CHICAGO — In theory, the big loser in the Manny Ramirez mess should be Manny Ramirez.
His legacy is forever tainted, his shot at 600 home runs gone, his chances for election to the Hall of Fame reduced to all but nil.
But you certainly didn't get that sense from how he responded to the positive drug test, walking away rather than fighting or taking his punishment, and definitely not by how he reacted to the news, telling ESPNdesportes.com he was "at ease," that "God knows what's best" and that he was heading off to vacation in Spain.
The actual "losers" are the ones left to clean up behind him while he frolics.
For example, the Rays.
Faced with a depleted roster and slashed payroll in a pricey free agent market, executive vice president Andrew Friedman took what seemed like a reasonable risk in waiting out the winter to sign Ramirez for $2 million and Johnny Damon for $5.25 million in an unofficial package deal.
It seemed well-played at the time, with the potential — potential — for a huge payoff, especially if Ramirez took to the challenge of re-establishing himself. But what Friedman didn't know, of course, was Ramirez was not coming in good faith, but as a fraud; and one foolish enough to get caught cheating — again.
So not only do the Rays not get the Manny they planned on, they didn't get the other DHs they considered and could have had, a list topped by Vladimir Guerrero (who ended up getting $8 million from the Orioles) and included Jim Thome (who got $3 million to go back to the Twins), though they really wanted a right-hander.
For example, the fans.
How many spent their hard-earned money to buy Ramirez T-shirts or jerseys, even those silly wigs of his dreadlocked hair? Or bought tickets with the intent of seeing him play? And that's in addition to how many made an emotional investment, embracing a player they for so long didn't like.
For example, those guys at mannyray.com.
A group of locals who hatched the idea for a cool Manny/Rays T-shirt spend their own money on a website and product, trying as much to generate interest and goodwill more than profit, agreeing to donate $4 from each sale to the families of St. Petersburg's slain police officers. Now they're stuck with about 500 shirts and, according to founder Jacob Reuter, "looking at a huge loss."