This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.
I got my first up close taste of the Manny Ramirez show during spring training in Arizona. It was a beautiful March day, and after months of playing hard to get over his contract, Manny and the Dodgers had settled.
His arrival at the Dodgers training complex outside Phoenix was like Christmas for the fans, his teammates and the media who gathered to witness the slugger's triumphal return to Dodger blue.
Manny might be the most electric personality the Dodgers have had since, well, maybe forever.
He was a gamble – coming from Boston with big-time baggage.
But after he was traded to LA last year, he went on the hottest tear of his career and led the Dodgers into the playoffs.
Kids, mothers and old men took to wearing dreadlock wigs. In a game populated by too-serious millionaires, Manny was a popular mix of hard work and giggles.
All of this is why his being exposed this week as another baseball drug cheat has clobbered his fans -- and exploded into a big story all over the sports world.
In LA, the reaction is playing like a major civic hurt. Raw, like a love affair that ends in betrayal.
He tested positive for a female hormone drug that is used by athletes mainly to recover from the bodily ravages of steroid use.
Manny apologized, but he did it by press release rather than by showing up in person to explain himself, as he did that day in March in Arizona.
Now, Dodger fans aren't exactly long suffering. Sure, it's been two decades since they have visited the World Series, but they did get to enjoy some playoff baseball last season.
Above average mediocrity is the usual condition, with occasional flashes of something truly interesting.
A month into this new season, the Dodgers looked to have something magical going on. The young hitters like Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp for the first time began to look special. The pitchers were jelling.
The team is in first place and Manny's presence made everyone come to the ball park or tune in Vin Scully on TV with anticipation of a fun time.
But now, the character questions that dogged Manny in Boston are in our faces. Is he the rotten egg that some of his Red Sox teammates said he was?
Did LA get suckered into loving Manny? And perhaps more sadly, is the love affair – and the magical season -- over?
Officially he can return July 3. The Dodgers are on the hook for the rest of his $25 million contract – and another $20 mill if Manny chooses to stay next year.
I expect some desperate spinning by the Dodgers' image machine over the next 50 days. Unless Manny builds a children's hospital or ends the recession, I'm not sure he can do enough to stop the boos from raining down when he shows his face again.
For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.
Banner image: Ramirez warms up prior to a game against the Colorado Rockies at Coors field in Denver. Photo: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers