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Baseball Notes

Has Ramirez hurt his Hall chances? Positively

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / April 18, 2010

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Manny Ramirez is enjoying a nice start to the 2010 campaign, a year after he was suspended 50 games for performance-enhancing drugs.

His hitting — .355 average and .969 OPS heading into yesterday’s action — has come back. He is driving the ball to the gaps. He is once again a key figure in the middle of the Dodgers lineup.

In the second season of a two-year, $45 million deal, Ramirez should enjoy it, because he’s correct when he says this is likely his final season with the Dodgers. He will probably be a DH if he continues to play, and it will be for a fraction of the money.

Ramirez, 37, may very well have a great ending to his career, but when it is over, he should not be in line for Hall of Fame induction. And it says here he won’t.

Too bad, because his numbers make him a can’t-miss candidate. But he made the most egregious error of the steroid era, testing positive for a banned substance some four years after testing was adopted and penalties were imposed.

I will not call that dumb, because I never thought Manny was dumb. I will call it reckless, arrogant, and self-absorbed, because Major League Baseball did these players a favor. After the random 2003 tests showed more than 5 percent positives, the policy was implemented. It was as if MLB was saying, “OK, if you did it, then stop doing it, and everything will be OK.’’

And what does Manny do? He tests positive.

This will be a sad case in the end. There are some who feel he has it coming, with the way he disrespected the game and people. Haunting him, too, will be the incident in which he knocked down Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick when told that if he wanted extra tickets, he would have to ask his teammates to donate them, per club policy. Of course, Ramirez never knew what club policy was, and McCormick had always bent over backward to accommodate him in many other matters.

There was also the incident in the dugout when Ramirez went after Kevin Youkilis when Youkilis threw his helmet following a strikeout.

His teammates put up with a lot, including, at times, having to pay visiting clubhouse dues because Ramirez had forgotten.

He also quit on his team a time or two.

But what a scary hitter.

Maybe it is no coincidence that David Ortiz has struggled since Ramirez left. We all know what this guy could do at the plate, the fear he instilled in pitchers. That’s what makes this story so sad.

Voting for Cooperstown is going to get tougher in the coming years. Voters are constantly reevaluating what they will tolerate in the steroid era and what they won’t. One of the emerging viewpoints — and one this voter is coming around to — is that if you were still using the stuff after 2003, then you’re just not getting in.

And Manny, you fall into that category.

It’s tough enough for “steroid guys’’ because there are voters who will never vote for anyone associated with PEDs, whether they were mentioned in the Mitchell Report or in grand jury testimony or law enforcement raids, etc. No matter when they did it, some say, they will not get in.

There also are voters who believe it’s impossible to sort through all of this, so the criteria should just be the numbers, and forget about the steroids.

There’s a third group that will vote for players who have been linked to steroids only for a certain time.

Was Barry Bonds a Hall of Famer before and after his steroid use (he didn’t test positive that we know of after ’04)? Yes.

Was Roger Clemens before his alleged use? Yes.

Is Ramirez a Hall of Fame hitter? Of course. But the only violation we know of came in the offseason of 2008, and that was mind-boggling given all the information that’s out there on substances you can and cannot use.

For the guys who tested positive in ’03, this was still new. The substances that became banned weren’t banned then. It was a confusing time. When Ramirez tested positive, there was no confusion.

The fact that he didn’t appeal his suspension indicated that he knew he’d been caught, even after the sport had gone to great lengths to crack down. There are voters who can’t ever get past that.

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy what Ramirez does with his bat.

While he has remained silent to the media in Los Angeles, the fans continue to give him huge ovations. Nobody really ever cared whether he spoke or didn’t speak. When Ramirez did speak, he was often funny and goofy and it was entertaining, but often it didn’t make sense, either.

The guy is one of a kind. Enjoy the swing, the entertainment. But Cooperstown? The ultimate stamp on a great career? I doubt it.

EXPERT IN THE AREA

Former coach is available if Ortiz calls

Ron Jackson, the hitting coach who turned around Ortiz’s career, is in the Boston area this week. You would think it might be a good time for the two to get together, just for a little side session. After all, another set of eyes — especially those of a guy who has seen Ortiz at his best — couldn’t hurt.

