Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ramirez blindsided everyone but Jose Canseco,0,5943246.story

Manny Ramirez blindsided everyone but Jose Canseco
Canseco voiced his doubts about Ramirez being drug-free. The admitted drug cheat and eternal conspiracy theorist was right -- again. Maybe next time we'll listen more closely.
May 7, 2009

On a day when we've been blindsided, a day we've found yet another hero has feet of clay, the great sage Jose Canseco strikes again.

Last month I sat in an auditorium at USC and listened to Canseco dish his doubts about baseball, drug use and Manny Ramirez.

There's something fishy about Ramirez, Canseco concluded. Why, he wondered, had it taken so long this off-season to sign one of baseball's premier power hitters? And why was the contract Ramirez signed so short: two years, with an option to leave after one.

In Canseco's mind -- the mind of an admitted drug cheat, the mind of a skeptical conspiracy theorist who happens to have been proven right time and again -- the powers that be in baseball either knew Ramirez was using, or they strongly suspected it. Otherwise, this off-season, someone would have quickly signed a supreme force like No. 99 to a bigger contract, no matter the economy, no matter the "Mannywood" flakiness.

It was a conclusion that came from his gut. Canseco lacked hard proof, but he stated Ramirez "is most likely, 90%" on the list of 104 players that failed a drug test in 2003; a test that was supposed to be anonymous but that snared Alex Rodriguez when his name was leaked.

Right now, with so little information from baseball, the Dodgers, or their left-fielder, we don't know if Ramirez was on that particular list. Could well be. Nobody can argue otherwise. Maybe a positive result in 2003 made baseball's drug testers zero-in on Ramirez. Maybe he was on the list and when he came up dirty more recently, Bud Selig and his crew, long guilty of skirting around the issue of drugs, figured even they'd had enough: The mega-star in baseball's second biggest market must walk the plank.

No matter the exact truth, we have to give Canseco credit. He stuck his head out and was willing to go where so many fear. Not that I needed more proof, but after today, every time Canseco says anything about drugs, I'm listening with serious intent.

He was certainly a lot more candid than Ramirez. Last month, when I went to Ramirez with Canseco's allegation, he sat in front of his locker and gave me a deer-in-the-headlights gaze, a sly laugh, and a calm evasion. "I got no comment," he said. "Nothing to say about that. What can I say? I don't even know the guy."

I wanted to believe. Just as I want to believe all of our great performers. We all do.

But we can't be ignorant anymore. Derek Jeter? Lance Armstrong? Rafael Nadal? Tom Brady? Kobe? All of the hockey players we're seeing in the NHL playoffs, a league that doesn't test for drugs except during the regular season? They might all be clean. Then again, they might not. A year ago, baseball sages were heralding Alex Rodriguez as the last great, unsullied power-hitter of his generation. What a scam. I'm sorry, but nobody is beyond reproach anymore.

It's pretty simple, and pretty sad. If we want to see things straight we need to be like Canseco: willing, like a skeptical conspiracy theorist, to put hard pieces of the puzzle together. Willing to come up with answers we don't want to hear. Willing to hold at least a small level of doubt about everyone.

Either that or we get blindsided, again and again, just like we've been blindsided today.

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