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Major League Baseball: Plaschke on Manny

By Bill Plaschke
Los Angeles Times
SAN DIEGO ó Manny Ramirez was released from the substance slammer Friday, ending a 50-game drug suspension whose effects were immediate and overwhelming.
Best thing to ever happen to him.
It made him more famous, Petco Park rocking with his every step, roaring Dodgers cheers clashing with angry San Diego Padres boos, a swirling blizzard of noise.
“I still have it in me; bring it on,” Ramirez said.
It made him more beloved, his teammates verbally embracing him before the game, hitting around him during the game, rolling to a 6-3 victory.
“They support me all the way. We’re ready to take this to another level,” he said.
It made him even more self-assured ó if that’s possible ó as he successfully dodged every steroid question during a pregame interview while reminding everyone why he can.
“I’m one of the best players to ever put on the uniform,” he said.
If Friday was any indication, he will certainly spend the rest of the season as baseball’s most celebrated player, filling stadiums, creating buzz, everyone profiting from his crime.
“We love the commotion, are you kidding me?” said Dodger Orlando Hudson. “All these people are just putting more money in our pockets.”
On the eve of the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous Yankee Stadium speech, it was indeed Manny Ramirez who seemed like the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.
It was July 3, yet he’s still strong.
“I have plenty of energy, I haven’t played for 50 games,” he said.
Once on the field, it was louder and crazier.
“Ma-nny! Ma-nny!” some fans chanted as he walked on to the field for batting practice.
“Ster-oids, Ster-oids,” chanted other fans.
The entire night was reminiscent of the constant scene around the San Francisco Giants several years ago.
A player was bigger than the game. A drug issue elicited more responses than the score. The buzz was initially interesting and fun but later bulky and onerous.
On a night when Manny Ramirez was supposed to return as a shamed drug cheat, he actually created a stir befitting the greatest home-run hitter in baseball history.
All you Dodgers fans who secretly coveted Barry Bonds?
You got him.

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