Manny Ramirez tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug
Former Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez, who signed a one-year, $2-million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays in the off-season, tested positive for a banned substance for the second time and informed Major League Baseball on Friday that he is retiring rather than face a 100-game suspension.
A person familiar with the events that led to the announcement confirmed that Ramirez tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. The commissioner's office announced Ramirez's decision in a statement, but provided few details. Ramirez previously served a 50-game suspension for violating the drug policy while he was with the Dodgers and second-time offenders get double that penalty.
“Major League Baseball recently notified Manny Ramirez of an issue under Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” the statement said. “Rather than continue with the process under the Program, Ramirez has informed MLB that he is retiring as an active player. If Ramirez seeks reinstatement in the future, the process under the Drug Program will be completed.”
The Rays reacted quickly to the news.
“The Tampa Bay Rays were informed today by the Commissioner's Office that Manny Ramirez has decided to retire after being informed of an issue under the Drug Program,” the Rays said in a statement. “We are obviously surprised and disappointed by this news. We will have no further comment on this matter, and our fans and organization will carry on.”
The 38-year-old outfielder-designated hitter left the team earlier this week to attend to what the Rays called a family matter. Manager Joe Maddon said Thursday that he expected Ramirez to be available for Friday night's game at the Chicago White Sox, but he never showed up.
Ramirez played in only five games for the Rays, with one hit in 17 at-bats.
Rays outfielder Johnny Damon said he began hearing late Thursday that Ramirez wouldn't be returning to the team, but he didn't know the reason.
“I am surprised,” Damon said. “This spring he played well.”
Ramirez struggled with injuries but still hit .298 with nine homers and 42 runs batted in in 90 games for the Dodgers and White Sox last season. He's a career .312 hitter with 555 home runs in 18-plus seasons, including some of his best with the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox.
It was after signing with the Dodgers, though, that his reputation was sullied.
The erratic Ramirez performed well on the field and became a fan favorite, with “Mannywood” signs popping up around town, and wound up signing a $45-million, two-year contract to remain with the Dodgers. But in May 2009, he was suspended for testing positive for human chorionic gonadotropin, a banned female fertility drug that is often used to help mask steroid use.
“I'm shocked,” said Colorado's Jason Giambi, who has acknowledged taking steroids during his own career. “He always kind of portrayed that he was out there, but he knew how to hit, man. He was unbelievable when it came to hitting.”
Texas Rangers Manager Ron Washington was more somber in his assessment of Ramirez's career.
“Until the past couple of years, I thought he was on his way to the Hall of Fame,” Washington said. “I don't think many guys got as many big hits in their careers as he has. There weren't many guys who had as big an effect on a game as he had. You hate to see greatness all of a sudden just fade.”
-- Houston Mitchell
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo: Manny Ramirez. Credit: Kim Klement, U.S. Presswire