Big League Stew - MLB

It seems only fitting: Manny Ramirez(notes) played much of his career under a cloud of controversy. Now he's ending it in the exact same fashion.

In an unexpected announcement on Friday afternoon, Major League Baseball said that Ramirez is electing to retire from the 0-6 Tampa Bay Rays less than a week into the season rather than address a drug "issue" raised by the league.

MLB won't identify the issue, but Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that it's a drug test that Ramirez failed during spring training. Ramirez also failed a drug test in 2009 and served a 50-game suspension while with the Los Angeles Dodgers. .

Here's more from the MLB Press Release:

"Major League Baseball recently notified Manny Ramirez of an issue under Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. 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."

Ramirez played just five games for the Rays this season, going 1-for-16 with four strikeouts and getting booed by the Tropicana Field crowd on Tuesday night. He missed Thursday's game against the Chicago White Sox after Joe Maddon said the 38-year-old slugger was attending to "a personal matter." His roster spot will be filled by Casey Kotchman(notes), who was just called up from the minors. It's obviously a big blow for the Rays, who signed Ramirez to a one-year, $2 million contract for 2011 and were hoping he'd pick up some of the offense lost when Carl Crawford(notes) and Carlos Pena skipped town.

"We are obviously surprised and disappointed by this news," the Rays said in a statement. "We will have no further comment ... our fans and organization will carry on."

Ramirez, meanwhile, will enter retirement with a tarred reputation despite a career that saw him hit 555 home runs and 1,831 RBI while recording a .312/.411/.585 career slash line over 19 seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, White Sox and Rays.

For all his talent, Ramirez could never steer clear of controversy or play the game under its rules. It's those inabilities that put his Hall of Fame chances into severe jeopardy.

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