LOS ANGELES – Manny Ramirez(notes) does not plan on publicly addressing his 50-game suspension for violating baseball's performance-enhancing policy, leaving questions hanging about his elevated testosterone level found in a urine test and the prescription for a female fertility drug that Major League Baseball discovered in his medical records.
"We have a specific suspension handed down by baseball for a specific drug," Scott Boras, Ramirez's agent, told Yahoo! Sports on Monday. "Those are the facts. There isn't much else to say."
Those in the Ramirez camp don't expect him to address the media during the Los Angeles Dodgers' homestand this week. And the outfielder might be mum on the topic forever.
Eventually, of course, he will speak to reporters, perhaps even in a news conference setting. But the way he feels right now, he doesn't ever want to directly discuss the complex and cloudy circumstances that led to MLB's disciplinary action. He might sidestep, stonewall and wisecrack his way through questions the rest of his career, keeping the subject off limits until reporters become weary of asking about it.
Implausible? Perhaps. But avoiding conflict has been a lifelong issue for Ramirez, so it shouldn't be a surprise. The Dodgers were unaware of Ramirez's plan – or lack of one – although owner Frank McCourt earlier insisted Ramirez address his teammates and expects that he eventually explains himself publicly.
"We don't know what he's going to do," said a high-ranking Dodgers official who requested anonymity. "Scott probably doesn't know what he's going to do. Manny probably doesn't even know what he's going to do."
For now it's a waiting game. It took Ramirez a week before he spoke to his teammates in person, addressing them at the team hotel in Miami on Friday. Not much was accomplished.
"It probably would have been more effective had he shown up earlier," manager Joe Torre said. "He walked in and a lot of players were sitting down. It was uncomfortable. He was subdued. He started shaking hands and things got better."
The suspension is already down to 39 games and counting. Boras has had nearly two weeks to plot a course of action with an enigmatic client who isn't accustomed to marching in lockstep with anyone's wishes but his own. Another prominent Boras client, Alex Rodriguez(notes), gave a public apology and an account of his steroid use 10 days after details were reported by Sports Illustrated in February. But Ramirez isn't Rodriguez, and he isn't Roger Clemens(notes) or Barry Bonds(notes), two other iconic ballplayers who have been connected to the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The fact that Ramirez was suspended makes his case different than the others, and sources said it is that distinction that could enable him to insist on keeping details of his alleged drug use private. Ramirez's representatives are drawing other lessons from the ordeals of Rodriguez, Clemens and Bonds as well.
The drug test Rodriguez failed for the steroid primobolan came during MLB's supposedly anonymous survey testing in 2003 and was made public only when someone leaked the result to Sports Illustrated. Rodriguez revealed enough information about his steroid use – that he used them with the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003 and that his cousin procured the drugs in the Dominican Republic – to appease if not fully satisfy the public's curiosity. Ramirez might not be as capable as Rodriguez of engaging in a sober, nuanced discussion of drug use, and besides, it has never been reported that Ramirez tested positive for steroids.
"Why would he admit to breaking the law when there is no hard evidence that he did?" a Dodgers source said. "Nobody does that."
The lesson from observing Clemens is that denying steroid use won't gain Ramirez any sympathy points, either. Clemens has vociferously denied taking steroids and human growth hormone after being accused by his former personal trainer, Brian McNamee. The public has been highly skeptical of Clemens' proclamations of innocence, even though he never tested positive. A federal investigation is underway to determine whether Clemens committed perjury when he denied under oath to Congress that he'd taken performance-enhancing drugs.
Bonds was charged with perjury by a federal grand jury for lying about whether he took steroids about a month after his last game in 2007. He has never played again and never answered questions about the allegations. After he testified before the grand jury in the BALCO case in 2003, the gruff Bonds became a master of deflecting questions on the matter, giving curt or evasive responses whenever it was raised.
Ramirez is no more open with the media than Bonds, but he usually engages in the daily thrust-and-parry with humor, keeping reporters from prying too deeply through superficial exchanges. That approach likely won't work the next time he surfaces in the Dodgers clubhouse. But he might give it a try because it's all he knows.
As Boras pointed out, certain facts speak for themselves. Ramirez can't deny having a testosterone level more than four times higher than normal – his drug test established it to be true. He can't deny having a prescription for the fertility drug HCG that steroid users commonly take to replenish their testosterone after a cycle – the prescription was found in the medical records Ramirez turned over to MLB.
Questions about how and why his testosterone was elevated are the ones he's liable to evade. Sources said Ramirez will contend he has legal reasons not to answer, that a lawsuit against the physician who prescribed the HCG is being considered. HCG was added to baseball's banned-substance list a year ago and the doctor, a source said, believed it was legal because he had an outdated list from MLB. That's also why Ramirez didn't request a therapeutic-use exemption from MLB, a source said.
Could Ramirez explain all this in front of a phalanx of microphones and cameras? Would his account add up or raise more questions? For now he has no plans to find out.
He'll come out of hiding soon enough. The suspension ends July 3 and the Dodgers expect him to work out at Dodger Stadium or at their Arizona spring training complex before then. Sources said he is likely to surface in a low-key setting, either just popping into the clubhouse or holding a small impromptu news conference at Dodger Stadium without giving national media outlets a heads-up to dispatch a cadre of reporters to Los Angeles. He also could elect to grant a one-on-one interview to a reporter with whom he feels comfortable.
Regardless of how he does it, don't expect revelations. Anyone holding their breath waiting for Ramirez to field questions about the suspension, the fertility drug and the logical inference that he took steroids might as well exhale before turning Dodger blue in the face.
"He still has to address the press and at some point he will," Torre said. "When that time comes, he'll have his personality back."
And apparently he's hoping that is enough.
- Scott Boras
- Manny Ramirez