Outfielder Manny Ramirez returns to the Los Angeles Dodgers today following a 50-game drug suspension. Far from being a pariah for getting caught using performance-enhancing drugs, Manny is arguably more popular today than at any point in his career.
Petco Park in San Diego is sold out for his return. This follows record crowds for Manny’s minor league rehab games. As Jayson Stark of ESPN wrote, Manny-Mania has struck from “Albuquerque to Ensenada.”
Local LA tv, ESPN and even the Major League Baseball Network are all covering Manny’s return gavel to gavel complete with televising every plate appearance of Ramirez’ return. You might argue about the type of message MLB is sending when it sends its own television network of hero-worshipping announcers to cover Manny Ramirez’ return from a drug suspension complete with live-shots and atbat-by-atbat cut-ins.
Prime Ticket has added an extra Manny-Cam for the telecast of tonight’s Dodgers/Padres game. The network has also sold a special “road edition” of their ”Dodgers Live” pregame and postgame shows as well as an additional 30 minute program. The Dodgers have also announced they are re-opening their left field “Mannywood” section.
There were 150 media requests for tonight’s game featuring Manny’s return. One Dodger, second baseman Orlando Hudson, says the hoopla surrounding the return of Ramirez is so huge that he needs to be brought into the stadium by helicopter. He was only half kidding.
The only people who appear to be outraged are local Los Angeles newspaper writers in their 50′s and 60′s-like Bill Plaschke of the LA Times. And, the way things are going, Manny Ramirez is going to be around a lot longer than the Los Angeles Times.