BOSTON -- Though Manny Ramirez was traded by the Red Sox on July 31, 2008, he once again became a hot-button topic at Fenway Park on Thursday after Major League Baseball announced that the enigmatic slugger had been suspended 50 games for use of performance-enhancing drugs.
There was a mixture of surprise and disappointment from the Red Sox's clubhouse, which Ramirez inhabited for seven and a half seasons.
"Yeah, obviously playing with him for a couple of years, that's the furthest thing you think of," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "It's definitely unfortunate for him. But I think, for all of us, it's really not our issue anymore. Manny has moved on to L.A. It's unfortunate for him. Obviously he's one of the greatest right-handed hitters ever. It's just tough to look up there as a fan of the game, just like anybody else, to see a superstar like that go through something like this."
Pedroia, who trained with Ramirez at the Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz., prior to the 2008 season, saw how hard the slugger worked to get in shape, which made Thursday's news even more of a stunner.
"Obviously he knows how to get into shape, he knows how to take care of his body and stuff like that, so that's obviously surprising," Pedroia said. "I don't really know. I'm not familiar what happened, or know all the details. The only thing I know is I played with him a couple of years and he worked hard. I didn't suspect this stuff."
There were many questions from media members of whether Ramirez's sudden association with performance-enhancing drugs could tarnish the World Series championships that the Sox won in 2004 and '07.
"You can't take back world championships -- no," said Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon.
"Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don't feel our '07 season was tainted," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, who joined the team in 2006. "This is still a 25-man team. I think it still remains to be seen about what happened in '07. Manny is going to be questioned a lot. I actually prefer talking about today's game and our next series. Manny is on another team right now. I think it would be a lot more [relevant] if he was on our team and affected us, but it really doesn't."
At first, David Ortiz, Boston's typically gregarious slugger, didn't want to talk about the news regarding his former teammate and good friend.
"I play for Boston," Ortiz said. "Manny plays for L.A.; go and ask him."
However, Ortiz then came back to his locker and spoke for a couple of minutes.
Ortiz wonders if Ramirez knowingly took a banned substance.
"It's a little confusing from what I've seen, because there's guys out there taking things that sometimes you can buy it over the counter -- sometimes it's banned, sometimes it's not on the list," Ortiz said. "I don't know. ... You definitely got to be careful, man."
When it comes to Ortiz's own body, he says that he is mindful of what he is taking.
"I try not to buy anything," Ortiz said. "I pretty much try to use what the trainer has here. If I fail [a test] over that [stuff], what can I say, but it's just crazy. You got to be careful."
"Obviously guys are careful," Pedroia said. "I take Centrum multivitamins every day. That's it. I think the careful route is the best, so you don't have to worry about anything like that."
Most Red Sox players made it clear that they find that the banned-substance list issued by Major League Baseball to each player should prevent anyone from unknowingly failing a test.
"No, it's really easy," Papelbon said. "Actually, they make a pamphlet for you in Spanish and in English, and you just read it and know what not to take. It's really not that hard."
And if there is any ambiguity, said Red Sox left fielder Jason Bay, it is easy to solve.
"I don't know the whole story, but I think everyone in here, before taking something that may or may not [be on the list], whether it be a 50 percent chance or a one percent chance you could test positive, you have to look into it," said Bay, who was traded to Boston for Ramirez.
"If you have a product that is not certified, you can send it to Major League Baseball and they will test it for you and let you know if it's safe. There's a lot of avenues you can take, and I think more guys are realizing that."
Independent of their relationship or past history with Ramirez, several players were saddened by the game of baseball taking another hit.
"I think it's just another black eye for the game," said Lowell. "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. That's almost where we've gotten to. I think that's very unfortunate. We keep finding these guys, and the message is terrible, especially for young kids who aspire to be Major League Baseball players."
Lowell is incredulous that any player could test positive in light of what has happened in recent years.
"I don't put [anything] in my body," Lowell said. "I don't understand why now anyone would even come close to taking anything that could remotely result in a positive test. I don't know. In the past, if guys did it, they had the crutch that they weren't testing. Nowadays, I don't really understand it. Maybe there's some secret society meeting that maybe I wasn't invited to. I don't get it. I don't. I wish I could, but I don't."
As an organization, the Red Sox chose not to comment on the matter, citing confidentiality issues. Instead, the club released a statement.
"In accordance with the Basic Agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players' Association, the club is prohibited from commenting on the specifics or the facts of the matter related to Manny Ramirez. Major League Baseball keeps these matters confidential, and as such we do not know any more than what was released by the league. We staunchly support Major League Baseball's drug policy and commend the efforts associated with that program."
Red Sox manager Terry Francona didn't feel it was his place to voice an opinion without having all the facts.
"I'm aware of what has happened today," Francona said. "I've also noticed that you walk by the TV and about the first thing you hear out of everybody is, 'I really don't know the facts.' I get real hesitant on any subject. When I don't know the facts, I don't need to be stating opinions."