Manny Ramirez Struggles Without Juice
Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds are two of the best hitters in Major League Baseball, from my generation. What do these two men have in common? Ramirez tested positive for a banned substance linked to steroid use, and Bonds is facing an allegation of steroid use.
In 2008, Ramirez was traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers and put together the best 53-game stretch I have ever witnessed. With this performance, Ramirez claimed the hearts of Dodger fans (dedicated a section of seating called MannyWood).
On May 7, 2009, the League announced Ramirez tested positive for a banned substance and suspended him for 50 games. Since Ramirez returned to the diamond, his numbers have never been the same.
A big question for baseball fans is how much do steroids actually help a hitter? Ramirez lack of production at the plate is giving us indication of how effective they can be.
MannyWood on Drugs
After the trade to the Dodgers in ’08, Ramirez hit .396 with 17 HRs, 53 RBIs and 1.232 OPS in 53 games. Ramirez had come from Boston with solid numbers, but nothing as stellar as this 53-game stretch. It left many people wondering, what could Ramirez do if he only applied himself for an entire season?
When Ramirez was traded, many people thought he was little more than a side show at this point in career. Ramirez proved them wrong and helped carry a young Dodger team to the NLCS.
Season Totals ’08: GM -153 / BA – .332 / HR – 37 / RBI – 121 / OPS – 1.031
Every total he compiled was higher than his career average.
Sober Manny = Old Manny
In ’09, Ramirez played in 27 games prior to getting popped for PED use; he was hitting .348 with 6 HRs and 20 RBIs.
Ramirez returned from the 50-game suspension and was less then a force at the plate. After the long-awaited triumphant return, Ramirez played in 77 games which he saw his batting average drop 58 points, only hit 13 HRs and knocked in 43.
So far into the ’10 campaign, the numbers are still declining. Ramirez hasn’t had a batting average this low (.274) since his second year with the Cleveland Indians (.269).
Granted, Ramirez has had a stint on the 15-Day DL already and isn’t playing in day games that follow night games, but he is on pace to set career lows across the board.
In one year, Ramirez went from all-time great to average. His hands appear to be slower and pitch recognition is awful.
Ramirez is 39 points below his career batting average and 100 points below his OPS as of June 5. Ramirez career numbers would the season of a lifetime for most ball players.
Career AVG: 17 Seasons / GM – 130 / BA – .313 / HR – 32 / RBI – 105 / OPS – .999
Comparison to Bonds
Bonds, at age 36, put together the best year baseball has ever seen (coincidentally, the same age Ramirez was when he was traded to the Dodgers and compiled those great numbers.)
In ’01, Bonds hit .328 with 73 HRs and 137 RBIs. The difference is we didn’t see a major drop off in numbers until Bonds was 40.
However, baseball did conduct an anonymous drug test in ’03 that eventually leaked the names of David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. In ’04, the grand jury called Bonds and other players to testify about steroid use. Bonds testified that he may have unknowingly used a cream substance that his trainer, Greg Anderson, rubbed on his legs.
This past off-season, Mark McGwire only to stay healthy, it was against the rules, and not everyone had the option of using it.
After baseball became stricter about its substance use, Bonds’ body finally showed its age. In ’05, Bonds’ body only allowed him to play in 14 games, after posting a five year unprecedented run.
Bonds played two more seasons after the injury plagued ’05 year, but never came close to his prior numbers. I understand the body won’t allow you to continue forever, but no one falls that far, that fast.
Heros Fade Faster Without Juice
At age 37, Babe Ruth hit 41 HRs, and over the next 3 seasons, (HRs 34, 22, 6 – retired after only 28 games) his numbers would decline like they should.
Imagine if Ruth would have been stay healthy and productive. The same goes for Hank Aaron and all the other great players.
We want to see our heros ride out into the sunset, not to fizzle out like old out of shape has-beens. Great athletes rarely walk away when they should; legal steroid use would probably have guys playing into their mid to late 40s.
I am a big fan of Ramirez and would love to see him play better in the last few years of his career.
Unfortunately history has shown us that no man is immortal, but with steroids his legend can increase and playing mortality prolonged.