RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Here in Los Angeles last night, the Washington Nationals beat the L.A. Dodgers 11-9. That was significant for two reasons: it ended the Dodgers' record home winning streak since the start of the baseball season at 13 games, and it added insult to injury to a team already reeling from the loss of its best player.
Yesterday, the Dodgers All-Star outfielder Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games for violating baseball's drug policy. NPR's Tom Goldman has more.
TOM GOLDMAN: It's been one of the stories of the young baseball season: how Dodgers Stadium had become a virtual playground for the home team. Thirteen straight Dodger victories there, out of the gate - a modern Major League record on the way to the best record in all of baseball.
(Soundbite of horn honking and motorcycle moving)
GOLDMAN: Last night, Dodger fans arrived at the stadium on a warm, Los Angeles night. Many of them had driven past the Manny Ramirez-themed billboards around the city - one with the slogan, Mannywood, and one where Ramirez proclaims, este es mi ciudad - this is my city.
No, it's not, says Susan Webber, who's been coming to Dodger games for 15 years.
Ms. SUSAN WEBBER: We've been watching all the commercials, and they are calling him Mayor of Dodger Town. And he doesn't feel like mayor of Dodger town right now, so sort of disappointing.
GOLDMAN: David Maldonado, who described himself as all Dodgered up - wearing a Dodger jersey, Dodger cap radio, Dodger necklace, Dodger wristbands - was, not surprisingly, fully supportive of Dodger Manny.
Mr. DAVID MALDONADO: I didn't want to jump to conclusions and down him out right away. I wanted to look into what was really happening. And from what I've heard, it technically wasn't his fault. It was more of a - kind of a mix-up situation. And since Manny's Manny, he's going to get hit hard with it.
GOLDMAN: The mix-up, described by Ramirez in a written statement, went like this: He saw a doctor for an undisclosed personal health issue. The doctor gave him a medication that turned out to be banned under baseball's drug policy. Ramirez didn't say what it was, but he also said it wasn't a steroid. Several sources said it was HCG. A substance used for infertility, it can boost a man's testosterone's level as well.
Baseball bans it because it's also used by anabolic steroid users to offset steroid effects. If a player wanted to use HCG for medicinal purposes, he could get what's called a therapeutic use exemption. But Ramirez reportedly never did, which points skeptics to the D word.
Ramirez was asked about doping in a March interview with ESPN reporter Colleen Dominguez.
Ms. COLLEEN DOMINGUEZ (Reporter, ESPN): Has anyone ever approached you, anytime during your career, about using…
Mr. MANNY RAMIREZ (Player, Los Angeles Dodgers): No.
Ms. DOMINGUEZ: You were never tempted?
Mr. RAMIREZ: No.
Ms. DOMINGUEZ: Just wasn't your thing.
Mr. RAMIREZ: No, wasn't tempted.
GOLDMAN: Since his move to L.A. last year, Ramirez has energized the Dodgers. This season, before yesterday's suspension began, he led the team in batting average, slugging percentage and was tied for the lead in home runs. Last night's loss was only the first game without Ramirez, but it was a close one at the end. And one wonders how Manny and his bat might have changed the outcome.
L.A. General Manager Ned Colletti called yesterday a dark day for baseball. The immediate forecast is for a continuing cloud. Tonight, Alex Rodriguez, with all his baggage from a recent doping admission, makes his season debut for the New York Yankees.
Tom Goldman, NPR News.
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