Friday, May 08
Dan Duquette, the Dalton native who as general manager of the Boston Red Sox signed slugger Manny Ramirez to an eight-year, $160 million contract in 2000, said Thursday night that he was disappointed — but not shocked — to learn that Ramirez had been suspended for 50 games for violating Major League Baseball's drug-testing program.

"If you look at his production with the Dodgers (his current team), it's significantly better than when he was with the Red Sox — significantly better," Duquette, the Sox's GM from 1994-2002, said in a phone interview from his home in Stow. "That would be a hint that he may have utilized performance-enhancing drugs."

Ramirez joined the Dodgers at the trading deadline last year. He hit .299 with 20 home runs and 68 runs batted in for Boston, but over the final 53 games with the Dodgers, he had 17 homers, 53 RBI and a .396 batting average.

Ramirez, now 36, had cleared the .300 mark only once in his previous four years in Boston, batting .321 in 2006.

The Associated Press, citing anonymous sources, reported that Ramirez provided a urine sample during spring training that tested positive for the banned substance human chorionic gonadtropin, or HCG.

HCG is popular among users of performance-enhancing drugs because it can mitigate the side effects of ending a cycle of steroids. The body may stop producing testosterone when a user goes off steroids, which can cause sperm counts to decrease and testicles to shrink.

The Red Sox signed Ramirez away from the Cleveland Indians in 2000 for what at the time was an eye-popping contract. Boston traded him to Los Angeles in a three-team deal at last year's trading deadline. The deal helped power the Dodgers into the playoffs.

This past off-season, Ramirez signed a two-year, $45 million contract with the Dodgers.

"The economic stakes are significant," Duquette said. "Players have made a lot of money utilizing performance-enhancing drugs in the big leagues."

Duquette started his baseball career as a scouting assistant with Milwaukee in 1981, became the director of player development for the Montreal Expos in 1988, and became the team's general manager in 1991. He joined the Red Sox at the start of the 1994 season.

Duquette, currently a co-owner of the Pittsfield American Defenders of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, said he wasn't sure how Ramirez's suspension would affect what Americans think of baseball.

"That's really up to the fans to decide," Duquette said. "I think the testing program is to ensure a level playing field. It looks to me like that's starting to come into play now — after not being a factor for a number of years."