Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Manny Being Manny, and the state of Dominican "Beisbol"...
Whatever the reasons floating out there for his abrupt decision, here is why he went out like such a fucking sucker-if he retires now, the substance he tested positive for will never be made public. If he ever decided to come back, then the process re-starts and the results will be out there for all to see.
This way, he can ride into the sunset like the self-absorbed asshole he is without giving anyone an explanation about his steroid use. Because of his prodigious talent he was never forced to grow up and act like an adult. His community has always unequivocally stood behind him, making excuse after excuse for his behavior. To them, he could do no wrong and whatever happened was never his fault.
Why this is needs some explaining, so let us start at the beginning. Let us get a clear understanding of what baseball means in the Dominican Republic-the "love of the game" is a concept sold to the fans, who eat it up like a plate of rice, beans and fried chicken. It means something entirely different for those who are trying to make a living from it, and here is where it gets twisted.
Ramirez didn't have to go through this process because his family emigrated to the states when he was young, and so he was subjected to the much less mercenary US system, where a player can get signed out of high school or college. But Manny never graduated from high school and went straight to the majors with resounding fanfare-Washington Heights had their Dominican baseball hero, the first one of the Dominican diaspora in NYC to make it big.
He was everything his fans wanted to be if they could be a pro baseball player-talented enough to go through life with an entitled, childish, and irresponsible demeanor while the rest of the world sucked his dick, a place in society hermetically sealed from the rules of regular everyday life that didn't apply to him because he was a "pelotero" with money to buy himself whatever he wanted whenever he wanted.
His massive sense of entitlement doesn't allow for contradiction, and not for one second did it ever cross his mind to offer up an explanation to his fans who have supported him throughout all the stupid shit he's said and done over the years. But that's how it is, because steroid use by Dominican baseball players is excused by their fans.
It's just part of the game, especially if one of their own is caught up in a scandal. But that attitude goes farther back than some washed-up player who can't hack it anymore. It starts when many of these players from the Dominican Republic are old enough to join the myriad of baseball academies that dot the landscape of this impoverished third world nation.
Could this be the next "Big Poppi"?
The "busónes" are the street agents who steer the kids to certain baseball academies, and they will travel all over the island looking for talent, ingratiating themselves into the fabric of the kid's poverty-stricken family to gain the trust of the very people they look to exploit.
The Kansas City Royals' Baseball Camp in the DR-
Since the great majority of them don't pan out in the major leagues, the "busónes", like the very players they recruit, look to to hit that big home run by getting a percentage of a prospect's major league signing bonus, which is supposedly negotiated with the player's family years in advance but whose percentage increases depending on the amount of the bonus. So a family whose kid signs for, say, $500,000 US dollars will pay (if they're lucky) about a third of that amount to the "buscón" as his cut.
A Dominican prospect at home, waiting for the call that will change his life-
Tourists observing the game as it's played by Dominican youth-
See, there are no price tags on anything sold in the Dominican Republic. Prices are negotiated not on the intrinsic value of the goods and/or services in question but how much a proprietor believes a client can/should pay. Prices can skyrocket out of control for things like building supplies, vehicles and other items if the seller believes the customer is rich. A uniquely Dominican trait in business goes like this-"If a client has money and they can afford to pay more, they SHOULD pay more".
This bonus money is usually the biggest payday these poor players will ever see in their lives. Ninety-eight out of one hundred Dominican prospects who get signed by major league ball clubs get cut soon after hitting the minor leagues in the states, so that bonus money is usually where it ends for them. This is why baseball is such big business in the Dominican Republic, and why the attitudes towards PED's is what it is for those involved in the procurement of talent.
Why? Here is another cultural quirk that must be addressed. The Dominican Socratic Method of arguing a point goes like this-regardless of what is being discussed, the fact must be established that whatever went wrong is YOUR fault and not theirs. This line of reasoning takes precedent over trying to solve whatever unfortunate occurrence took place. Nothing moves forward unless the "fact" that whatever happened was not their fault is established.
They will counter-argue that he didn't need steroids because he was gifted from an early age. They will casually disregard the importance of being voted into the Hall of Fame and mention how much he was responsible for breaking the Red Sox curse during their championship run in 2004-05. None of this takes into account what Ramirez had been doing since 2003 and probably before then, which encapsulates not only his historic run with the Red Sox but his eventual decline.
Ramirez and Ortiz, when times were good-
Those innocent, childish antics may seem cute for a 13-year old, but they are a bit more dangerous for a grown ass man. But I guess that was just another instance of "Manny being Manny". After batting almost .400 for LA for the rest of the year and almost single-handedly getting them into the playoffs (something people wondered about-why the fuck couldn't he do this in Boston?) he tested positive again the next year, earning a 50-game suspension. And now this.
Manny being Manny in the outfield-
A buffoon in the outfield who more than made up for it at the plate-
Something much more sinister was at work behind the scenes, and knowing Ramirez he will never explain nor apologize. So now he gets jettisoned as just another bum who cheated his way to the top and leaves the game as unrepentant as he came into it. And he leaves the game the same way he played outfield, because he never truly did give a fuck-only when he signed those contracts did he care.
Mario Encarnación, hapless victim of the Dominican baseball/steroid connection-
Mario Encarnación imitating the batting stance of Julio Franco as Miguel Tejada looks on-
Miguel Tejada (far left) at the Oakland A's Dominican facility, 1993.
I'll leave you with a photo of Mario's older sister doing laundry in the home he was raised in. The look on her face and the surroundings makes any caption useless to describe what life is like for these aspiring ballplayers in the Dominican Republic. It is also a sad indictment of the whole meat-grinding apparatus that "Beisbol" has become in this country, which produces big-league ballplayers that many know about, and so many others that don't make it whom everyone forgets (click on the photo to enlarge).