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Bud Selig remains quiet about Manny Ramirez

BILL SHAIKIN / ON BASEBALL

The commissioner's silence doesn't quiet the storm surrounding steroids and baseball.

May 13, 2009|BILL SHAIKIN | ON BASEBALL

Bud Selig has gone into hiding.

These should be days of triumph for the beleaguered commissioner. He ought to wave a Mannywood T-shirt before the nags in Congress: Look, boys, we caught a big fish!

Instead, these are days of silence. In the six days since Manny Ramirez was suspended for violating baseball's drug policy, we have heard not a word from Selig.

There is no joy, not to the players and teams with which Ramirez performed, their accomplishments suddenly subject to suspicion. There is no glory for Selig, only the depressing realization that the past might haunt him and the future might taunt him.

Selig pounced on Alex Rodriguez this spring, responding to the revelation that Rodriguez had failed a 2003 drug test with a statement that said he had "shamed the game" and bragging about advances in baseball's testing program.

Yet Selig has said nothing about Ramirez, about the case that best validates those advances, about the extraordinary investigation that supported the initial test.

When Selig pointed the finger at Rodriguez, critics pointed right back at him, as the commissioner of the steroids era. Selig is enormously sensitive about his legacy, and friends say he won't volunteer to take another hit by speaking up about Ramirez.

That leaves the men in uniform to take the hits, warranted or otherwise. The Boston Red Sox rolled into town Tuesday, the team for which Ramirez starred en route to World Series championships in 2004 and 2007.

Dustin Pedroia, the second baseman on the 2007 team, dismissed the suggestion that Boston fans might now wonder whether to believe in that team.

"That's ridiculous," Pedroia said. "We would have won the championship with or without him. He had some big swings, and his presence brought a lot to the table, but it takes 25 guys to win a championship."

Terry Francona, the Boston manager since 2004, tersely rejected the notion that his championships might somehow be tainted.

"Why?" Francona said.

Ramirez tested positive for a banned substance.

"When did he test?" Francona said.

This spring.

"You're just digging up stuff now," he said. "I'm proud of our guys."

It's not just Selig with a legacy at stake, or Francona, or the Red Sox. It's just about everyone in baseball, including the team across the field from the Red Sox on Tuesday.

The Angels won the 2002 World Series with three players -- Brendan Donnelly, Scott Schoeneweis and Series MVP Troy Glaus -- since tied to the use of steroids in subsequent years.

"It doesn't diminish anything we accomplished," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said.

And, really, how can it? The Angels beat Barry Bonds in the World Series.

Joe Torre got to the playoffs with Roger Clemens, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez in New York, with Ramirez in L.A. Is he a tainted manager?

The Mitchell Report identified 86 players linked to performance-enhancing substances. George Mitchell himself said he suspected there were many more.

We'll never know which players were clean. We'll never know which teams were clean.

Lou Merloni, the onetime Boston infielder, said last week that he sat in a Red Sox team meeting one spring in which a doctor discussed the proper use of steroids. The Red Sox denied it.

But you never know. In the Mitchell Report, former Angels General Manager Bill Stoneman recalled a seminar at baseball's winter meetings in 1998, in which two doctors asserted to team executives and physicians that "there was no evidence that anabolic steroids were bad for you."

We cannot -- and should not -- say the Angels of 2002 were illegitimate champions, or the Red Sox of 2004 and 2007. We don't know what they might have been taking, or what their opponents might have been taking, or what half the league might have been taking.

"You'd have to go back to the beginning of time in baseball and evaluate everything," Boston catcher Jason Varitek said.

Never mind the asterisks.

Let us look to the future, innocence lost, vigilance in its place.

Let us temper our righteousness with the realization that revelations from the past might flare at any time, that the use of performance-enhancing substances can be controlled but not eradicated so long as there are performances to be enhanced.

"It's never going to go away," the Angels' Chone Figgins said. "We can help with the testing, and the testing is going to get better. But, as far as going away, it's never going to happen."

Selig never can stand in front of a stadium, basking in applause beneath a banner that says, "Mission Accomplished." On this issue, he'll have to be content with the sounds of silence.

--

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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