Manny Ramirez returns to the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight, following a 50 game suspension for testing positive for steroids.
And, after all of the discussion about how the steroid era isn’t over, about how fans and the game have been cheated, about whether or not he should be in the Hall of Fame…his return game is SOLD OUT in San Diego.
Sure, it’s Dodger fans buying the tickets, but do you really think a Fourth of July Padres-Dodgers series would sell out under normal circumstances? Yes, tomorrow and Sunday are sold out, too. The last time San Diego hosted a N.L. West rival on fourth of July weekend, they did sell out…against San Francisco in 2005. At that point the Padres were 4.5 games ahead in their division and ultimately made the playoffs. Two years ago, the first-place at the time Padres drew crowds of 25,000, 34,000 and 28,000 against Florida on the holiday weekend. So this weekend, for a fourth place club that’s 15.5 games out, the Manny effect is in full play at Petco Park.
In Albuquerque and San Bernadino on a rehab assignment, Manny provided unprecedented business. Not only Dodger fans wanted to see ManRam. The curiosity provided by his return provided sellouts and near sellouts wherever he went, huge sales of Manny dredlocks wigs, and a powerful boost for the overall economy of the areas around the ballparks where he played.
Media may not want to hear this, but fans aren’t affected by use of and suspensions because of performance enhancers. For all the people up in arms over the whole era, fans are screaming a resounding “WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THAT,” with their purchase of tickets and Manny merchandise.