Players express sadness, concern

Players express sadness, concern

As news of the 50-game suspension of Manny Ramirez for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy spread throughout big league clubhouses, reaction among peers was quick, ranging from accusatory to skeptical to even indifferent.

Tampa Bay's Carlos Pena succinctly captured the game's mood:

"It's devastating. I'm a baseball fan, and it saddens me."

Manny Ramirez

In Kansas City, Mark Teahen, the Royals' player representative, called "definitely disappointing" the suspension of "one of the faces of the game."

"Shocked," Teahen said, summarizing his reaction. "It's tough to keep hearing that the best players in the game are not following the rules of the game. I don't know when the test was taken or anything but it definitely casts a cloud over [the Dodgers'] start and Ramirez's career.

On the other side of Missouri, in St. Louis, slugger Albert Pujols had a different perspective. "I don't want to talk about what happened with Manny," he said. "This is the St. Louis Cardinals, not the Dodgers."

In the view of Colorado manager Clint Hurdle, the involvement of Ramirez negates any progress the sport had made in trying to distance itself from the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

"Any distance we might have picked up, we lost as an industry. That's the sad part of it," Hurdle said. "For whatever reasons there are individuals that aren't getting it.

"So many guys who are clean continue to get thrown under a black cloud by those who are involved. We're in an industry where people are still looking for other means to heighten their game."

On how the long-term loss of one of the Dodgers' key players alters the dynamic in the National League West, Hurdle said, "Obviously he's a main cog and he's not going to be in play for a while. We'll see how that ballclub handles that adversity. Can they win without him? I'm sure they feel confident that they can. They're a different team without him in the lineup."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn't think the suspension is "going to change the dynamics" much or make erasing the Dodgers' early 6 1/2-game lead significantly easier for their pursuers.

"I think with the club that they have, they're still the team to beat," Bochy said. "They have depth throughout the lineup. Are they as good without Manny? No."

As for his old teammates in Boston, David Ortiz -- Ramirez's good friend -- was saddened by the news.

"Of course," he said. "You don't want nobody to be involved in situations like this."

Added Mike Lowell: "I think it's just another black eye for the game. I understand that it's hard for Major League Baseball to try to glorify guys who they think are doing it right, because we don't know."

Around the rest of baseball, it was simply tough to see another dark cloud hanging over the sport.

Yankees captain Derek Jeter said, "It seems like it's a never-ending thing. That's what it seems like as of late. You want to put it behind you, then you have something like this come up."

Rangers outfielder Marlon Byrd sensed the weight of someone with Ramirez's visibility having to be disciplined.

"It doesn't help the baseball world, I know that," Byrd said. "We need our superstars on the field. This is not going to be good for us."

Not everybody was surprised that a player of Ramirez's caliber was suspended for use of banned substances.

"I don't want to sound like I'm coming from some place that I'm not," Astros first baseman Lance Berkman said. "But when people make the game look as easy as some guys do, it doesn't surprise me to learn that they're having a little bit of help."

But some see the silver lining of testing actually working.

"You see that there's no favorites being played," said Padres ace Jake Peavy. "That shows you that baseball is serious about what they're saying and doing. I'm happy that we're heading in the right direction."

Detroit's Brandon Inge concurred with that sentiment and hailed the system as more and more effective.

"I'm happy that baseball has put in a testing policy that you can't beat it, you can't cheat it," said Inge. "There's nothing you can do about it. That's what all the fuss has been about for three or four years, and we've got a good policy, and if you try and beat it you're gonna get busted."

Added Brewers manager Ken Macha: "How many Major Leaguers are there? We've been getting tested. If there are 725 Major Leaguers, one tested positive and 724 were clean."

Texas' Michael Young was among those who voiced concern about the unspecified aspects of Ramirez's case.

"From what I understand, he's saying it was a false positive test for a medication. I'm going to go on that," Young said. "I don't know all the facts or what's been released but it looks like it's similar to the J.C. Romero deal [the Philadelphia reliever who was suspended for 50 games on Jan. 5 for taking banned medication], which a lot of players think is unfair."

On the same subject, Royals pitcher Jamey Wright said, "You're sitting there and looking at a Diet Coke and making sure that thing doesn't have stuff in it. With what's happened over the last few years, it's your responsibility to make sure that what you're putting in your body, you're not at risk. Romero did that and it came up with something in it."

However, the Mariners' Russell Branyan couldn't absolve Ramirez based on his explanation that his suspension was triggered by medication prescribed by a physician.

"I think they're pretty clear about it," Branyan said of MLB's guidelines on banned substances. "We get the list every year."

Added Michael Cuddyer, the Twins' player representative: "We're trying to clean the game up. You take something that you're not sure of -- that's your fault. We've been warned."

Whatever people in baseball had to say about Ramirez and his predicament Thursday, most can agree with Tony Clark's assessment.

"Our game has been run through the mud with a number of difficult accusations and actual situations such that when you have someone like Manny finding himself in a situation like this, it's disheartening," the D-backs veteran said.

"Regardless of the situation, regardless of what the supplement or substance may be, simply having him in this situation is difficult on the game."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.