If you take Manny Ramirez's case at face value, then he's a likely a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Simply put, he's one of the best right-handed hitters in the annals of the game. Across parts of 19 big-league seasons -- 16 of which came for the Indians and Red Sox -- Ramirez put up some staggering numbers. He batted .312/.411/.585 for his career, which spanned 2,302 games and almost 10,000 plate appearances. That slash line comes to anof 154, which ranks 26th all-time. He tallied more than 2,500 hits; 555 home runs; 547 doubles; 1,329 walks; 1,544 runs scored; 1,831 RBI; and 4,826 total bases. Yes, Ramirez was a liability with the glove, but even after you account for his fielding liabilities he owns a career WAR of 69.4. That's good for 73rd all-time among position players and just outside the top 100 all-time once you bring pitchers into the mix.
Beyond all that, Ramirez appeared in 12 All-Star Games, won nine Silver Slugger Awards, and claimed a batting title. Along the way, he won two World Series rings and a World Series MVP award. While he never won a regular-season MVP, he did placed in the top 10 of the balloting for eight straight years.
Summed up for these purposes, Ramirez comfortably qualified for the Hall of Fame. The thing with Manny, though, is that his story encompasses more than just his on-field bestowals -- generationally great though they may be. Here's why that's the case:
- In 2009, Ramirez was suspended for 50 games after his urine sample from spring training showed elevated levels of testosterone and after medical documentation showed he had taken a banned fertility drug.
- In 2011, Ramirez was suspended for a second time -- this time for 100 games -- when he again tested positive for a banned substance.
Rather than serve that 100-game suspension, Ramirez opted to retire from baseball at the age of 39 and after having made more than $200 million in salary over the course of his career. Throw in his acrimonious departure from Boston, and Ramirez's reputation was duly tarnished. That was still the case when the BBWAA took up his Hall of Fame case starting in 2017. In order to elected to the Hall, a candidate must be named on at least 75 percent of ballots. Here's how Ramirez's two years on the ballot have gone:
- 2017: 23.8 percent of ballots
- 2018: 22.0 percent of ballots
So not only did Ramirez start off with a low tally, he also lost ground in his second year on the ballot. That doesn't bode well moving forward. Barry Bonds -- another qualified slugger linked to PED use -- also lost votes in his second year on the ballot. However, Bonds started off with a ballot percentage of 36.2 in his first year -- i.e., much higher than Ramirez did. That reflects a couple of things: one, Bonds was better than Ramirez, and two, unlike Ramirez Bonds never tested positive for a banned substance.
Bonds in his fifth year on the ballot got over the 50 percent hub and picked up some additional support in his sixth year. A candidate has 10 years on the BBWAA ballot, so Bonds may be looking at a photo finish when it comes to getting in via that traditional route. Even if Ramirez achieves a similar trajectory, he's not going to make it in that 10-year window. He'd have to up Bonds' rate of gains -- remember, he's starting from farther back -- despite not being as good and despite having demonstrably broken MLB rules. That's highly unlikely to happen.
Perhaps one day a veterans' committee will take up Ramirez's case and put more emphasis on his numbers rather than his misdeeds, but that's not going to happen for a long time.