ALONG WITH the team’s bad start, Red Sox fans have to cope with a sobering reminder: The teams that brought Boston two championships quite possibly included players using performance-enhancing drugs. Manny Ramirez, the offensive engine of those teams, flunked a drug test and retired last week, long after he wore out his welcome in Boston.
There is much to be sad about. First, and worst, is the possibility that a player who allegedly tested positive for performance-enhancing substances while in a Sox uniform in 2003 (when the test was non-binding), and who tested positive while wearing other uniforms in 2009 and 2011, could have been using in 2004 and 2007. Testing in those years did not include some substances covered by more recent tests. Ramirez’s track record, along with reports that David Ortiz, too, tested positive in 2003, leaves an unfortunate odor of suspicion around Boston’s championship clubs.
Many other teams, including the New York Yankees, have reason to suspect that their stars were using performance-enhancing drugs during those seasons, but that doesn’t entirely erase the taint for Boston.
With his dangling dread-locks, baggy pants, and happy-go-lucky grin, Ramirez often came off as a gimlet-eyed innocent. Flaky on the field and in the clubhouse, he was a steel-nerved genius at the plate. But his success as a hitter seemed to obscure, if not entirely mask, a more dangerous kind of innocence, one that led him to ignore good advice and throw away the goodwill of his fans.
Does dumbness alone excuse repeated cheating? No. In baseball, as in court, people are presumed to have a moral compass that guides them, even if they lack common sense or book smarts. In 2004, Ramirez was a beloved “idiot’’ on a team of like-minded players. Sometimes, at bat, he seemed nothing less than an idiot savant. Now it turns out he was just plain stupid — and worse: disrespectful of the game. He degraded himself, and some of his shame clings to the Red Sox.