Monday, May 11, 2009

Manny Thoughts

I just belatedly read Sax's soul-searching post which led me to reflect on my reaction to the situation. When Manny returns in July and first steps to the plate, I'm not sure if I'll be 'cheering' per se (I might be, hard to know for sure until it actually happens), but as a Dodger fan I will definitely be hoping he knocks it out of the park. And inevitably I will cheer for him at some point down the line, particularly the next time he knocks in the winning run.

And when I do cheer, I've concluded that I can only do so while acknowledging some degree of hypocrisy. I feel I haven't derided or judgmentally thumbed my nose at Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod, etc for their steroid use as much as many have (shame on me, I know), but at times I have done so. And I feel like anyone who has and doesn't do the same with Manny must acknowledge some hypocrisy.

Sure we can scramble to find ways why this situation is different: but Bonds was a selfish a-hole while Manny is so much fun! Or, but Bonds denied using while Manny fessed up! Yes, of course elements of the situations are different, but I can't rationalize away the fact that the crux of the matter - the offending act itself - is the same.

I won't and don't blindly overlook what Manny did just because he's a Dodger. It is very disappointing, and my opinion of him has definitely changed. And even before the PED revelations, I don't think I've been quite as much the avid fan of his as most Dodger fans are - though his heroics last season did sway me further towards his side. But the bottom line is he plays for my team, so yes I'll probably cheer for him more readily than I would for a guy who did the same thing and plays for another team. I would treat a perfectly upstanding citizen who plays for the Dodgers differently than another equally upstanding citizen who plays for another team, and that same treatment differential applies to less-than-perfectly upstanding citizens. It's just that when judgment of a player is forced by the committing of a negative act, then the hypocrisy of that treatment differential starts to emerge. And to me, that's what's happening.

But here's the good news: I can think of no arena in life where hypocrisy in the name of team loyalty is more allowed and accepted than sports (except maybe politics). So if I cheer for Manny come July, as long as I acknowledge this hypocrisy and am not giving him a free pass, then I give myself a pass for cheering.

Oh and one additional thing - he may be among the most impactful and important players we have, but no matter how well he produces on the field, he will never be one of my favorite Dodgers. That was the case before the recent revelations, and he falls further down the list now.

11 comments:

Chappy said...

I think we're all wrestling with this to some degree EK, but for me how Manny handles himself will dictate how I react upon his return.

If he hides out and tries to avoid the situation he created, then I will have little to no respect for him and won't be cheering much. But if he truthfully admits the circumstances of his wrong-doing, I can certainly forgive and possibly even begin to forget.

While I'll never be ok with him or any other player using any banned substances and getting nailed like this, I can be more understanding of his shady behavior if he gives me the opportunity to be by being repentant and honest.

But I'm also not holding my breath waiting for this...

J. Steve said...

Well written, EK...

I, too, will be cheering for Manny because he is a Dodger. I'm not happy he cheated, but he's a Dodger. I'm justifying cheering for Manny and jeering for Bonds it in a slightly different way than you.

For me, it has to do with punishment. Manny was caught and is serving a suspension. MLB has decided that in another 46 games his punishment will be complete. Bonds was never officially penalized by MLB.

Manny and others who were punished (Guillermo Mota obviously comes to mind) have done their time and I have no problem with people wanting to cheer or jeer them. Players that weren't officially punished by MLB are punished in other ways, including their treatment by fans and unofficial bans (Bonds is still not officially retired and McGwire isn't in the Hall).

I don't think Dodger fans will be hypocritical when they cheer for Manny. Bonds was booed first because he was a Giant and second because of steroids. The jeering of Bonds over steroids was part of his punishment.

When I cheer for Manny in July, it probably won't be as loudly as before. The cheering will be for someone in a Dodger uniform who is hitting home runs and entertaining fans. The cheering will not be because I think Manny did no wrong. As long as Manny is repentant, I will continue to cheer for him as a Dodger.

rbnlaw said...

I'm not sure how much stock I put into athletes who make a show of being repentant. The apologies are usually written by their agents or some hack staff attorney and are totally out of character. At least Clemmens has been true to his reputation of being a world class douchebag and never apologized or admitted anything.
Same with Bonds.

Manny came to us with a load of baggage, and we accepted him as long as the hits kept falling. Now that the suspension has happened, I have to believe the relationship will still be cordial, but strained. Sort of like a marriage after one partner was caught cheating. . .like A-Rod. Wins and home runs will help the healing, but I think some sort of pre-written, rehearsed apology will do nothing. The only person who wants "100% transparency" is our friend Plaschke. I guess he goes for big Hollywood production numbers.

