In Baseball, Guilt Is Temporary


Coming off a suspension for use of performance enhancing drugs, Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon is having one of the best seasons of his career. Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

There used to be a phrase that parents repeated to their children as a way to instill morality in them: Cheaters never prosper.

Whether the lesson took or not, as the children grew up and whatever naïve thoughts they had in their minds were washed away, reality showed them something different, and at the moment we are seeing that in a grand way in Major League baseball.

It was only last season that Oakland A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon was caught using performance enhancing drugs and suspended during the pennant race. But the A’s didn’t hold it against him. Colon was not only sought out by management to return to the team he was signed to a very rich contract. There’s a message for the youth of America.

Colon, who turned 40 in May, is inexplicably having one of the best seasons of his long career. At 11-3, with a  2.78 earned run average, Colon is seemingly on his way to his finest season since 2005 when he went 21-8 for the Los Angeles Angels. Whatever. It’s hard to look at this as a heart-warming, defying-age, traditional comeback story. In this case, I’m not even sure if Colon ever apologized for his misstep. He probably did, but I just missed it.

Now we have the Texas Rangers giving a third chance to Manny Ramirez. Ramirez is 41 and has been bashing the heck out of the ball in Taiwan. He is a two-time drug-use loser in Major League Baseball’s eyes with more games missed due to suspension than games played over the last couple of years.

It used to be said of Ramirez that he could hit falling out of bed. That meant that he was such a natural he didn’t need to practice or warm up, but could just step into the batter’s box and with a perfect swing send the ball 600 feet into the next area code. Indeed, until he ran afoul of the rules by inviting some kind of blacklisted substances into his body, Ramirez was the epitome of that guy.

Ramirez is a 12-time All-Star with 555 lifetime home runs, 1,831 runs batted in, and a .312 career average. At his finest he was a monster at the plate for years for the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox. By signing Ramirez the Rangers have admitted that the pop lost in their lineup when Josh Hamilton opted for free agency has not been overcome and that they could use some help in nailing down the American League West Division crown.

For the time being Ramirez has been assigned to the Rangers’ AAA Round Rock Express affiliate to determine whether he can really still hit the way he used to hit. He may not make it back onto a Major League roster and this is surely his last chance. But if Ramirez does hit well the Rangers will promote him to the big-league roster.

Texas’ chief division rival, of course, is Oakland. I can picture an uneasy scenario closing out the regular season. The Rangers and A’s are tied at the end of September. The game is tied between the Rangers and the A’s. Bartolo Colon is on the mound for Oakland. Manny Ramirez is at the plate. Colon strikes out Manny and the A’s win the division. Manny takes Bartolo deep and the Rangers win the division.

Whether it’s the K or the four-bagger, fans will cheer and none will care about the irony and none will care how their team got it done.