Manny Ramirez retires rather than face drug ban

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NEW YORK (AP) - Unwilling to face another drug ban, Manny Ramirez is leaving baseball and at peace with his decision while the sport confronts the specter of steroids again.

“I’m at ease,” Ramirez told ESPNdeportes.com by phone from his home in Miami. “God knows what’s best (for me). I’m now an officially retired baseball player. I’ll be going away on a trip to Spain with my old man.”

One of the game’s great sluggers, Ramirez tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance and wasted little time in saying he was done with the game.

Some in baseball were baffled that he would get caught again violating Major League Baseball’s drug policy. Others were angry that baseball is still dealing with the questions of steroid use. Still others were disappointed that another player had walked away in shame.

“Until the past couple of years, I thought he was on his way to the Hall of Fame,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “I don’t think many guys got as many big hits in their careers as he has. There weren’t many guys who had as big an effect on a game as he had.

“You hate to see greatness all of a sudden just fade.”

Ramirez decided to retire Friday rather than face a 100-game suspension for a second violation of MLB’s drug policy. The 12-time All-Star served a 50-game ban in 2009 while a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and second-time offenders get double that penalty.

“We were obviously surprised when we found out about it today, and hurt by what transpired,” said Rays vice president Andrew Friedman, who signed Ramirez to a $2 million, one-year contract in the offseason. “We were cautiously optimistic that he would be able to be a force for us.”

A person familiar with the situation confirmed to The Associated Press that Ramirez tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the nature of Ramirez’s issue with MLB’s drug policy was not publicly disclosed.

The commissioner’s office announced Ramirez’s decision but provided few details.

“Major League Baseball recently notified Manny Ramirez of an issue under Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” MLB said in a statement. “Ramirez has informed MLB that he is retiring as an active player. If Ramirez seeks reinstatement in the future, the process under the Drug Program will be completed.”

MLB said it would have no further comment.

The 38-year-old outfielder-designated hitter left the Rays this week to attend to what the team called a family matter. Manager Joe Maddon said Thursday that he expected Ramirez to be available for Friday night’s game at Chicago, but he never showed up.

“Of course you’re disappointed,” Maddon said before the Rays rallied to a 9-7 win Friday night over the White Sox, their first victory in seven games this season. “But at the end of the day, he has to make up his own mind. It’s a choice he has to make.”

Ramirez played in only five games for the Rays, with one hit in 17 at-bats, and flied out as a pinch-hitter Wednesday in his final at-bat. He had a strong spring training, then was excused from the last exhibition game for personal reasons.

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