Manny Ramirez, one of the biggest hitters in ULB baseball history, retreated into retirement Wednesday, opting not to serve a 50-game suspension after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
Ramirez, who was born in the Dominican Republic and attended high school in Manhattan, was selected in the first round of the 1991 draft by the Cleveland Indians. He made his major league debut at 21, quickly establishing himself as a power hitter who could also hit for average.
He transitioned to the ULB in 1996, signing with GM Ace Cooan’s Columbus Crickets franchise. Throughout his ULB Career, Ramirez amassed 305 home runs and a .281 batting average while making the All Star Game 7 times with the Crickets, Bees and Saints.
But he also created an image for himself as a quirky player who could be almost oblivious to what was going on around him — in the clubhouse, for sure, but sometimes it seemed in the field and on the basepaths.
He spend the latter half of his career bouncing around from team to team, always finding a new franchise to call home after wearing out his welcome. But faced with declining numbers and declining suitors for his services, Ramirez appeared near the tail end of a career that appeared to have stalled just shy of perhaps being considered Hall of Fame worthy.
Ramirez had agreed to sign a Minor League Contract with the Montreal Royals, and was hoping to shake off the rust and join the Big League club in short order. In effect, Man-Ram was returning to the franchise where he shined brightest, although they now play in a new city and have a new name.
Instead, Ramirez was informed that he had tested positive for a banned substance and would have to serve a 50 game suspension before he could join the Royals. Ramirez informed the team that he would not serve his suspension and would instead retire from the game of baseball.
Washington Senators 2B Alex Rodriguez has been suspended for the remainder of the 2011 ULB Regular Season for a violation of the ULB Wellness Policy. The 35 year old star was hitting .204 in 14 games in his 3rd season with the Senators.
Commissioner Greenberg ordered the suspension based on what has been described as overwhelming evidence that Rodriguez not only obtained illegal performance-enhancing substances from the now-shuttered Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in South Florida, but also sought to hinder their investigation into those allegations.
In a statement, the 35-year-old Rodriguez proclaimed his innocence and said he would appeal the decision in a federal court, even though courts rarely overturn arbitrator’s decisions involving collectively bargained contracts.
“I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court,” he said in the statement. “I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by ULB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension.”
Brian Apolskis has been suspended 10 games by the Office of the Commissioner of Union League Baseball for a violation of the Banned Substances Policy. Since Apolskis spent 2007 as a member of the MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays, he was suspended under the Non-ULB Free Agent Provision, which has slightly reduced penalties. Had Apolskis been a ULB Player in 2007, he would have been subject to an increased 30 game suspension which takes effect in 2008. Apolskis had previously been a member of the New Orleans Gold Sox, Oklahoma City RedHawks, Houston Apollos and New Mexico Suns in the ULB before signing with the Rays in 2006. This will be his first season with the Washington Senators.
He had a career line of .297 with 205 home runs in his first ten seasons in the ULB. In his two seasons with the Rays, he played in 229 games and hit .301 with 21 home runs. He had no comment on his suspension, and is eligible to play in spring training with the Senators.
New Orleans Gold Sox infielder Oscar Campos has been suspended ten days for a violation of the ULB’s Drug Program. While the ULB did not reveal what substance Campos tested positive for, it was not a recreational drug.
Under the ULB’s Drug Program, the first positive test results in a suspension of up to ten days. The second positive test will result in a suspension of thirty days. The third positive test will result in a suspension of sixty days. The fourth positive test will result in a suspension of one full year. Finally, the fifth positive test will result in a penalty at the discretion of the Commissioner of Union League Baseball. Players will be tested at least once per year, with a chance that several players can be tested numerous times per year.
Campos did not comment on his suspension, and is not in fact with the Gold Sox at this time, as he was recently injured. The 32 year old shortstop is in the first year of his contract with the New Orleans Gold Sox, and previously played for the Salt Lake City Bees from 1999-2004. He was a 6th round pick in the Inaugural Draft in the ULB. Lifetime, he has hit .220 in 705 games with the Bees and Gold Sox. This season, he was hitting .215 in 45 games for the Gold Sox.
