Thursday, May 7, 2009

Manny being Manny ... and ruining fantasy teams

Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance doesn't just hurt the Dodgers. It's a harsh blow for any fantasy team built around the slugging enigma.

Manny's been on a tear ever since donning Dodger Blue late last year, and he was off to a stellar start in 2009: .348, six homers, 20 RBIs. Those numbers won't easily be replaced; L.A. will probably turn to Juan Pierre as their everyday left fielder, which is the equivalent of canceling American Idol and running some old Bosom Buddies reruns in its place.

Manny's absence from the lineup also creates problems for some other Dodgers hitters, particularly young Andre Ethier (.317, six homers, 27 homers), who's been enjoying a breakout season batting third in front of Ramirez. Think he'll be seeing as many good pitches without Man-Ram on deck? You might expect a bit of a drop in his stats, at least until around the All-Star break when Manny is due to return.

And speaking of bosom buddies, now that the door has been opened to possible steroid use by Ramirez, it's only natural for the spotlight to drift onto Manny's days in Boston, when he and pal David Ortiz were terrorizing the league. (ESPN columnist and resident BoSox diehard Bill Simmons has an excellent take on it.) If this wasn't simply a "personal health issue" or doctor's mistake but rather the deliberate use of a substance often associated with steroid use, one could reasonably assume this isn't the first time Ramirez has used performance enhancing drugs, and thus we could also figure some of his former Red Sox teammates have juiced in the past.

Might that explain the stunning and precipitous drop in Ortiz's stats the past few years? We may never know, and perhaps it's unfair to associate Big Papi with cheating, but I'd definitely be concerned with Ortiz's decline and be looking to deal him if possible, especially in light of Thursday's bombshell.

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