Friday, April 18, 2008

Manny Being Manny

"It doesnt matter where I hit. I am Manny, so it doesnt matter."
-Manny Ramirez, on hitting 3rd or 4th

Last night Manny Ramirez hit two massive home runs off the Yankees Mike Mussina to give the Red Sox the lead for good. The Yanks tried to fight back but the hill was too tall to climb. Manny doesnt just hit well against the Yankees, he absolutely kills them. Since 2006, hes hitting .473 against the Yankees - going into last nights game - so, add a bit to that.

.473 isnt softball numbers, it freaking wiffleball numbers. And to think, the Yankees could have had Ramirez for nothing other than his salary. They didnt have to give up a single prospect, because after 2003 the Red Sox put him on waivers, all the Yankees had to do was pick up the contract. They didnt, the Red Sox came back from a 0-3 hole in the 2004 American League Championship Series to win 4-3, and they won the World Series, where Manny was the Most Valuable Player. Last year, 2007, the Red Sox won the World Series again, with Manny again being a major contributor. All this from a player who wanted out of Boston, while the owners wanted him out, with the general consent of a divided fanbase, some loved Ramirez, most hated him and blamed him for the Red Sox woes.

The phrase “out of left field” originated long before Manny Ramirez made it to the majors, yet it seems like it was coined with him in mind. Ramirez is the latest – and arguably the zaniest – quirky character to play for the Red Sox, a franchise that has employed the likes of Bill “Spaceman” Lee, Jackie Jensen, a talented outfielder whose fear of flying cut short his career, and high strung Jimmy Piersall, who in the bio pic “Fear Strikes Out” was portrayed as climbing the backstop during a nervous breakdown. Ramirez is also the most talented hitter to toil in Beantown since Ted Williams.

Among Ramirez’s more notable eccentricities is his penchant for disappearing behind the Green Monster at Fenway Park when the Sox bring in a reliever in mid-inning, possibly to relieve himself, possibly to smoke a huge spliff with the scoreboard guys. He named his two oldest sons Manny Jr. and reportedly has multiple Social Security numbers and more than one driver’s license. Early in his career, he would go through teammates’ lockers and take bats and clothes for good luck. He once told the Red Sox he was too sick to play in a key series against the Yankees and then was spotted having a post-game drink with Bronx Bombers’ infielder Enrique Wilson. At least in that incident he told the Red Sox he wasn’t showing up. Each spring, Ramirez’s reporting date is a mystery to the Boston brass. His teammates describe this kind of behavior as “Manny being Manny.”

Manny has handed the ball to fans in the stands after making a catch with 1 out, fallen flat on his face while the ball rolls past him, but his most famous incident of outfield incompetence came a few years ago when he made a nice running catch and threw the ball to the cutoff man - actually, it was the center fielder who was about 30 feet away from him - in the opposite direction of the infield.

Ramirez has asked the Red Sox to trade him to numerous teams, including Boston’s AAA team in Pawtucket, R.I. After the 2003 season, the Red Sox put him irrevocable waivers, meaning all a team had to was agree to pay his $20 million annual salary and they could have him, but there were no takers. They also tried unsuccessfully to deal him to Texas for Alex Rodriguez during that off-season. In 2005, he went public with demands to be shipped out of the Hub City. The Red Sox attempted to move him after the season but couldn’t find an acceptable deal.

Ramirez is a notriously poor and often indifferent outfielder, some might call him a "space cadet," who sometimes seems lost running the bases. So why would a major-league team put up with all the oddball antics, shoddy fielding and clueless base running? Well, because the guy can flat out destroy the baseball with a bat. Beginning in 1998, Ramirez drove in at least 100 runs a season for nine straight seasons. His career average is over .313, and he started the 2008 season as a 35-year-old with 490 career homers, so he has a good shot at finishing with at least 600 career long balls. His best season was with Cleveland in 1999 when he hit .333, belted 44 homers and plated 165 runners. He is a hammer lock for the Hall of Fame.

The Yankees made a few huge mistakes in the past 8 years that have led to a draught of championships. The speculative signings of Jeff Weaver, Jared Wright, Carl Pavano, and a host of other underperforming players have cost the Yankees countless millions, and several World Series victories. But its hard not to wonder how many championships the Yankees mights have won had they signed Manny instead of Jason Giambi or Gary Sheffield. It is an amazing thought that without Manny, the Red Sox probably never would have made it past the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS, and if the Yankees had him, how many more champioships they could have won.

1 comment:

David Lamm said...

Manny is probably my favorite player. With the numbers he puts up against us, imagine him playing 80 games in yankee stadium...I gotta assume the bosox are gonna make good on the last two optional years on his contract. Kinda makes me sad.

His two hr at-bats last night were vintage manny. Patient and balanced manny just waited for moose to come inside and BOOM! He made moose look like a scared old man.

Come home Manny!