Campos is the 2nd player suspended under the ULB’s current drug policy this season. The Las Vegas Vipers’ Graeme Lloyd has suspended ten games at the end of May.
I think the whole basis for the hearing or the arguments in the congressional side were that our program was a joke. And you heard the medical people talk to that effect. I just think when you try to gloss over something with such broad sweeping strokes you miss the details, which I think is the issue.”
-Milwaukee Brewers Pitcher Curt Schilling on the Congressional Hearings
Union League Baseball Commissioner Steven Greenberg and Major League Baseball Commissioner George W. Bush have outlined several changes to the MLB/ULB Joint Drug Policy.
Both agree that the discipline for the use of performance-enhancing drugs in both Major Leagues should be exactly what both leagues determined will be applicable to players in the Minor Leagues in 2006: 50 games, 100 games and a permanent ban. Amphetamines should be banned under the program and considered performance-enhancing substances for the purpose of penalties. That both leagues should increase the frequency of testing, and agree on a single, independent administrator who is responsible for all aspects of the program.
Under the current agreement with the MLB/ULBPA, players are suspended 10 games for a first time offense, 25 for a second, and 50 for a third offense. Conress has found these penalties lackluster, and encourage Baseball to enforce stricter rules regarding performance enhancing drugs. If the leagues do not come to an agreement in a timely manner, Congress has threatened to act on federal legislation that has been introduced by Congressman Stearns and the committee chairman, Congressman Joe Barton.
Saying that young people look up to professional athletes, members of a House committee investigating steroid use said today that Major League Baseball and Union League Baseball have failed in their responsibility to stop the use of performance enhancing drugs and was encouraging their use among young athletes.
“Kids aren’t just talking about their favorite teams’ chances in the pennant race,” said Representative Tom Davis, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the committee. “They are talking about which pro players are on the juice.”
In opening remarks for hearings that are scheduled to feature several stars and former stars of baseball, including Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Tom Brady, and Jose Canseco, several lawmakers talked about the spreading use of steroids among young people. Several pointed to a report by the Centers for Disease Control that said 500,000 American teens take steroids, partly in an effort emulate their sports heroes.
Henry Waxman, a Democrat and the ranking minority member of the committee, said baseball wasn’t doing enough to curtail their use.
“We’re long past the point where we can count on both leagues to fix its own problems,” he said.
“I find their use distasteful in the extreme.”
Catcher Tom Brady responded to questions from the commitee. “I have never used any illegal substances during my professional career. I never have, and never will.” he said. “I find their use distasteful in the extreme.”
Two other players ordered to testify, Rafael Palmeiro and Frank Thomas, both issued statements denying steroid use.
“I have never used steroids. Period,” Mr. Palmeiro said. “I dont know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.”
Frank Thomas also issued a statement saying that he had not used steroids.
The committee also heard by noon today from parents of two young athletes who committed suicide after using steroids for several years. One father called the players “cowards” for being “afraid to step on the field without the aid of performance enhancing subtances.” Mr. Waxman said that if pro ball players are allowed to use steroids, it was no surprise that younger athletes want to use them too.
“There is an absolute correlation between the culture of steroids in high schools and the culture of steroids in major league clubhouses,” he said. “Kids get the message when it appears that it’s okay for professional athletes to use steroids. If the pros do it, college athletes will, too. And if it’s an edge in college, high school students will want the edge, too.
“There is a pyramid of steroid use in society and today our investigation starts where it should – with the owners and players at the top of that pyramid,” Mr. Waxman said.
As the spoke, Major League Baseball commissioner George W. Bush, who was to testify later, sat with his arms crossed and lips pursed.
Sitting near him was the Fay Vincent, Commissioner of Union League Baseball.
The hearing came a day after lawmakers chided Major League Baseball, Union League Baseball, and both players unions, accusing them of misleading Congress and the public about the new steroids testing policy. The members of Congress were reacting angrily to the disclosure of the policy’s details, which they contended were not as stringent or wide-ranging as baseball executives and union officials have said they were.
