Manny Ramirez has stepped into a lot of history books lately, but Thursday he stepped into the wrong one: Biggest name to be put on ice for 50 games after failing a performance-enhancing drug test since baseball got religion about steroids.
That sort of takes the edge off of the Los Angeles Dodgers' record 13-0 home start, doesn't it?
Baseball never caught up to Barry Bonds. Sammy Sosa disappeared. Mark McGwire melted into a puddle in front of Congress. Alex Rodriguez actually did fail a PED test, but that was before it resulted in suspensions. And baseball never outed him, that information was leaked.
This, this is 100 percent, prime-time, major-league baseball driven. And it does two things:
1. Whatever you've thought of baseball's testing program, Ramirez's suspension Thursday adds credibility to it. Loads. Because this side of A-Rod or, perhaps, Albert Pujols, there is no bigger fish in the game. For baseball to whack an impact player like Manny, Lordy, Lordy. The reverberations will be felt deep into the corners of every clubhouse in the game.
2. It hollows out Ramirez's numbers because, until now, and especially lately after his run last year, all conversation surrounding Ramirez has included the phrase "one of the greatest hitters of all-time." Really? Maybe. If you can get past the new stain.
Somewhere, A-Rod no doubt is smiling, at least a little, in anticipation of his pot being turned down to simmer from full boil.
Over in Mannywood, this blow is devastating to the Dodgers. Barely a month into the season, there already are signs all over the place that this was shaping up to be a special summer. The home start, the best record in baseball, the 6 1/2-game lead over San Francisco in the NL West.
But now, instead of turning the divisional race into a blowout and storming toward their first World Series since 1988, the emergency brake has been yanked on the Dodgers. They'll have to muddle through without Manny for nearly a third of the season. Without an appeal and assuming the suspension begins tonight against Washington, if my math is right, Manny won't be eligible again until July 3.
The glee in Boston already is deafening. Though now we must play the game of "How long has Manny been on the juice?" and you figure that this all didn't just start yesterday. Does it compromise what he did in Fenway (and, consequently, the two World Series the Red Sox won with him)? Does it date back to Cleveland?
All we know for sure is, the game suffered another cataclysmic earthquake on Thursday. Manny, dreadlocks and all, will never be viewed the same again.
And regarding the Dodgers' 13-0 home start: Turns out, that is one heckuva unlucky number, isn't it?