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Poll: Dodger fans should 'Think Boo'

July 3, 2009 | 12:01 am

Manny Ramirez, steroids, suspension, Los Angeles Dodgers, performance enhancing drugs, loyalty, integrity Break out the fireworks, strike up the band and throw on a wig -- the Dodgers' hitting machine, Manny Ramirez, is back.  Tonight Manny will play in his first Major League game since his 50-game suspension for using banned substances.  Unfortunately for Manny fans in LA, unless you're willing to travel to San Diego, New York or Milwaukee (is any player worth going to Milwaukee for?), you'll have to wait until after the All-Star break to see him play in person.

I've never asked Dodger fans for a favor before, but I have one request now:  When that first home game comes on July 16, for one night, one at-bat or at least one swing, boo Manny. I'm not asking you to burn your coveted Man-wig, hide the name on the back of your No. 99 T-shirt under duct tape or torture yourself by watching Angels games. All I ask is that if you attend Manny's first home game, you boo. Once, at least.

I'm asking you to set aside the fact that the Dodgers will need Manny to win anything beyond the division crown, and to forget that with a Manny-free lineup, your Dodgers have been scoring runs less frequently than your daughter's t-ball team (eight measly runs in five games).

In an op-ed Thursday, Greg Burk wrote: "Fans will have their chance to transfix the black sheep with stares of disapproval. And they will. We love to pretend our team is shiner and holier than others."

I hope he's right, but I think he, like Dodgers hitters, is off base. It's hard to believe that Dodger fans who wore "Free Manny" shirts after the suspension was announced and continue to wear his jerseys will show any ire. But they should.

Dodgers fans should boo Manny for one at-bat to make sure he knows his actions were unacceptable. The obvious reasons are often floated about when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs: it might spurn younger kids to use steroids, it's selfish, and it is disrespectful to the game.

Those arguments and their counters are uttered almost daily. The main reason Dodger fans should boo, however, is to let Manny know they will not be had with a few home runs and a smile. They need to say to Manny, "We're the ones who pay to watch you, and we demand better."  What does it say about fans if out of the gate they embrace a blatant cheater?  Doesn't it tell him, "Hey, you have free rein to do whatever you want, as long as you put runs on the board"?

Steroids is not something that will easily be uprooted from baseball. Their use was a pandemic, one that (unfortunate as it might be) probably saved the league as it was tumbling in popularity -- or at least fueled its resurgence. But as James Earl Jones reminded us, the one constant in America has always been baseball. It will move beyond this troubled era.

Fans are tired of steroids, but they cannot eradicate their presence if they pick and choose what rule-breakers they back based on the name emblazoned across their chests.  If Dodger fans boo Barry Bonds, A-rod, Sammy Sosa and the like for their transgressions, they should also boo Manny.

I'm not asking Dodger fans to hate him for the rest of his career. All I'm asking is that, for the good of the game and team, for one night Dodger fans should "Think Boo."

--Kevin Patra

Photo: AP Photo / Gus Ruelas, File

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