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Waiting For Manny
April 11, 2011 4:34 PM   Subscribe

The recently retired Manny Ramirez was one of the most inscrutable players in recent history. Ben McGrath of the New Yorker attempted to figure out Ramirez's motivations in this 2007 piece.
posted by reenum (32 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
For more background, here's a great piece by Joe Posnaski.
In my own romantic view of baseball and the world, I tended to see Manny as baseball’s Mozart — an often vile personality who did one thing so beautifully that you could not turn away. He finished top five in batting average five times, top five in on-base percentage five times, top five in slugging 10 times. He faced Dennis Eckersley three times … he walked once and hit two home runs off him. He hit .643 against CC Sabathia. Here’s one that will blow your mind — there are 27 men out there who have had only one at-bat match-up with MannyBManny … and they will always be able to tell people that Manny hit a home run in that one at-bat.
posted by MegoSteve at 4:55 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, yes, the 2007 Red Sox, when we didn't have to watch Dice-K give up 7 $&%#-ing runs in two innings vs. the *&$#-ing Tampa Bay Rays. I remember those #$@!-ing days. I remember them fondly.
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:00 PM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Now it's just Manny being Barry.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:14 PM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm a fan of the Manny: the one that would hang out in the Green Monster with headphones on, then throw a guy out at home. I know there are warts, but I think Manny might have been what baseballers were like in the old days.

Check out this article which states a lot of what I feel (and get treated to Colin McEnroe).

What I hear on the TV tonight (first time I've watched in a long while, I usually go for radio) is that Manny is going to be the whipping boy for the roids era players. Which sucks since it will tarnish the Red Sox World Series on the way. It was too much of a coincidence to see Big Papi fail so hard after Manny left us. But Ortiz has slowly made his way back in, too bad Manny had to wave the red cape one time too many.
posted by drowsy at 6:38 PM on April 11, 2011


In my own romantic view of baseball and the world, I tended to see Manny as baseball’s Mozart — an often vile personality who did one thing so beautifully that you could not turn away. He finished top five in batting average five times, top five in on-base percentage five times, top five in slugging 10 times. He faced Dennis Eckersley three times … he walked once and hit two home runs off him. He hit .643 against CC Sabathia. Here’s one that will blow your mind — there are 27 men out there who have had only one at-bat match-up with MannyBManny … and they will always be able to tell people that Manny hit a home run in that one at-bat.

He cheated.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:51 PM on April 11, 2011


Great Baseball player
borne of the New York burroughs
Hall of fame slacker.
posted by localhuman at 8:01 PM on April 11, 2011


Becoming Manny: Inside the Life of Baseball's Most Enigmatic Slugger by Jean Rhodes and Shawn Boburg is an excellent book, part biography, part psychology, about Ramirez and his life before Major League Baseball. While it's warts and all it's a less biased, more sympathetic view of a man who really just wanted to hit a ball very well.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 8:10 PM on April 11, 2011


I was over Manny's act when he was still an Indian, and that was when I was still a stoner. But there's no denying he could hit the hell out of a baseball.

In contrast: Albert being Albert.
posted by Balonious Assault at 8:18 PM on April 11, 2011


From Reddit: Manny's total playing time as a Ray (regular season).
posted by dirigibleman at 9:05 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Albert Belle was a victim of the press as much as himself. Since at least the days of Ted Williams, the vile creatures known as sportswriters have been inserting themselves as a priesthood between the fans and the players, crafting narratives based on their personal biases and racisms. It burned Bonds, and those fucking jackals robbed us of seeing possibly the greatest hitter that ever lived get his 3,000th hit, among other milestones.

Baseball has had "dopers" since when Mantle and Aaron were popping greenies or Koufax was doing steroids. I don't care if they use the latest drugs to recover quicker or perform at their best; it's their life and body, and I feel it's wrong to judge them or condemn them. For all the moralizing and hand wringing, Bonds hit 72 hr in an era when everyone else was doping too, and Manny was one of the best right handed hitters in a time when steroid-influenced pitchers were throwing harder, and with less breakdown over the season.

