04/15/11 — Stevens: Athletes leave tainted legacies

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Stevens: Athletes leave tainted legacies

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on April 15, 2011 1:47 PM

Reputations don't just require hard work to develop, they demand just as much effort to maintain.

Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds, two of baseball's greatest hitters of the last two decades, will forever be remembered not only for their accomplishments, but what they did to tarnish their respective legacies.

Ramirez abruptly retired last week, rather than face a 100-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug during spring training. He served a 50-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy in 2009 while he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and second-time offenders get double that penalty.

According to a report in the New York Times in the summer of 2009, Ramirez also tested positive for performance-enhancing substances during MLB's anonymous survey testing in 2003.

The 2004 American League MVP, Ramirez finished his career with a .312 batting average, 555 career home runs and a .411 on-base percentage. He had 13 seasons of 100-plus RBIs and he's 14th on the career home runs list.

Ramirez was a vital part of Boston's World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. His messy departure from Boston in 2008 in a trade to the Dodgers drew accusations of quitting on his teammates. At times, Ramirez's perceived lack of effort defensively and on the base paths often rubbed teammates, managers and fans the wrong way.

Bonds was convicted of obstruction Wednesday after getting embroiled in a perjury case that also included three counts of lying to a grand jury in 2003. Prosecutors alledged that Bonds lied when he denied knowingly taking steroids and human growth hormone. A third count of making a false statement alledges that Bonds lied when he said that no one other than his doctor ever injected him with anything.

Baseball's career home runs leader with 762, Bonds was one of the game's most feared hitters of his era. He won eight gold gloves, seven MVP awards, played in 14 All-Star games and made nine trips to the postseason. Bonds had eight seasons of 40 or more home runs, including his record-setting 73 homers in 2001.

Twenty-five witnesses have testified during Bonds' trial over the past three weeks. Bonds' former personal shopper, Kathy Hoskins, testified she saw trainer Greg Anderson inject Bonds near the navel in 2002. Anderson pled guilty to distributing steroids in 2005.

Hank Aaron, who is second on baseball's career home runs list, Orel Hershiser, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson and a countless list of Major League legends all share one thing in common -- they're known more for their accomplishments than their misdeeds off the field.

Ramirez, Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and other stars of baseball's "Steroid Era," will forever be linked to their attempts to cheat the game along with their achievements on the field.

Whether these men, along with Pete Rose, belong in the Hall of Fame remains up for debate. What isn't debatable is their place in baseball history and how their selfish decisions forever shaped the game.

Integrity doesn't show up in a box score and being a role model doesn't always translate into a successful career. But, playing the game with character and living a life worth modeling means more than any Hall of Fame could ever hope to honor.