The best and brightest neighborhood in the Los Angeles sports landscape is a very different place today.
Mannywood has officially gone to hell.
The giddy streets are lined in shadows. The colorful houses are painted in lies. The friendly shops are stocked with juice.
The mayor is a drug cheat.
Manny Ramirez dropped a bomb on Mannywood on Thursday, leveling the Dodgers’ spirit, stripping the Dodgers’ psyche, and blowing up the Dodgers’ safe.
He has been suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a banned substance, but it could be 500 games for all I care.
“You have to remember, there’s still a human being behind this thing,” said Manager Joe Torre.
Yeah, a selfish knucklehead of a human being who can no longer be trusted.
The Dodgers can’t build their team on fakery. They can’t march to a championship behind a charlatan. They can’t fall for his act again.
I would love for them to release him at the end of the suspension, but the major league drug agreement prevents them from exacting further punishment.
I would love for them to release him at the end of the season, but that would cost them $20 million, and no owner could consider that worth it.
The Dodgers can’t trash him, so they must try to recycle him.
If Manny stays, Manny sweats. If Manny stays, he must face his various constituents with truthfulness and transparency, answering all questions about steroid use, a four-step program.
He must come clean for the media who will relay his message to the fans who he has turned to suckers.
He must come clean to teammates he turned into fools.
He must come clean to the front office he robbed, owner Frank McCourt and General Manager Ned Colletti, offering sincere apologies followed by sincere explanations.
Finally, he must take this truth to the streets, becoming the Dodgers’ anti-steroid spokesman for kids who listen.
“I’d like for all of baseball to start fresh,” Colletti said. “We can’t all start fresh until we all start clean.”
This wasn’t happening Thursday because Ramirez skipped town, leaving the organization he supposedly loves to shovel up his mess.
Yeah, it’s going to be a long 50 games. But, no, I won’t say I told you so.
In earlier columns I warned the Dodgers against giving Ramirez a long-term deal because of his potential for combustion, but I never thought he would be suspended for something like this.
I was worried about him dogging it, not drugging it.
Now I think about the amazement I felt in watching Ramirez hit .520 last postseason and think, well, of course, nobody is that good at age 36 without help.
Now I think about watching the ball jump off his bat while driving in 53 runs in 53 games with the Dodgers last summer and think, absolutely, his increased coordination and endurance screams of steroids.
No, he did not test positive for steroids. But he did test positive for human chorionic gonadotropin, a female fertility drug commonly used by athletes to restore the body after steroid use.
Ramirez denied any steroid implications, claiming he was given the drug by “a physician for a personal health issue.”
Yeah, and don’t tell me, the physician was a cousin who can’t be found, working out of a storefront that no longer exists? Yeah, we’ve heard that one before.
After years of hearing lame excuses from lollipop-muscled ballplayers, excuse us if we don’t believe one syllable of Ramirez’s story. A more potent defense would have been an official appeal of the suspension, but that didn’t happen, and that tells you everything.
Ramirez is the kind of player who would appeal a three-day timeout for throwing a helmet, yet he willingly accepts nearly two months on the sideline and the loss of nearly $8 million? That’s all I need to hear. He was caught red-handed, but now it’s the Dodgers who are blushing.
They not only accepted his explanation, but congratulated him for it. “The fact that he did take responsibility . . . that was big,” Torre said.
Um, no he didn’t. See Step 1.
And while the Dodgers have graciously agreed to close the two sections dubbed Mannywood, they said it wouldn’t necessarily be permanent, and they would still hand out Mannywood T-shirts and sell Manny souvenirs, thus teaching children that baseball crime does pay.
“I don’t think we have enough information to make a negative decision on Manny,” said Dennis Mannion, team president.
Baseball obviously had enough information to make that decision. If the Dodgers truly support baseball’s drug policy, they need to act like it.
Contrary to the Dodgers’ spin, Ramirez isn’t just taking a vacation. When he gets back, he will be different.
If he was using steroids, he will be off the stuff by then. His swing will change. His coordination will suffer.
The Dodgers can base their season on that, or you can get smart and move on.
They can celebrate what they have, a great young team in a lousy division. Andre Ethier, not Ramirez, leads the team in RBIs. Ethier is tied with Ramirez for the lead in home runs. Orlando Hudson has scored more runs and collected more hits. James Loney does little things Ramirez never did.
And, oh, yes, in the first inning against the Washington Nationals on Thursday, Matt Kemp hit a grand slam that had fans screaming, and Manny wasn’t anywhere near the place.
They should celebrate that. They should build on that. They should trade to make that better.
This can no longer be Manny Ramirez’s team. This can no longer be his city. Dead is the notion he can lead. Dead is the notion that he can be trusted.
Once a great town, Mannywood has become a ghost town.