Man I'm drunk...
posted by hincandenza at 9:06 PM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Cheating is okay if everyone is doing it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:13 PM on April 11, 2011


He cheated.

Cheating is okay if everyone is doing it.

He certainly did, and there is no excuse for it, even in a sport with a long history of largely sanctioned cheating.

That said, there's something less at stake here than the fate of humankind, and if you're not willing to appreciate the glory and idiocy and genius and indifference of Manny Ramirez and see him for the complicated and fascinating figure he is, then I'm not really sure why you're paying attention to sports in the first place. Manny shouldn't have taken steroids, certainly not in 2011 after he'd already been busted once, but I don't believe in moral purity or in unforgivable sins. Frankly, if I did, I'd spend a lot more time worrying about Cap Anson and Pete Rose than about the differences between the guys taking androsterone and those taking nandrolone.
posted by Copronymus at 9:38 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


He was certainly a very fascinating cheater.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:47 PM on April 11, 2011


Even if you're cheating, you still have to hit the damn ball.
posted by Camofrog at 10:15 PM on April 11, 2011


Yes, you must play baseball while cheating at baseball.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:19 PM on April 11, 2011


It saddens me to see people so readily dismiss Manny as a "cheater." I choose to remember the joy he exuded on the field, and that sweet, sweet swing. I'm not exaggerating when I say that watching Manny swing a baseball bat improved my violin playing. He was in perfect equilibrium throughout the motion, with every joint flexible but powerful. He stayed centered and balanced and compact, and the ball simply lept off the bat at contact.

It looked effortless, but I know first-hand the tens of thousands of hours it takes to refine a motion to that level. No pharmaceutical will do that for you. Cheater or not, the guy was an artist.
posted by violinflu at 10:20 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


It saddens me to think of kids trying dangerous drugs so that one day they can be worshiped in such a manner. South Park really nailed the American attitude on "cheating."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:27 PM on April 11, 2011


The Perfect Swing
posted by thecjm at 10:38 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


But if he hadnt been taking steroids so much, people wouldn't fondly remember how well he could hit a baseball! And what about all those pitchers who might not have had the honor of having Manny hit a home run off them? What would they have told their grandchildren?

That boring story about how Grandpa struck out Manny again?
posted by silkyd at 4:43 AM on April 12, 2011


I sort of wish there was a time when it was clear he wasn't juicing, because then people could separate his swing from the rest a bit. Like we know what Bonds did before he started using steroids.

As for "Manny being Manny" - I find it amusing but I've never been a fan of any the teams he quit on. Actually, I've always enjoyed it in some sort of Schadenfreude.
posted by kendrak at 6:38 AM on April 12, 2011


I don't listen anyone's opinion on 'roids until they first outline their position on Pete Rose. If you are not in favor of Rose being re-instated and put in the Hall, then you can shut the fuck up about 'roids are just the 90s/00s version of greenies.
posted by spicynuts at 6:50 AM on April 12, 2011


I just spent a week at the Baseball Hall of Fame and it was interesting to see how much Pete Rose stuff is on display. He donated so much memorabilia it seemed he just assumed he would be in there some day, which makes sense - he should be. I get that baseball likes to be very "principled" in an old school way, but it has to confront a lot of issues now. As the juicers all become eligible, people are going to have to really consider these things. In light of that, I totally think Pete Rose should be re-instated. He's played it so weird though and hasn't been the most sympathetic character, which you know, baseball loves the romance of a good guy.
posted by kendrak at 7:11 AM on April 12, 2011


Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa should be in the Hall of Fame. Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame. Clemens, Manny, Palmeiro – these guys should be in the Hall of Fame.

Cover their plaques with asterisks, don't paper over the controversies. But put them in the Hall.

The fact is, these guys were the best of the best, during an era when people were using steroids and HGH. They took a competitive advantage that was available to them, as professional athletes are wont to do. You know who else did? John Rocker. Wally Joyner. David Segui. Chuck Finley. Paxton fucking Crawford. These guys didn't have Hall of Fame careers. You still have to be good.

