Thursday, May 7, 2009

Manny suspended: Fairness and right, again, on hold

Beware of Mannywood in Los Angles.

Manny Ramirez, according to the L. A. Times, has been suspended for 50 days because drug tests apparently detected performance enhancing drugs in his system. This, just as the Dodgers achieved a record home win streak to start the season.

I commented last night on Matt's review of The Southpaw. I said the novel turned on an ethical issue -- Henry Wiggen's pressurized decision to throw a spit ball which wound up beaning the hitter. Henry's trusted family does not take this well. The entire series of Henry Wiggen books seems to turn on this incident and Henry's reaction to it. In 1953, Mark Harris wrote a hero who realizes certain things are more important in life than winning -- like your integrity, like how you play the game, like who you are.

I said we need more stories like Henry's today because modern baseball players seem to have lost their way. They've wandered into Mannywood and they haven't found a way out.

Mannywood, by the way, is an area of Dodger Stadium the organization named for Manny. We'll have to see how many fans will still be willing to pay $99 for tickes to Mannywood. Manny, of course, has already mounted a defense. We'll see if it is any better than the way he plays left field most days. Here's an interesting take on his chances of coming back.

Manny wasn't in the lineup tonight at Dodger's Stadium but his teammates still mounted a potent attack, scoring six runs in the first. He was on the air however, in the bottom of the first, recommending "the only ticket broker" he will ever use in a commercial that begins with "I love LA." It will be interesting to see if LA loves Manny in 50 days and if anybody still wants him to hawk their products.

I've just begun grading the ethics finals for this semester. They're pretty good. On paper. What's impossible to test, to evaluate, is whether any of the ideas of the course sink in. Unfortunately I didn't get to one scenario I usually use which almost always produces somewhat disturbing results. What if, I ask, we found a drug you could give your child at age two that would guarantee that child would be a genius, always far ahead of the other children in school and brilliant in his or her field as an adult? Would you give your child that boost?

The scenario is meant to test the bounds of fairness. I expand it later by adding that the drug costs $1 million per dose. It will obviously be available to only the wealthiest parents.

But many times I don't get that far in class. The students are outraged that a parent would want to turn his or her child into an egg head. The child would have no fun, the students agree, no joy in life. 'He'd be working equations on the playground while everyone else played ball,' they moan. In short, such an intellectual boost would ruin that young life forever.

Not all students agree, of course. I remember one very good collegiate athlete whispering to me that he had always been the smartest kid in his class. He did whisper, and I understood why.

Next time I advance the first scenario, I'll wait until the outrage about "intellectual cheating" calms, then I'll ask, thinking of Manny, 'What if this drug would provide superior athletic skills for the child, guaranteeing a huge Major League Baseball contract?'

I think we already know how that one would go.

Manny has, apparently, been Manny. Maybe it's time to just give up the ghost of fairness and right and bring Vince McMahon in to be commissioner of baseball.



Henry's conscience, his wife Holly, is talking to him about the spitball. The Moors are the wealthy owners of his team, the New York Mammoths:

"... you are losing your manhood faster than hell. Pretty soon in bed will be the only place you are a man. But that is not manhood. Dogs and bulls and tomcats do the same, Yes, you are losing your manhood and becoming simply an island in the empire of the Moors... I knowed for sure a week or so ago. I really did. I seen you on the TV. I seen you throw that spitball at the man from Boston. And your Pop seen it clear up in Perkinsville, and he said only a few words. He said, 'I am sorry to see Henry stoop to do a thing like that,' and he cried a few tears right there in the midst of all the people in the Arcade Department Store...

"Is it worth it, Henry? Suppose you killed that man? Where is my Henry Wiggen that I remember could never even swing his fist at a man...

"You will go on playing baseball till your feet trip over your beard. It is a grand game. I love to see it, and I love to hear you talk about it. It is a beautiful game, clean and graceful and honest. But I will be damned if I will sit back and watch you turn into some sort of low life halfway between a sour creature like Sad Sam Yale and a shark like (Mammoth's manager) Dutch Schnell.

"You are a lefthander, Henry. You always was. And the world needs all the lefthanders it can get, for it is the righthanded world..."

If you love baseball and you can read that without a tear, your seat may rightfully be in Mannywood. Manny was the ultimate lefthander; let's hope when the facts come out we don't discover he was a righty all along. I'm not holding my breath.



  1. I wonder if Mannywood is near the "all you can eat pavilion?" Those two things would seem to go together to me...gluttony in the upmost.

    Thank goodness I'm not still on the "left coast." Well, I may end up being again when CA drops off into the Pacific. :)

  2. I'm glad you brought this up, John. Yes, I agree it's the most important part of "The Southpaw" and sets the tone for the whole series. I try to cram so much in my reviews that I usually overlook important points (like this one). I agree that Harris was setting up future novels with "The Southpaw," especially the development of the Bruce Pearson character. He's just briefly introduced, but you can tell Harris is scratching at the surface of a deep, deep character.
    By the way - I REMEMBER that "genius pill" question from your ethics class. My wife and I have spent the last half hour going back and forth about whether we'd give our kids the pill - if we could scrape together a cool million.
    --Matt Kelsey