This was an excellent, very entertaining debate that I’m hoping the huge groups of folks who saw it also enjoyed.
The winner of the Manny Ramirez All-Star Debate is…
The intentionally public penalty for steroid use in baseball is clear. A first positive test garners a 50-game suspension without pay, a second is 100-games, and a third violation is a lifetime ban. While we can also debate that these are weak punishments, they are significantly better that what they were before they were changed in November 2005.
This was the first time Manny Ramirez has been caught with his hand in the steroids jar (ouch… needles…). Major League Baseball and the Players Association agreed on these rules, and the suspension has been carried out, due to be fully served before the 2009 All-Star game takes place. Therefore he has, by rule, a legitimate right to play in that game. More specifically, it explicitly states in the collective bargaining agreement that the commissioner’s office cannot prevent a player who was voted in by the fans from playing in the game. Here’s the actual language:
1. For purposes of this Section 8, a “game” shall include all championship season games, the All-Star Game and post-season games in which the Player would have been eligible to play, but shall not include spring training games. For a Player whose contract has been assigned to the Minor Leagues, a “game” shall include all Minor League regular season games for which he would have been eligible to play. A Player shall be deemed to have been eligible to play in the All-Star Game if he was elected or selected to play; the Commissioner’s Office shall not exclude a Player from eligibility for election or selection because he is suspended under the Program.”
Ultimately, Loyal Homer is not right in thinking that Bud Selig has the authority to make a public decree on this and prohibit Manny from playing in the game. While keeping Manny away may appear to be the “right” decision, it would be unwise because it creates long-term PR and Union problems for MLB.
For Bud Selig to simply make up a new rule would also compromise the very thing he has always pined for – fan approval. Selig introduced interleague play and has attempted to give the All-Star game meaning for the fans by determining home field advantage for the World Series (I’ll bet the NL hopes he gets voted in!). Whether these moves achieved their purpose is irrelevant (I think interleague play has both in fan approval and gate revenue) because part of the motivation for these moves was fan approval. It’s Selig’s historical approach to key issues impacting MLB that fueled Loyal Homer’s well-reasoned argument.
However, the wiser, long-term solution (that seemingly escapes Selig at times) is to use backchannels to pressure Manny to bow out if he’s voted in, or enact a rule starting in 2010 that prohibits players who have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs from competing in the All-Star game in the year they tested positive.
Now, there was a bit of hyperbole in this debate. Bleacher Fan, no offense to Manny Ramirez, but, I really struggle trying to get a vision of him sitting at a desk in a dimly lit room, huddled next to a lamp with his thick contract, brushing dreads out of his face, hunched, pouring over every minute detail of his contract to make certain his $75k All-Star bonus didn’t get removed by Ned Colletti. I think that’s a stretch.
Great debate. We have a new King of the Hill debate coming up that will be introduced by the Manny debate winner, Bleacher Fan.