For the past decade, Major League Baseball has been in a drug-induced coma from which it stubbornly refuses to emerge, despite repeated 10,000-volt electric shocks of its superstars testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

The latest is the manchild, Manny Ramirez, who during his time in Boston was hailed as King of the Idiots but has been revealed, now, as probably playing us all for fools. He’s been suspended 50 games for taking an exotic mixture of drugs that raises suspicions about his entire illustrious career.

As fans, we have every right to feel burned. We empty our hearts, souls and wallets for ballplayers to honor their superhuman feats. When we discover their talent doesn’t spring from within, but from a syringe, bottle or pill, the one sense that makes sense is resentment.

Sure, we could blame ourselves for honoring these flawed heroes, who really do precious little except pitch and hit a speck of rawhide and run around, but fans are truly the innocents here. The responsibility falls to the enforcers of rules, the all-powerful league, whose results thus far have been sadly feeble.

Ramirez is gone for 50 games. Alex Rodriguez, a fellow superstar, is an admitted steroid user, yet faces no penalty because his transgressions occurred in the past. Ramirez claims his innocence up until now, Rodriguez his innocence ever since. The problem for the league: How can anyone be sure?

Baseball winked at this issue for years, then pursued half-measures — like secret lists of positive steroid tests, which eventually ensnared Rodriguez — instead of scrubbing the game clean. (Admittedly, the players’ union shares equal blame.) Yet even baseball’s aggressive efforts, like the investigation by former Maine Sen. George Mitchell, haven’t yielded desired results.


Ramirez. Bonds. Palmeiro. Rodriguez. Clemens. Tejada. McGwire. Sosa. These are names, in baseball, that once stood alone as synonymous for competitive excellence. Now, these names are smeared with disgrace, deigned anew as cheaters, juicers, and in Bonds’s and Tejada’s cases, perjurers.

Who must fall next until baseball awakens to its crisis? This scandal is not the same as gambling, which puts direct outcomes into question, but rather the fiber of the game itself. Its shining stars are falling to earth, one after another, as the league apparently hopes the solution will fix itself.

Major League Baseball must lift the veil on performance enhancing drugs, a duty it has yielded to questionable people like Jose Canseco — who now preens like a prophet — and investigative journalists, whose repeated revelations about players have embarrassed the league and its administration.

History is at stake here. Baseball has already had a “dead ball” era, which has been written off as an historical aberration because of changes in the game. What happened then wasn’t real baseball. The league has done nothing to prove the last decade, the “juiced ball” era, won’t be thought of the same way.

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