“David hasn’t called me,’’ said Jackson. “I would love to spend some time with him and take a look. I don’t want to see him go through something like this.

“It could be something small. I really don’t know unless I had a chance to see him. I watched him on TV once and he was facing a lefthander, and that’s hard to really gauge against a lefty and seeing him only once.

“I don’t know what’s going on with him, but I know if he has too many things on his mind, it’s probably going to affect him.’’

Jackson, who attended Wednesday’s opening of Hank Aaron’s museum in Mobile, Ala., is out of baseball now. He is in town to spend a week instructing at the JM Sports Academy in Walpole. He thought he might attend one Sox game and is considering calling Ortiz.

“I’m not looking for any publicity or credit with David,’’ said Jackson. “I always enjoyed my relationship with him and with Manny. I felt we clicked as coach-student and David had some unbelievable years with the Red Sox.

“I know the type of hitter he’s been. I have no idea what physical tolls may have occurred in the last couple of years. I just haven’t been around him.

“I just hate to see him like that. If he’s taking a lot of criticism, he knows he needs to block it out, but that’s easier said than done. It’s stuff like that I’d like to talk to him about.’’

Why Ortiz hasn’t maintained his relationship with Jackson is unclear. Ortiz was outspoken when the Sox let Jackson go after the 2006 season, yet he has never called upon Jackson for help.

Mo Vaughn had a close relationship with his former hitting coach, Mike Easler, and would fly Easler into town before homestands.

In Jackson’s years with the Sox, Ortiz went from a .961 OPS in 2003 to a 1.049 in 2006. His homer totals climbed from 31 to 41 to 47 to 54 from ’03 to ’06. His RBI totals were 101, 139, 148, and 137. And twice in those four years, Ortiz hit .300 or better; he was never below .287. Ortiz had his highest OPS in ’07 at 1.066 with a .332 average, but he has declined rapidly ever since.

BRAVE NEW WORLDS

Glavine dips into television, technology

Tom Glavine is perfectly content with his roles as father of four, assistant to Braves president John Schuerholz, and pitchman for the innovative PitchSight technology developed by defense contractor L-3 Communications of Burlington. This year will be a good indication as to whether he intends to expand his scope in the executive realm, as former golf buddy Greg Maddux has with the Cubs.

“I think for now this is perfect for me,’’ said Glavine. “I’m going to see how much I want to be involved. I just don’t know yet.

“Right now, I’m going to be exposed to a number of things. I’m going to do some radio pregame on Fridays at home [in Atlanta] and Sundays on TV, and I’m going to visit all of our minor league affiliates and meet with the pitching coaches and managers and try to see some of our young pitchers and put faces with names.

“If something comes up on the major league team that they feel needs my involvement, I’ll certainly do that. Right now I don’t know how much time I want to devote to it or how much time I want to be away from my family. Those things are developing.’’

Glavine hung it up last season — after 305 wins, two Cy Youngs, and 10 All-Star appearances — when the Braves released him after a rehab stint.

He is really behind the new PitchSight product, which could be the next big thing teams use to evaluate pitchers. The system involves two cameras and computer software that records and measures release point, pitch speed, arm angle, break of the pitch, and location. With it, coaches can make evaluations of what their pitchers are doing wrong or right more effectively than they can with the naked eye.

Ironically, the product is made by the same company that invented Questec, which Glavine criticized as a player.

“The Questec technology was a good technology,’’ he said. “I just didn’t like the way it was being used and how it was influencing the game. With [PitchSight], you’re taking the same technology, but you’re changing the application and flipping it around to the other side of the game and using it as a teaching tool.’’

Glavine said the product, which costs $30,000, also will enable coaches to compare pitchers coming back from injuries with how they were throwing before the injury. The technology will be there to use between innings if a pitcher has a rough stretch.

ETC.

Apropos of nothing

1. Kevin Kouzmanoff had three errors for the Padres at third base last season. His replacement, Chase Headley, had made four already entering yesterday; 2. Couldn’t find a flaw at Target Field; 3. Bill or Billy Hall? “I’ve always been Bill,’’ he said, “but I don’t mind being called Billy’’; 4. Compared with Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau really gets overlooked; 5. Last season, the Red Sox were the only team without an African-American on their roster. This year, the distinction belongs to St. Louis, San Francisco, and Kansas City.

