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Manny Ramirez, How Could You?

Manny Ramirez, How Could You?

Simple actually. We do it ourselves all the time.


Manny Ramirez?? Can it really be true?

First it was Barry Bonds. Then it was Rafael Palmero. Jason Giambi confessed to the same. Next came Roger Clemens. Followed by Alex Rodriguez. It had to stop there. No other Major League baseball superstar would dare use illegal drugs to enhance his performance, right? After all, the league tests every player regularly. So many others have been caught and brought down. No one else would dare try.

And yet, how the mighty have fallen. Manny Ramirez, one of the game's greatest stars, who led the lowly Boston Red Sox to World Series glory and has recently reinvigorated the Los Angeles Dodgers, has tested positive for a banned substance and has been suspended for 50 games. According to's T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada, two sources told them that "the drug was human chorionic gonadotropin a women's fertility drug typically used by steroid users to restart their body's natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle." In other words, he not only used this banned substance but probably steroids as well.

Why would Manny be taking steroids? His Dodgers are the best team in baseball with a 21-8 record, 13-0 at home. They have a 6 1/2 game lead over the San Francisco Giants and are really on a roll!


But they get tested regularly! What was he thinking?


However, Manny is a 36-year-old, 16-year veteran with a $25 million annual salary to live up to (he will lose $8 million due to his suspension). He has only hit six home runs this season and 20 RBI's. Perhaps in desperation to live up to what is expected of him, he resorted to these enhancements.

But they get tested regularly! What was he thinking? In fact, a former teammate told's Amy K. Nelson, "I'm very surprised, especially how often [players] get tested." When will they learn?

Truth is, we have to turn the question on ourselves and ask: When will we learn?

Ethics of the Fathers teaches, "Internalize three things and you will not come to sin: Know what is above you. An Eye that sees, an Ear that hears, and all of your deeds are being written in a book" (Avos 2:1). There is a God and He sees everything that we do. Reward and punishment is one of the three primary elements of the 13 principles of faith taught by Maimonides. It is at the very core of Jewish theology.

So many of us know this and yet, just like Manny knowing he was going to be tested, we go off track anyway. Manny did it because he had to improve his performance, earn his contract, and preserve his reputation and honor. We do it because of our own temptations and strong desires.

As I write these words I recall a story I'd prefer to forget. My high school basketball team won a remarkable victory. I asked my father if I, a newly licensed 16-year-old, could drive my friends to celebrate. I described our benign plans to get some pizza and play miniature golf. My father granted my request and reminded me that my provisional license meant I could not drive beyond 12:00 AM.

We basked in our celebrity status at the local pizza shop and then headed to play some miniature golf. As we arrived there at 11:00 PM. one friend reminded me that we had to leave by 11:45 to return home on time. I told him not to worry while conveniently ignoring that my father, as a federal judge, questioned witnesses and uncovered lies professionally. I was having so much fun that I insanely ignored their reminders at 11:20 and my madness continued with an assurance that all would be okay even if we played past 11:45.

When I arrived home at 12:25, my father met me at the door. It was time to implement my brilliant plan.

My father sternly said, "It is 12:25. By law you could not drive past 12."

My response: "At 12, Avi took over the wheel ."

Dad: "Avi took over at 12?"

Me: "Yes."

Dad: "But it only takes 15 minutes to drive home from miniature golf. If Avi first took over for you at 12, that means it took over 25 minutes to get home. Why did the drive take so long?"

Me: "Right, right. Actually, we left after 12 so Avi drove the entire time."

Dad, even more sternly: "You played late and let Avi drive MY car without asking me permission first?"

Me: "Well, um, uh... ok, actually I drove the entire time and, um, well, we left miniature golf at 12:10."

Dad: "Thank you for telling me the truth. Please go to your room and you are grounded for the next three weeks."


I knew that my father would be up waiting. I knew that my father was a federal judge who could smell any lie from the start. I knew that my father was a disciplinarian (translation now that I am older: a good father) and would absolutely punish me for breaking the law and the deal. And yet the enjoyment of the moment enabled me to ignore all of that, and as a result, I had to suffer the consequences and missed out on even greater fun for the next three weeks.

While my transgression and the ensuing consequence were relatively minor, we all do the same for much worse sins when the stakes are much higher. And our interrogator will not be a federal judge or the baseball commissioner, but the Judge of all judges.

So while we discuss Manny's downfall and question how he could do this knowing he was going to be tested, we would do ourselves a big favor to look in the mirror and ask the same question.

When will we learn?

May 9, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) name, May 14, 2009 5:23 PM

"just like smokers don't really believe that smoking will take years off their lives" But doesn't God decide when you die?

(6) Beverly Kurtin, May 11, 2009 7:10 PM

Throw the bum(s) out

A sign used to hang in my office during my working years. It said, “Accuracy is my mistake, I never make a motto.” Nearly 100 percent of everyone who walked into my office instantly got a look on their face that showed that they hadn’t correctly read the sign. I would ask them to read the sign aloud. Then the magic happened, a smile accompanied with an extended hand, the point I was trying to make on first impression that committing errors is human and I wasn’t the kind of boss would crawl all over them if they erred. Tying this into baseball cheats is the fault of the owners of the teams. They expect (and at $25 million salaries) perfection from their players without fail. It seems almost natural that a player will cheat, hoping that they won’t get caught. Raising the prices that players get paid to absurd levels causes two things to happen: cheating and pricing the average fan out of the parks and stadiums in which these overpaid players “play.” I live within fifteen miles from the Rangers Stadium and the new behemoth the Cowboys have built. I can’t even dream of going to see a game and I won’t. Why should I go watch over paid thugs who have forced the prices up to $100 and more for a single ticket? I call them thugs because I’m old enough when an athlete LOOKED like a gentleman, now they just look like gangbangers. I won’t even watch those bums on TV.

(5) ruth housman, May 11, 2009 12:40 PM

"feat" of clay

we're all human and we have this need to succeed. In his case, there were precedents and also warnings, but he ignored them, thinking that somehow he, as Manny Ramirez, would somehow not get caught. It's always the "other person". We all have a touch of hubris and we all do fall down. It's like that very adult children's song, that is Ring Around a Rosy, "Ashes ashes, we all fall down." Hopefully, life has an inbuilt learning curve and somehow, despite not wanting to learn, we all do imbibe something that's important from these lessons.

(4) Ben, May 10, 2009 11:02 PM

Great Point - I ask myself that all the time!!

Aaaaah!!! Its finals season in school again and once again there is a mad dash to do last minute studying. How does this happen, it happened in elementary school (on a mini scale), high school, and now once again college. I think the only way for me to improve is to actually internalize the lesson some how...I don't know how. Maybe I just don't like school or am a chronic procrastinator??!? Either way, R' Lipman rocks and always finds a way to bring spirituality into seemingly mundane sports stories. Keep it up and hopefully the lesson will be internalized...for me at least. Can't change the world, just myself

(3) Anonymous, May 10, 2009 10:25 AM

pirkei avot lesson from sports scandal- sheer genius!

The writer's ability to take ethical teachings from Pirkei Avot and apply them to a baseball scandal thus providing life lessons for all of us, is sheer genius. His reflections on a youthful escapade and how he paid the price is very moving, as well. It personalizes the subject of the essay and helps explain what helped to mold him into such an exceptional teacher and writer.

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