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Manny Ramirez retires rather than face long drug suspension

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Manny Ramirez has put up Hall of Fame offensive numbers during a 19-year career marked by run-ins with teammates, the media and his bosses.

But run-ins with steroids were part of it as well, and that’s what brought his career to an abrupt end Friday.

Ramirez, who spent a month with the White Sox last season, chose to retire rather than deal with another investigation and punishment for reportedly violating baseball’s drug policy. Indications were Ramirez, who signed with the Tampa Bay Rays for this season, tested positive in spring training for a banned substance, which would have meant a 100-game suspension.

It would have been Ramirez’s second offense. He was given a 50-game suspension in 2009 for violating the drug policy.

Ramirez, 38, was with the Sox in September when general manager Ken Williams made a final push to try to win the American League Central. The eccentric player with the long dreadlocks never produced big for the Sox, but he also was never a problem, manager Ozzie Guillen said.

“I didn’t know him personally — I only had him for one month,” Guillen said. “He should be a Hall of Fame-type player. I have my opinion. I’m glad I had a chance to manage him.’’

But Guillen made it clear he has no tolerance for violators of baseball’s drug policy.

“The circumstance is none of our business, but people who follow this game should know Major League Baseball is after those people,’’ he said. “They don’t play around. They say how tough they’re going to be. They want to make this game clean and clear.

“The first thing I tell my players is, if you get caught, you should be punished because we’ve known [about the drug policy] for four or five years now. They check us; they check me, and I don’t play. I’m glad they’re after this. Everyone in baseball should be glad.

“I hope he’ll be the last one [caught using banned drugs], but I doubt it. I hope they go after these guys and make this game clear.’’

The Sox acquired Ramirez last season at the end of August on a waiver claim from the Los Angeles Dodgers and assumed about $4.4 million of the $45 million left on his contract. The Sox paid $1.1 million last season, with the rest deferred through 2013.

Ramirez wasn’t with the Rays on Thursday because of a family matter, according to manager Joe Maddon. Maddon repeated Friday that he believed Ramirez did have a family issue, and he had planned to play him Friday.

Ramirez hit .261 for the Sox with a home run and two RBI. But the 12-time All-Star, who was on World Series teams with the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, had 555 career homers while hitting .312 with 1,831 RBI.

“His numbers, he was unreal,’’ said Sox infielder Omar Vizquel, who was Ramirez’s teammate for several years with the Indians. “He was one of the most feared guys with runners in scoring position.

“The stories about Manny go on and on. Anybody that has been around him has at least 10 stories to tell. This is one of the funniest guys in the game, and I’m really going to miss him.

“If there is a guy you really want at the plate in a tough situation, it would have been Manny. Maybe you think he’s not thinking, maybe you think he doesn’t care — but the way he approached that particular at-bat is just amazing.

“The drug suspension is a really touchy thing these days. Everybody knows about the circumstances and the way that you are penalized. I guess he realized that he couldn’t do it anymore, and he was just trying to find a way out. And he found it.’’

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