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What the Taint?

Orel Hershiser

On the eve of the return of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ most polarizing, perplexing and productive players, (Check out that assonance… and no readers, (specifically Root) assonance does not mean I’m calling him a mean name.) Mr. Manny Ramirez, on the heels of his well chronicled 50-game suspension, one word is being tossed around that I can no longer ignore: taint.

Now for some, whose minds are unable to climb out of the gutter, please skip the rest of this article and take some time to watch this old video from the Daily Show evaluating the, “Levels of Taint.”

For those of you who are able to proceed toward a more serious discussion on taint, and I want to personally thank both of you who are still reading, let us digress.

The question at hand is very simple: Will the Dodgers’ 2009 season now be tainted because of Manny’s presence on the roster after testing positive for PED’s earlier this year? 

In the interest of full disclosure, I am very much a Los Angeles Dodgers fan. Born and raised in the LA suburbs, with one of my earliest sports memories

Georgia Frontiere: A face Cory never wants to see again.

Georgia Frontiere: A face Cory never wants to see again.

 being Gibson’s 1988 Game 1 home run, I bleed blue during the hot summer SoCal months. I cannot foresee a day in which I will no longer be a Dodger fan (Unless Georgia Frontiere is raised from the dead, purchases the Dodgers, ruins the tea and ships them off to the middle of nowhere. Sorry, where was I again…). So can I reconcile being a fan in spite of the fact that their best player is a caught cheater, especially when for years we have always felt a sense of moral entitlement because the hated ones to the North (the Giants) have had their best player cheating for years? (What about Gagne you say… yeah, we prefer pretending that never happened.).

I for one will not be giving Manny a “standing O” when the lineups are read or when he steps up to take his first AB for that matter. He should not be treated like hero or a savior and I think we need to show him a little tough love for leaving the Dodgers high and dry due to his selfish decisions. However I will be clapping for the guy when he rounds the bases for his first home run. How can I, with a good conscious cheer for this cheater? The same way I cheered for a cheater in my first sports memory in 1988. 

WHAT??????

Yes, that’s right. Not from last year’s 2008, but 1988. Those same Dodgers of Gibson, Hersheiser and Lasorda. Have you since forgotten? I know I get caught up in that Beyond the Glory Episode every time it airs and one particular key point in the season only gets but a two second mention on the show.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane… Game 3, 1988 NLCS L.A. Dodgers vs. New York Mets. In the eighth inning of a cold rainy game, Dodgers’ closer, Jay Howell, was caught with pine tar on his glove and was thrown out and suspended for three games. Howell clearly broke the rules by attempting to cheat and gain an advantage and he was subsequently punished for his actions. He put the Dodgers in a terrible spot and forced them to use Hersheiser in closing situations and re-arrange their bullpen on the fly. But do we really look back any less fondly on the magic that was 1988? Was the season “tainted” because of the choices of one player?

Does this look like the face of a PED user to you? Better scratch that...

Does this look like the face of a PED user to you? Better scratch that...

How do we know that Howell didn’t use his tactic several times throughout the season, pushing the Dodgers into playoff position, or use it again in the World Series to help seal the deal against Oakland? The short answer is that we don’t. But baseball officials levied the proportional punishment to Howell’s actions. These punishments are agreed upon by both the player’s union as well as MLB officials. They are supposed to punish both the player and the team for their actions. 

In the case of Manny Ramirez, the 50-game suspension seems to be ample punishment for the player (A loss of salary, PR, and dignity. Though I guess that assumes Manny ever had dignity.) and for the team (The loss of their best player for almost one-third of the season).

Now people can argue that this punishment was too soft or too severe, but because Manny has served the agreed upon suspension, this then removes the “taint” of the Dodgers season, in the same way that Howell’s suspension did in 1988, or Sosa’s corked bat, or Kenny Rogers’ pine tar in the World Series (oh wait…scrap that last one). 

As a fan of the Dodgers, Manny cannot be applauded or easily forgiven for his stupid actions, but at the same time, he and his team have paid their baseball debt and should be able to go on living free of the clout of taint for the remainder of the season.

Perhaps this is all being viewed through the rose colored lens of a self-professed fanatic.

Or perhaps because of my life long love for the Dodgers, I am the one who is tainted? 

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