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BILL PLASCHKE

In a state of suspended disbelief over Manny Ramirez

From the top (owner Frank McCourt) down, the Dodgers have treated their star left fielder with kid gloves during his drug suspension. The team's fans deserve better.

May 31, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

The actions have been goofy. The approach has been casual. The accountability has been zilch.

I'm not talking about Manny Ramirez.

I'm talking about the Dodgers.

In the wake of the May 7 juice bust, I didn't expect much from Ramirez, but the fans and the community should expect much more from the Dodgers, who are acting more like enablers than enforcers.

Since being suspended for 50 games for being a drug cheat, Ramirez has been allowed to maintain his lavish lifestyle as a truth cheat.

He has not yet explained himself to the fans, nor is he being pressed to set a date for such an explanation.

He has been told by owner Frank McCourt that when he does address the fans, he doesn't need to tell the entire truth, only the parts that make him comfortable.

He has remained on the All-Star ballot, collecting enough votes to give him a legitimate chance to be in the starting lineup, a sickening notion that McCourt would not condemn.

While some organizations would employ tough love, the Dodgers have showered Ramirez with much love, almost painting him as the victim while those who dare criticize him are the criminals.

Poor Manny needs some time to think. Sad Manny just isn't ready to explain. Embarrassed Manny has been punished enough.

Why won't the Dodgers stand up for the real victims here?

Where is their public anti-steroid campaign that focuses on the drugs' effects on today's youth? Wouldn't this be a perfect opportunity to launch one?

Where is the respect for the hundreds of thousands of fans who bought tickets for games in which Ramirez is not playing? By continually deferring to Ramirez, the Dodgers continually insult those fans.

And why won't somebody, anybody, trumpet the fact that without Ramirez, they have still won 13 of 22 games while increasing their lead in the National League West. Just once, I'd like a team official to say, "You know, we're a pretty good team without him."

Ramirez is not gone because he is injured, or ill, or fighting for our country in Iraq. He is gone because he is a cheater, period.

Yet the Dodgers insist on treating him as if his absence was something necessary or noble, and one can only guess why.

Are they scared of Ramirez, who can opt out of his contract after this season? Or are they scared of the fans who love him so much?

It seems to be both. Earlier this week, McCourt typified the Dodgers' coddling attitude when he was asked about Ramirez's potential, as the fourth-leading vote-getter among National League outfielders so far, to appear in this year's All-Star game.

"'Do I want to see him?" he told reporters. "Sure, if he gets voted in. It'd be a great honor."

Me, I think it would be a great disgrace, and I could not believe that the community-minded McCourt would think otherwise.

A day after those quotes, Dodgers Manager Joe Torre disagreed with McCourt by saying he didn't think Ramirez belonged in the game

On Saturday, I phoned McCourt for an explanation.

"I was giving the viewpoint from the fan's perspective because the game belongs to them," McCourt said. "I wasn't giving my personal viewpoint."

And so your personal viewpoint is . . . ?

"It mirror's Joe's view . . . I think that it's probably not appropriate," he said.

So why not call Commissioner Bud Selig and demand that Ramirez be taken off the ballot?

"The fans vote on the team, it's not my place to take the game away from them," he said.

You remember my column about all the nasty e-mail I received from Dodgers fans who support Ramirez? It sounds like McCourt received much of that same e-mail, and is unwilling to publicly challenge his customers' love.

Fine, I will. If you vote for Manny Ramirez, you are endorsing his cheating. And if Ramirez does somehow become one of the top three vote-getters, then Selig needs to use his "best interest" clause and revoke his candidacy.

I then asked McCourt about Ramirez's failure to address the fans, and McCourt assured me that he would do so, but said that it is only the guys like me who want all the gory details.

"I know the media wants all the information, but to me, for Manny, it's a personal decision," McCourt said. "It's all about how much detail Manny is comfortable with."

That's not being tough enough. That's not being honest enough.

The fans who are paying to trust Ramirez are owed details about how that trust was violated. The game he plays is also owed details so it can help restore that trust.

To refuse to insist on Ramirez's complete transparency implies that the Dodgers also have something to hide.

McCourt must realize that in protecting his star, he is turning his back on his town, and the blindly loyal Dodgers fans deserve better.

Being cheated once this season is enough.

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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