The best thing you can say about disgraced slugger Manny Ramirez is that he didn’t pull a Roger Clemens-type denial or a Barry Bonds-like unknowingly took steroids defense when another failed drug test was brought to his attention last week.

Manny just simply retired from baseball and took his lazy, worn-out act home.

I’m not surprised Ramirez is leaving the game in a controversial manner, not when his antics have outperformed his production over the past couple seasons.

Leaving the game instead of facing up to a 100-game suspension for his second violation of the major-league drug policy certainly makes it easy for Hall of Fame voters to bypass Ramirez’s name when it eventually appears on the ballot.

If you don’t think so, ask disgraced Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro how the process works when it’s no secret that you cheated.

And it’s certainly common knowledge that Ramirez cheated. This makes two failed tests in three years after baseball toughened its testing policy and that fact speaks volumes. So does his name being on the list of players who tested positive for banned substances in 2003 prior to baseball deciding to finally rid the game of steroids.

So since Ramirez entered the majors in 1993 and the 1990s are known as the “Steroids Era,” what do you suppose Ramirez was doing during that decade?

There wasn’t any testing or rules in place back then during a time when people around the game routinely chose the “I don’t want to know” sentiment as players rapidly bulked up their bodies. Or had their heads grow in the case of Bonds.

Leading baseball officials and even the media closed their eyes to what was going on. When Associated Press reporter Steve Wilstein broke the story about Mark McGwire using Androstenedione during the magical 1998 home run derby with Sammy Sosa, Wilstein was ostracized by other media members.

Imagine that, the people paid to report objectively were mad at the reporter and questioned his methods and timing. Players were cheating all around them and none of those tough guys (and gals) covering the sport wanted to out the cheaters.

The 1990s also was the time when the late Ken Caminiti of the San Diego Padres went from a decent player to a superstar who won National League MVP honors. Women in San Diego dubbed Caminiti a sex symbol and drooled over Caminiti’s bare-chest photos on the scoreboard. The folks in the media were more interested in being Caminiti’s buddy then asking the tough questions even as gossip swirled and the whispers grew louder. Of course, Caminiti eventually came clean with details of his steroids use in a national magazine.

But those reporters covering the Padres found it easier to stick their heads in the sand than to do their jobs. There’s always room for more ostriches at the famous San Diego Zoo.

That’s the environment Ramirez was part of it as he was developing into a superstar who hit 555 career homers. We’ll never know – unless Manny tells us – when Ramirez first began dabbling in performance-enhancing drugs or exactly how much of his career is tainted.

But none of that matters because that quick rush into retirement tells us that “Manny Being Manny” was much more than clumsy base-running or loafing in the outfield.

The guy has been caught three times in a sport when hundreds of other players allegedly made it through unscathed.

Manny Ramirez the RBI machine has faded from the memory pretty quickly. His legacy won’t include the pleasurable C-word known as Cooperstown and will begin with the ugly C-word:

Cheater.

That is a legacy that Manny brought on himself and richly deserves.

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