Ramirez, now with the Dodgers, responded earlier Thursday, releasing a statement that a doctor-prescribed medication had triggered the positive test. Regardless, the league suspended one of this generation's greatest hitters for 50 games, forcing him to forfeit one-third of his 2009 salary.
Playing for the Red Sox from 2001-08, Ramirez was the very definition of a Yankee nemesis. He has hit more home runs, 55, in his career against the Bombers than against any other team. And he hit .350 in the dramatic '04 postseason, including .300 in seven games against the Yankees.
The natural reaction of those in the Bronx is to wonder what might have been that October. If it was indeed steroids that triggered Ramirez's positive test for performance-enhancing substances, then has the validity of the Red Sox's 2004 World Series title taken a hit?
"I really don't know how to answer that," said Johnny Damon, one of the most important and popular players on that team. "What we accomplished that year in Boston was pretty extraordinary, the comeback and all that stuff. I would love to know that we went through that season, we played fair -- everything that we won, we won the right way. I would love for it to come out that way."
For now, Damon and the baseball world will have to wonder. The Yankees, for their part, were hesitant to comment Thursday on a man who has played such a critical role in their rivalry with the Red Sox.
"He was such a talented hitter that I would not think he would need an edge," Damon said. "That's how good of a hitter he is. He made things look easy. He did his homework on his pitchers, the videos that he watched, the hard work that he put in on the field and off the field. I didn't think he needed an edge."
Yet many have said those same words about Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees third baseman who admitted in February to taking steroids from 2001-03 while with the Rangers. Because he tested positive in '03, when testing was anonymous and did not carry punitive implications, Rodriguez was not suspended for his use. But Ramirez was, and on Thursday, he became easily the highest-profile player to serve a punishment for the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
"It doesn't look good," Jeter said. "It seems like it's a never-ending thing. That's what it seems like as of late. You want to put it behind you, then you have something like this come up."
"Every time anybody cheats, whether it's with steroids or corked bats or whatever it may be, it's not good for the game," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said.
Teixeira, who served as a union representative during his time with the Rangers, has been active working with the league in trying to crack down on steroid use in baseball. Regardless, he spoke Thursday of the difficulty in knowing the chemical properties of every medication a baseball player might take.
"When I'm sick and I go to a doctor, I'm going to take what he gives me," Teixeira said. "So that's the tough part. It's tough to tell someone, 'You can't take anything unless it's tested by a Major League Baseball lab.'"
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he has made it a habit to reiterate the dangers of even innocent drug use to his team every Spring Training.
"From what I understand, there are things that the players may not necessarily think may cause a positive test that will," Girardi said.
And though Girardi, too, was unwilling to draw conclusions on Ramirez, he was disappointed nonetheless.
"It's been so hard for me to see baseball have so many black eyes," Girardi said. "It's disappointing to me. And a lot of times, it's hard to figure out what you're supposed to think during this last 12, 14 years, and what's supposedly real and not supposedly real. To me, it's very unfortunate that we're going through this at this time in baseball. And it's something that we might go through for a long time."
Damon, for his part, clung to a somewhat more optimistic view.
"This game has been able to withstand the test of time," he said. "This game has been able to, I believe, thrive so far this year. This is another black cloud, and hopefully we can get all of this stuff out of the game in the upcoming years. Unfortunately, some very good baseball players have to go down with it."