The ones who send comments to blogs that read, “Manny Manny Manny!”

    You know.


  9. J.W. said...

    I agree that Manny doesn’t deserve adulation or admiration. Neither does A-Rod (for cheating on his wife, etc.) But this brings us to a difficult question regarding entertainment. Can we divorce entertainment from the men and women who play the role of entertainer? Can we like Woody Allen movies and still disapprove of his conduct towards his wife and one-time step-daughter? Can we watch and enjoy Roman Polanski films? Can we listen to Chris Brown’s music? Michael Jackson’s?

    I, for one, find it difficult to enjoy the products of people that I know are less than admirable. I had always been a staunch A-Rod supporter until the issues with his wife arose. Now it’s harder for me to watch him bat. And yet, I enjoy baseball and am a Yankees fan. So when he gets a big hit, it’s hard for me not to feel some satisfaction. I happen to enjoy Woody Allen films, but am definitely not completely comfortable watching them. I think Manny Ramirez is not worthy of cheers. But I think that people have the right to want the Dodgers to win, and he’s going to be a part of that and in that capacity—baseball player, hitter, part of a winning team—he’s going to be cheered. It’s a complicated situation, with definite gray areas. The people who send comments to blogs that read “Manny Manny Manny,” are probably morons. But they’re probably morons for reasons other than and in addition to their love of Manny Ramirez. In my opinion rooting for Manny Ramirez, while not something I would do, does not necessarily make you a bad person. Trying to excuse domestic abuse, well that does. I’m not sure it’s fair to equate those two actions.

  10. Andy H said...

    “. . . . people are mad about the rehab assignment in large part because they don’t like Manny Ramirez. The policies behind the rule as it currently stands seem to be be distant considerations that no one really wants to engage in any serious way.”

    No, I think the problem is a misunderstanding of the suspension.  Clearly what Manny and the Dodgers are doing is exactly what was contemplated by MLB and the players union when they came up with the rule.  But it was communicated to the public as a “50 game suspension.”  I think to most people that means he’s sitting at home being Manny and having nothing to do with the Dodgers or baseball for 50 games.  It seemed unfair because it seemed like it was against the rules, or against the spirit of the rule for him to be rehabbing in AAA. So, in my case at least, the ‘anger’ (though that is too strong a word for me) is the result of not knowing the actual terms of the suspension.

  11. Jack Marshall said...

    J. W.: I have both problems, but one is emotional. I don’t think the off-the-field transgressions of artists and athletes should make a difference in how we think of their work, but for me they do. Woody is one; Ol’ Blue Eyes is another—-I find the man so reprehensible that I can’t enjoy his music, though I fully appreciate his artistry. I think baseball-related misconduct is different—-Manny’s skill and accomplishments as a player don’t compensate sufficiently for his selfishness, disloyalty, dishonesty, and lack of professionalism as it relates to his baseball career. I think taking the position that these things don’t matter as long as “he’s a winner” does show warped priorities and shaky values.

  12. Craig Calcaterra said...

    “I think taking the position that these things don’t matter as long as “he’s a winner” does show warped priorities and shaky values.”

    Who’s saying that?  I think people are, at most, saying that these things don’t matter at all when it comes to deciding how we feel about a player.  You’re injecting some sort of cynical, win-greedy judgment into the calculus in order to cast those with whom you disagree as having questionable values. At worst this is a situation where apathy reigns.

    You’re the ethical expert, but I think those are two very different things.

  13. Jack Marshall said...

    Well, as you might imagine, I have these discussions quite a bit when it comes to Manny, Bonds, Clemens et al. And the sentiment I hear more than any other is, “Never mind all that: look at all the championships and the stats!” I suppose there’s a difference between “I don’t care, I just like him!”—-the lovable rogue impulse—-and the “ends-justifies-the-means” “hey, as long as the team wins with him, he’s aces with me!” attitude. I’m not sure they are as different as you seem to suggest. People who care about certain principles and values naturally tend not to respect and appreciate those who act against those principles, no matter how successful they are. If someone said to you, “You know, that Michael Richards is hilarious, and I’ll go see him work anytime…his opinions on race are irrelevant to how funny he is!”, wouldn’t you legitimately question whether such a person is particularly concerned about racism and bigotry? Why is that judgement cynical?

  14. MM said...

    I live in Albuquerque and was actually at the game last night, and, yeah, it was a circus.  There was a camera on Manny from the moment he stepped on the field, there were fans holding up a giant “Mannywood, NM” banner, the entire crowd was on its feet for both of his at bats, and so on. There were some boos (somebody sitting near me actually offered the opposing catcher $100 if he told the pitcher to bean Manny with his first pitch), but the response was 99% positive. 

    My guess is that the response is partly just because we don’t get to see players of Manny’s caliber come to town very often, but it also goes to show that the general public isn’t nearly as worked up about steroids as the sportswriters and such are.

    While I’m at it, my own feelings (full disclosure: I’m a longtime Dodgers fan, my favorite team in the AL is the Red Sox, and I’ve always been a fan of Manny) is that I’m disappointed in what he did, and I’m still wrestling with how to evaluate his career in light of his PED usage, but, unlike most PED users, he’s been caught and done his time.  So if he comes back, hits well, and stays clean, I’m willing to…maybe not exactly forgive and forget, but I can move past this and cheer for him going forward.

    Incidentally, I’m going to have to dispute that the attendance was “the largest in Albuquerque baseball history.”  The stadium used to have a larger capacity (it was remodeled after the Dukes left town ten years or so ago), and I’m pretty sure I was at a few games with attendance in excess of 17,000.  I do believe last night was an Isotopes record, though.

    And Aaron – don’t get me started on how stupid the “Isotopes” name is.  We went from a name with historical relevance (the city was originally named after the Duke of Alburquerque) to a team named after a freakin’ Simpsons episode.  It doesn’t get much worse than that.

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