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In the end, Manny was being Manny

Facing 100-game suspensifor using performance-enhancing drugs for second time Manny Ramirez quietly decided retire from baseball Friday. 
| AP

Facing a 100-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs for a second time, Manny Ramirez quietly decided to retire from baseball on Friday. | AP

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Updated: April 12, 2011 3:05PM

So it ends for Manny Ramirez.

Not in some elaborate farewell ceremony.

Not to cheers and applause.

Not in any public appreciation.

In an announcement that came out of nowhere Friday afternoon, one week into a new season, complete with revelations that he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, and was going to be suspended for a 100 games from his new team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Bang the drum slowly.

It all seems sad.

He is one of the great hitters of his generation, maybe of any generation, and his career ends with a news release on a Friday afternoon, ends almost as an afterthought: The Red Sox beat the Yankees in their home opener, and, oh yeah, Manny retired.

Then again, Manny Ramirez always was complicated, a baseball version of a riddle wrapped in an enigma.

On the surface he was a great story, the kid from the Dominican Republic who found his way to the Dominican enclave of Washington Heights in New York City, and became one of the best hitters in the game’s long history.

On another level, he had arrived with many of the problems so many immigrants have: He didn’t speak English very well, he struggled in school. Raised in a home with three older sisters and an emotionally absent father, he was also the young prince, the center of his family’s world.

“He would throw himself on the ground and just have a fit,” said one of his older sisters in the 2009 book “Becoming Manny,” describing Manny’s temper tantrums if he didn’t get what he wanted.

But from the beginning he could hit a baseball.

That always was Manny’s great gift, and because of it people always made allowances for him.

Manny being Manny?

Wasn’t that the great rationale? Or simply a cop-out?

So what if he was the ultimate one-dimensional ball player. So what if he often treated defense as if the outfield was little more than just a place to stand in the sunshine. So what if he often moved through his career as if he was some spoiled kid at the prep school picnic. So what if managers and teammates were forever enabling him.

It was just Manny being Manny, the phrase said by Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove in 1995 to explain Manny’s goofiness.

Yet fans loved him, his teammates liked him, and if he avoided the media like he did a high hard one coming at his head, so what?

Manny being Manny, right?

It was a great run with the Red Sox, the two World Series titles testimony to that. On a team full of self-described “idiots,” Manny fit right in. He seldom talked to the media, but everyone in the media knew that, so it wasn’t a big deal. He would sit in his corner of the Red Sox clubhouse, with his back to everyone, and that was just the way it was.

So for the longest time he was treated in Boston like the eccentric relative who comes for holiday dinner. And if every once in a while he would so something truly goofy?

You guessed it -- just Manny being Manny.

Until it got a little more complicated.

In retrospect, the incident that changed everything for Ramirez in Boston was in July, 2008 when he pushed Jack McCormick, the 64-year-old Red Sox traveling secretary, to the ground in a dispute over tickets. Shortly after that he began failing to run hard on ground balls, and on July 31 of that year he was traded to the Dodgers.

Never again would it be the same for Manny Ramirez.

Last summer, he was waived by the Dodgers in August, then picked by the White Sox. In January, he was given a one-year deal by Tampa Bay, but it was for only $2 million, chump change in comparison to what Manny used to make. Even then, you knew that the sand was falling through the hour glass on Ramirez’s career.

Now this.

It’s not the first time Manny and performance-enhancing drugs have been in the same sentence. In 2009, while with the Dodgers, he was suspended for 50 games for violating baseball’s drug policy.

So how much does this taint his legacy?

It will be left to baseball historians to figure that out, to one day assess this era that’s so flawed, too many of the game’s greats tarnished. For once upon a time, Manny undoubtedly was headed for Cooperstown and baseball immortality. Now it’s all very complicated.

Friday’s end told us that.

Not in any elaborate farewell ceremony.

Not to cheers and applause.

Not to any public appreciation.

But in a news release that said he had retired from the game, and that he had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

Bang the drum slowly.

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