Back to baseball

1) Manny Ramirez retired suddenly yesterday, which is really rather shocking. Word is he failed a PED test and decided to quit while he was ahead (or rather, while he was behind but not by too much) rather than wait out a 100-game suspension. It’s tough to blame him for that, but… who fails a drug test twice after baseball’s made a conscious and very public effort to remove steroids from the game?

The answer to that one is easy: Manny Ramirez, that’s who. If you’d gone back in time to when the current drug policy was first instituted and asked me which major star was most likely to earn a 100-game suspension, it wouldn’t have taken me too long at all to come up with Manny’s name. When drug testing was first announced I predicted that roiders would go one of two ways: They would either quit roiding, and their drug use would either be invisible or would cause their production to fall off so much that they would no longer be able to hang on to a major league roster; or they would find new, advanced steroids that beat the tests and use those instead. Only Manny Ramirez is arrogant and unconcerned enough to keep right on using old, tested-for steroids.

It’s kind of a shame that he did so, too, because it almost certainly kills his Hall of Fame chances for the foreseeable future. Which is a tragedy, because cheater or no he’s probably the second-best right-handed hitter I ever saw, behind Albert Pujols. One of the problems I’ve always had with the argument by steroids zealots that guys like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire are steroids creations is: “If these guys’ accomplishments are purely the result of drug use, why hasn’t anyone else done what they’ve done?” You can’t pop a pill or inject a needle and transform yourself into a Hall of Famer, I’m sorry. These guys are legitimate historic talents, and the Hall is lessened without them. Steroids maybe pad their statistics a little, but they don’t create them wholesale — and Bonds isn’t just a little bit better than his peers, he’s miles better. Leagues better. Orders of magnitude better. Even if you let some of the air out his numbers, they’re still slam-dunk, no-doubt-about-it, inner circle Hall of Fame numbers.

2) Braves beat the Phillies last night. Pretty handily, too — it’s entirely possible that the Phillies could have been shut out last night, because they scored all their runs in the first two innings on the cheapest, flukiest, most random hits you can imagine, then proceeded to be blanked by Tim Hudson, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel.

I could watch Kimbrel pitch all day, just as an aside. When he’s on his game, he could give the batters ten strikes and they still wouldn’t have a chance. That last slider he froze Pete Orr with looked like a goddamn magic trick.

More surprising, though, was that the Braves found their bats at long last, apparently having left them back in Orlando. And against Cliff Lee, no less! No matter how much baseball I watch, I can never quite get over the fact that the Braves can look hopeless against nobody pitchers like the ones Milwaukee was throwing out there, only to go out there against a legitimate great and grind him into paste. Lee didn’t really have his A-game — he was leaving his pitches over the plate — but the Braves have been known to scuffle against pitchers’ B-games before.

Today Brandon Beachy goes against Roy Oswalt. Oswalt was unhittable down the stretch last year, but that’s not his true talent level. Moreover, the Braves have hit him well in the past (albeit with mostly different personnel). Of course, now that I’ve said that he’ll throw a complete game shutout and Beachy will get lit up. Maybe I’d better end this post before I jinx them any further.


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