Updates on nine
1. Tommy Harper, special assistant, Red Sox — A news item that slipped through the cracks in Boston was the Sox naming Harper to their Hall of Fame. This is no small announcement. Harper remains one of the most significant figures in team history for exposing the racist policy of the Winter Haven Elks Club, which allowed only white players to dine at the club. Harper’s powerful story was told by Michael Madden in the Globe in March 1985. Harper eventually lost his job but won a discrimination suit against the team. He later returned to the organization, working with minor league players.

2. Scott Downs, LHP, Blue Jays — He is being looked at by the Phillies, who would love to add a lefty in the pen with J.C. Romero out. Nothing is likely to happen soon as the Jays are off to a reasonably good start, but he is a player who could bring value to the Jays if they decide to sell off.

3. Alex Gonzalez, SS, Blue Jays — What to make of Gonzo’s great start (.340, 4 HRs, 8 RBIs, 6 doubles entering yesterday)? A National League scout said, “I think Cito [Gaston] has him relaxed. If you go back to his Florida days, he had streaks like these where he showed power. Who knows? Sometimes the light just goes on.’’

4. Dave Trembley, manager, Orioles — His tenure has always been shaky, and getting off to a poor start with a team that’s supposed to be “turning the corner’’ brings up the subject of his future again. It would be interesting to see who would replace him. Triple A manager Gary Allenson could have a chance. There are a ton of ex-managers out there, some who have a history with team president Andy MacPhail. We could always raise the Cal Ripken rumors.

5. Juan Cruz, RHP, Royals — Need a bad reliever? One is available in Mr. Cruz, who has already worn out his welcome in a place where poor performance has become all too common. Cruz, 31, has a live arm but simply can’t locate. He’s making $3.75 million, but the Royals might have to chow on most of that to make a deal happen. Who knows whether a change of scenery and getting away from manager Trey Hillman would help?

6. Jerry Manuel, manager, Mets — His job status is always an issue, and at some point the trigger will be pulled by the Wilpons. The Mets have an ex-Manager of the Year in Bob Melvin working for them, so he would appear to be the logical successor. There’s also sentiment for Wally Backman, who has paid his dues. Could Bobby Valentine return?

7. Brad Penny, RHP, Cardinals — We’ve always thought of Penny as a fly-ball pitcher, but in two starts with the Cardinals, he has gotten 42 outs and 25 of them have been on grounders. Penny, to no surprise, credits legendary pitching coach Dave Duncan for emphasizing the sinker. “He shows you numbers I’ve never seen before,’’ said Penny, “like ground-ball outs to hits, fly-ball outs to hits. No one has ever showed me stuff like that before. He puts it in front of you. Hell, why haven’t I been trying to get ground balls all the time?’’ He couldn’t figure this out on his own in Boston?

8. Jermaine Dye, free agent, OF — He will sign somewhere soon, because there are teams in need of corner outfielders, especially righthanded ones with power. Same with Gary Sheffield, who says he’s working out and has at least one team that wants to discuss a deal. The Twins’ Orlando Hudson intimated to Yahoo! that racism might be a factor in both players not being in the game. Asked about that, Sheffield said, “I’m not going to comment.’’ But Sheffield said he appreciated Hudson’s concern.

9. Ricky Romero, LHP, Toronto — A scout who saw him take a no-hit bid into the eighth inning said this: “He pitched like a legit No. 1. He’s got No. 1 stuff, and you can tell Roy Halladay has rubbed off on him. He’s a bulldog.’’

Short hops
From the Bill Chuck files: “Since 2007, Alfonso Soriano’s batting average, home run, and OPS numbers have decreased each season.’’ Also, “Last season, after his first two starts for the Red Sox, Brad Penny was 1-0 with an ERA of 11.00 after having given up 11 runs on 11 hits, seven walks, three homers, while striking out three in nine innings of work. This season, after his first two starts for the Cardinals, Brad Penny was 1-0 with an ERA of 0.64 after having given up one run, on nine hits, two walks, no homers, while striking out eight in 14 innings of work.’’ . . . Happy 40th birthday, Rico Brogna.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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