“This taints this generation forever. It’s cheating.” BANGOR COACH JEFF FAHEY
Manny Ramirez’s 50-game suspension for the use of a performance-enhancing drug surprised local baseball coaches, although Bangor High School’s Jeff Fahey and Hampden Academy’s McLean Poulin said nothing surprises them anymore.
The majority of coaches said Ramirez’s suspension will and should keep him out of the Baseball Hall of Fame, but they don’t feel Boston’s World Series championships in 2004 and 2007 should be tainted by Ramirez’s admission of guilt for using HCG (human chorionic gonadtropin).
“It’s such a sad and tragic thing,” said Dan Kane, former standout hitter at the University of Maine and the coach at Blue Hill’s George Stevens Academy. “Guys like A-Rod [New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez] and Manny have such an incredible gift. To tarnish it the way they have is just awful.”
Rodriguez has admitted using performance-enhancing drugs.
“I’m skeptical of everybody now in the major leagues. I’m a little surprised about Manny,” said Old Town coach Dave Utterback. “Everyone talked about his work ethic and how pure he always was… the off-season training he did.”
Lee Academy coach Randy Harris and HA’s Poulin said Ramirez didn’t exhibit the dramatic physical enhancement that goes with the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
“I was surprised. He isn’t an overwhelming physical specimen,” said Harris.
“Look at Barry Bonds. When he first came into the league, he was real skinny. Look at him now. There’s a huge difference,” said Poulin. “You don’t see that much of a difference in Manny. He’s a little bigger but nothing drastic.”
Fahey pointed out that a “lot of superstars are getting caught” and he expects other big-name players to also be suspended.
“Isn’t there another 200-plus names on a list [of drug abusers]? Initially, hitters did this. Pitchers followed because they wanted to keep up with the hitters. They may say everybody was doing it but that’s not an excuse,” he said.
“This taints this generation forever. It’s cheating,” said Fahey. “That’s the way I look at it.”
Poulin said the fact Ramirez isn’t challenging his suspension tells him Ramirez “knew something.
“How dumb can you be nowadays? You know you’re going to get tested,” said Poulin.
Former University of Maine baseball captain Mike Coutts, the head coach at Portland’s Deering High School and owner of the Frozen Ropes baseball-softball training center in South Portland, said it didn’t come as a shock to him.
“Everybody makes excuses for him: it’s Manny being Manny. He’s obviously a selfish guy. He’s all about him. Unfortunately, some people may say the Red Sox World Series [in 2004 and 2007] are tainted but you can’t loop all the Red Sox in with Manny,” said Coutts.
University of Maine baseball coach Steve Trimper said suspensions to high-profile athletes like Ramirez for substance abuse “sets a bad image.”
“Kids watch baseball. I work baseball camps and 10-year-olds know what steroids are nowadays. When I was that age, I had no idea what they were,” said Trimper. “There’s a wide variety of this stuff and players get training people to tell them what will work for them.
“It’s sad. It makes my job, the job of the high school coach and the job of the Little League coach tougher,” added Trimper. “It will eventually filter down to younger kids.”
As for the Hall of Fame, Utterback said Manny shouldn’t be voted in.
“Anybody who has tainted numbers like Bonds and these guys should be excluded from special awards,” said Utterback.
“If you cheated, you shouldn’t be allowed in,” said Coutts. “[Shoeless] Joe Jackson didn’t cheat, but he didn’t get in because of the Black Sox scandal. Pete Rose didn’t get in [for gambling]. Purists thought he cheated the game.”
“Steroids are such a negative thing. I definitely think this should keep him out,” said Kane.
Harris said Ramirez already had some obstacles to overcome to earn a berth in the Hall of Fame before his suspension.
“This [suspension] certainly doesn’t help. But to the diehard old-timers, the fact he doesn’t run out ground balls and doesn’t play as hard as he can won’t help him either,” said Harris.
Fahey said because of the rampant use of steroids, Hall of Fame voters should decide to either “let them [substance abusers] all in or keep them all out. And I think you should keep them all out.”
But Poulin said there were plenty of hitters who benefited from the ‘juice ball era’ when the baseball was lively and homers were plentiful and some of those hitters helped their Hall of Fame chances.
Most of the coaches feel that the Red Sox championships shouldn’t be tarnished because of Ramirez’s suspension because steroid abuse has been so prevalent.
“If it taints the Red Sox, it should taint everybody who has won a World Series the last 20 years,” said Fahey. “A lot of championships will be tainted.”
“Manny is just one guy out of twenty-something on those teams,” said Utterback. “It shouldn’t taint them unless they find out a larger number of players used them.”
“It’s sad. It makes my job, the job of the high school coach and the job of the Little League coach tougher.” MAINE COACH STEVE TRIMPER