As for me, I can forgive his transgressions if he does not hurt the team. If he can come back and lead this young squad into October, I can look the other way. If he stays clean as long as he's a Dodger, I can forget this ever happened. If he's stupid enough to have another positive, he's dead to me.

Ryan said...

Great comments by everyone else. I echo the sentiment and struggle with the same emotions.

As for whether I will cheer or boo Manny upon his return, I think my response will be nothing. Silent treatment. As fans we really shouldn't boo any member of the team...booing is reserved for the visitors. The silent treatment on the other hand - for a guy who had a section of the park named after him, and continuiously came to bat with roaring applause - will say it all. Booing creates a defensive attitude. Silent treatment provokes thought. The only thing worse than knowing you were wrong is knowing that you let someone down. 40,000+ fans all quiet as a mouse for Manny's first AB will convey that sentiment (that he let us down) very clearly.

Finally, and maybe I'm just rationalizing this situation in my head still, but I view Bonds, A-Rod, Clemens, and all the other "notorious" steroid users in a different light because they didn't get caught. They didn't sit out 50 games and forefit pay accordingly. The guy is taking the punishment that most of the other steroid users never had to face. And now, like them, he will have to live with the consequences: not being inducted into the hall of fame, not being able to opt out of his contract at the end of this season, and probably taking a BIG hit in income when he files for free agency at the end of next season.

Last thing...anyone read White Sox GM Ken Williams comments on steroid use and contracts?

"You enter into a deal with a certain understanding, a certain expectation of past performance and projection of future performance. From my perspective, if I enter a deal with a player with those assumptions, it's incumbent upon him to be above board with everything. If they're not, it's fraud."

WOW! Can't say I disagree.

Rob said...

I don't go to nearly as many Dodger games as I used to since becoming an Angels season ticket holder. (Sneer if you must.) But I might just buy tickets to whatever contest they're playing on July 3.

Rob said...

And yes, I plan on cheering for Manny.

Ryan said...

Rob,
The July 3rd game is @ San Diego. Ever been to Petco Park? It's gorgeous! And best of all, since the SD fans have already given up on the Pads, there are plenty of tickets available.

Alex said...

I'm very curious to see what Manny can do when he comes back.

Can he still be a HR hitter without the juice?

Will his body break down?

Can he prove us all wrong and be just as good as before, raisin nads and bitch tits be damned???

Ubragg said...

Great post EK, and great discussion as well. I can definitely relate to everything you've said.

I was one of those people who couldn't understand how Giants fans could cheer for and support Bonds knowing what a fraud he was, and I sincerely thought that I never would understand it. I haven't decided how I will handle it when Manny returns, but acknowledging the hypocrisy I will almost surely exhibit seems like a good first step. At the same time, no matter what happens with the Dodgers this year, I can't help but think I'm going to feel like any success they have will feel severely tainted. I don't think there is anything that can be done about that short of Manny not coming back at all.

Eric Karros said...

Wow, some great thoughts from everyone.

J Steve and Ryan, you guys bring up a good point, that Manny is paying the by-the-book price that Bonds et al didn't, so maybe that aids in my forgiveness of him or energizes the general jeering of Bonds.

And yes, as you say J Steve, if at some point I cheer when Manny's at the plate, it will be less for Manny and more for the uniform he wears or the guys on base he could knock in or the pitcher he could get a W for, or above all, the team he could get a W for.

And Ubragg brings up perhaps the ugliest point we have to wrestle with: that I can't help but feel that any success the Dodgers have this season - and even the success they had last season - is/will be somehow tainted. Talk about a buzzkill. And that's something you just can't shake. Thanks Manny.

Eric Karros said...

I will also say that I was very surprised/disappointed to see that 77% of people in this poll said they'd cheer when Manny returned. What? More than three-quarters?!? Ok, it's not totally impossible I'll find myself cheering a bit too when he first steps to the plate again. I doubt it, but I'm not 100% sure (to be completely honest, it'll probably depend on the game situation). But I just think the overwhelmingness of 77% made me think, perhaps erroneously, that lots of fans were blindly supporting him.

But 29 people in this poll thought he was totally innocent. Huh? Why do you think he's innocent? Because he's a Dodger?

Then again the polls were up the day the news broke so folks probably didn't get to digest info.