In a surprise announcement Friday afternoon, Manny Ramirez shocked the baseball world by announcing his decision to retire from MLB, effective immediately.

The retirement was announced by MLB via the following statement (courtesy of news services)::

“Major League Baseball recently notified Manny Ramirez of an issue under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” the statement said. “Rather than continue with the process under the Program, Ramirez has informed MLB that he is retiring as an active player. If Ramirez seeks reinstatement in the future, the process under the Drug Program will be completed. MLB will not have any further comment on this matter.”

Although the message is open to interpretation, it seems that Manny has once again tested positive for a banned substance and, rather than face the embarrassment of another suspension, has decided to walk away from the game. 

The real tragedy behind this story is what could have been, for Manny was one of the most colorful characters and best right-handed hitters of his generation. Yet, like many of his generation, his legacy will be forever tarnished by the stain of cheating.

There is no doubt that he would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer if he hadn’t been indicted by performance enhancing drugs. PED’s have ruined his legacy and, in an ironic way, have suddenly ended his career.

He has a .312 career batting average with 1,831 RBIs and 555 homers. Those are historic numbers, yet like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro, he has a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a bust in baseball’s immortal shrine.

This is a subject that Bud Selig and MLB wishes would just go away, yet reminders rear their ugly heads once again. While the Bonds trial nauseatingly keeps the issue in the mainstream, along comes Manny to once again prove why they need a steroid wing in Cooperstown.

It raises the question of how do we know who did it and who did not? Just because a player wasn’t caught doesn’t necessarily mean that he was clean. 

Yet there will be players who do get into the HOF despite having used PED’s. For every Roger Clemens, there is that player that somehow escaped detection and enters the hallowed halls anyway.

One interesting question is whether or not the stain of PED’s will ever fade enough to someday allow the forgiveness necessary to allow these players into the Hall.

It may happen, but it may take a long time. Meanwhile, it’s a stain on an otherwise stellar resume.

For Manny, that stain may be indelible.

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