My father, who is Dominican, just like Manny, stopped putting stock in his fellow countrymen in Major League Baseball a long time ago.
First, there was the constant speculation surrounding Sammy Sosa; then there were the denials from Miguel Tejada and the subsequent positive test for steroids; after that came Alex Rodriguez. But even though we know "Manny for being Manny," we never expected this. No one ever expected him to be smart enough to even know how to take a pill.
"It's sad when a kid you used to see on the stoop of 177th and St. Nicholas Avenue, after coming home from practice at George Washington HS, ends up with a story like this," he said.
It's a common fact in baseball that the country that produces more baseball players than any foreign nation is also responsible for close to 60 percent of the players who have tested positive for steroids since 2005. Almost 25 percent of players who have tested positive for PEDs have been Dominican, coming in second to American-born players at 46 percent.
But despite all his antics, Manny kept a special place in the heart of every Dominican for one thing: his honesty. We knew you could depend on him when you needed him at the plate for a major at-bat. We knew he had no filter. We felt whatever came out of Manny's mouth was the truth--that was then, though.
The rainy day in New York City dampened moods all over, but nowhere more than in the mostly Dominican Washington Heights and Inwood sections of Manhattan.
When I got off the 1 train at Dyckman Street, it was the topic of conversation on every milk-crate in front of every bodega. You would hear your "Who cares about steroids?" in broken-English from a few old-timers, but you could see it on everyone's face; no one could defend this one. The same folks who switched from Boston Red and Yankee blue to Dodger blue hats last year. The same folks who grew dreadlocks because they wanted to be just like Manny. The same folks who sat up for three hours and congregated at restaurants and city blocks to see Manny upset the Cubs and almost take his team to the World Series. These are the same people who sat shocked and bewildered by today's events.
Not even the players in the fraternity he belonged to could believe the news report that broke at 10 a.m. Bonds, McGwire, and A-Rod were never given the benefit of the doubt by their own peers. Numerous players came out and criticized all three of them and books have been written on two of them revolving around steroids. There has never even a single player who has questioned Manny Ramirez on steroids. The words "gifted" and "greatest" were always used to describe him.
But can we still use those words?
None of us were ever surprised by the revelation that Alex Rodriguez was using steroids considering his need to please at any cost. But Manny? He didn't care about anyone. He believed more in his swing than Gwynn or Williams did in their prime. Why would he do this? Did he feel the need to fulfill a new contract from the Dodgers that he couldn't, fulfill on his natural ability?
When the news broke this morning, Manny said: "I've taken and passed 15 drug tests over the past five seasons." But what he fails to comprehend is that it only takes one - just one. Ask Clemens, Bonds, and McGwire, who have all had Hall of Fame careers and will mostly likely be excluded after being associated with steroids.
So who's left? The two best players in baseball right now are, arguably, Hanley Ramirez and Albert Pujols. Two possible future Hall of Famers. Two guys who are on top of their respective divisions. What else do they have in common? They're both Dominican.
It seems like all our stars are tainted with the steroids and PED label. But if there's anyone in the sky above, please spare them. Not for us to cheer for, but for Dominican kids across the globe to see that you can succeed without having to cheat.
Claudio E. Cabrera:
Claudio E. Cabrera is a 25 year-old award-winning journalist based out of NY City and of Dominican descent. He has appeared as a guest analyst on NBC and is one of the top young Latino journalists in the country. Author's website Email the author