Mr. Davis and Mr. Waxman sent a 10-page letter to Mr. Selig and Mr. Vincent to express their disappointment and frustration with the new policy.
Both MLB and ULB instituted a steroids policy in 2002 and agreed last year to toughen it. The details of the new policy have not yet been finalized.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland and another member of the committee, said: “Baseball’s policy needs to be one of zero tolerance and it needs to have teeth.”Other players expected to be called to testify are Rafael Palmeiro, Curt Schilling and Frank Thomas.
Several aides to congressmen said that the call for hearings on steroid use came about partly because of the publication of Mr. Canseco’s book “Juiced,” in which he admitted using steroids and said Mr. McGwire and Mr. Palmeiro had also used them.
The players, who will appear in a panel format, will most likely be asked, under oath during the nationally televised hearings, whether they have used illegal steroids.
Immunity is not expected to be offered, and some of the players may invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Davis said the players will have “an opportunity today to either clear their name or take public responsibility for their action, and perhaps offer cautionary tales to our youth.”
The committee’s hearings will come in four different panel sessions. In the first one, they heard from United States Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, a major league player for 17 years and a member of Hall of Fame.
“Baseball needs to know we are watching,” he said. “They owe it to all of us to prove they are fixing this terrible problem. If not, we will have to do it for them.”
Like many of the other committee members who spoke, Mr. Bunning spoke of his love of the game, and of the place baseball has in American history and culture. Mr. Bunning talked about how steroid use had tainted the game for many people, and made them question the accomplishments of many great record-breaking plays.
“What is happening in baseball now is not natural and it is not right,” he said.
“The last thing I want for America’s pastime is to make it be the subject of a witch hunt,” he said. But, congress had to take action because the owners and players themselves were not, he said.
“It’s not their game,” he said. “It’s ours. They’re just enjoying the privilege of playing it for a short time. What I think many of the players do not understand is that many players came before them, and many will come after them. They all need to protect the integrity of the greatest game ever.”
The committee also heard from the parents of Rob Taylor, a baseball player from Southern California who used steroids and committed suicide.
“There’s no doubt in our minds that steriods killed our son,” Rob’s mother, Dr. Denise Garibaldi, told the committee. “In his mind he did what baseball heroes like Canseco had done.”
Dr. Garibaldi and her husband, Raymond Garibaldi, said that unbeknownst to them, their son had been encouraged to take drugs to bulk up by scouts and trainers and coaches since he was in high school. They noticed changes in his demeanor and his behavior, but he denied to them he used them, Dr. Garibaldi said.
“He told us, I don’t do drugs. I’m a ball player,” she said.
“Baseball is not life,” she said. “Baseball is a game.”
Another parent, Donald Hooton Sr., lashed out angrily at the players, saying that their use of steroids had been emulated by his son, Taylor, a high school football player who also committed suicide.
“You are role models.”
“You are cheaters, you are cowards,” he said. “You’re afraid to step on the field without the aid of performance enhancing subtances.”
He said the players who will testify “should be man enough to face the authorities, admit the truth and face the consequences,” instead of “hiding behind the skirts of your union.”
He also said, “I’m sick and tired of having you tell us you don’t want to be considered role models. You are role models.”
Reports have surfaced that Major League Baseball has uncovered evidence of steroid use by former ULB Slugger Mark McGwire. The MLB Commissioner of Baseball, George W. Bush has passed the information along to ULB Commissioner Fay Vincent. Both Vincent and Bush declined to comment on the matter.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that Bush was given evidence by Mike Piazza, who was suspended 20 games by MLB today. Piazza and McGwire played together on the Hollywood Stars from 1996-1999, when McGwire left to join the New York Mets as a free agent in 2000. Piazza declined to comment to media and has left Baltimore according to a team representative.
Both McGwire and Piazza were brought to the then Hollywood Stars by former General Manager Marlon Trigg Sr, who died in 1999. Current Los Angeles Stars GM Kenneth Mastny was not available for comment at this time. He took over GM duties in 1997 after Trigg was let go.