It's a shame that steroid use seems so widespread in baseball, but this has been an era in the game's history and it should be documented. I don't want to take my kids to Cooperstown in twenty years and have them leave thinking that Ken Griffey, Jr. and Albert Pujols were the only great players of the past ten years.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 8:36 AM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whatever, I saw all the Pete Rose stuff there too. They can tell the history without giving the personal honors.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:38 AM on April 12, 2011


I was over Manny's act when he was still an Indian, and that was when I was still a stoner. But there's no denying he could hit the hell out of a baseball.

In contrast: Albert being Albert.


Since you're from Cleveland, I coulda sworn you were going to mention Albert Belle. Another "curious" baseball slugger.

It saddens me to think of kids trying dangerous drugs so that one day they can be worshiped in such a manner.

Don't worry. The robotic players will be here soon enough.

If you are not in favor of Rose being re-instated and put in the Hall, then you can shut the fuck up about 'roids are just the 90s/00s version of greenies.

Huh? Betting on baseball games in which your team is playing is not the same thing as artificially enhancing your performance. The former compromises the fundamental spirit of competition (both teams have winning the game as their primary motive). The latter compromises "fairness," but that is compromised ALL the time (see: lasik surgery or cortison injections). The rules of what is "fair," change constantly (androstenedione only became an illegal after McGwire was gone.)

As the juicers all become eligible, people are going to have to really consider these things.

It's pretty clear that none of the "juicers" (alleged or confirmed) is going to get into the HoF, unless much later as veterans.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:29 AM on April 12, 2011


Since you're from Cleveland, I coulda sworn you were going to mention Albert Belle. Another "curious" baseball slugger.

Hey, I'm from Columbus, and truth be told, I grew up a Reds fan. But I've lived in Seattle for a long time now, and I do have fond memories of taunting Belle from the left field seats in the Kingdome when the Indians and White Sox came to town. Most ball players won't let on that they can even hear you yelling from the stands. Joey was a little different.
posted by Balonious Assault at 11:34 AM on April 12, 2011


Ahem. Now that I'm sober...

1) I didn't watch the Albert being Albert link (was in a bar at the time I posted) and like mrgrimm just assumed it was Albert Belle- also a one-time Indian super slugger like Manny- who was excoriated by the press (although he wasn't exactly the nicest of guys). However, I wouldn't be surprised if Albert turns out to have doped too. About the only great players of the last 20 years who would surprise me would be Ichiro and Griffey- the latter of whom might have the HR record if his body didn't betray him so quickly with seemingly endless season-ending injuries.

Tangential to that: I still share a story about Griffey I heard from a yoga instructor I knew years ago who was brought in to work with the Mariners for a short while. She mentioned at the time (1994-1995 or so) that two people stood out: Randy Johnson and Ken Griffey Jr. One of those people apparently adored the yoga classes, and one laughed and make jokes the whole time, finding yoga as a whole to be silly. I'll leave you guess which one was which, but Griffey famously fell apart, physically, when he entered his 30's; while Johnson was traded from the Mariners under a cloud of "over the hill" only to go on to win 4 Cy Young awards in a row with Arizona.

I just don't have a problem with players using medicine and health knowledge of all kinds to stay productive and active. If "the Clear" is outlawed, then maybe we should outlaw yoga and calisthenics too.


2) Pete Rose: put him in the Hall, he does hold a few significant records and was a big part of the game's history in his era. He also bet on baseball, and apparently on- even against- his own team, and for that was properly removed from being able to play the game- but should not be removed from the game's history, which is what the National Baseball Museum, and its Hall of Fame, are all about.

That said, Pete Rose is a jerk, a cheat, and a missing-link low-brow asshole. He also was a hell of a player, and until they retroactively remove the racists and wifebeaters and other jerks from the Hall, keeping people out even for this seems to rewrite a history that happened.

3) Manny Ramirez was an astounding hitter, and lots of players who took steroids could not hit like that even with the PED. For a decade and a half he was one of the most fearsome right-handed hitters, a dominating slugger with a beautiful swing. He was terrifying in Cleveland, and when he came to Boston it was a thrill for us Sox fans to watch him in the regular season and especially the playoffs, when it seemed Manny and Big Papi were a 1-2 punch in every critical late-inning situation. He belongs in the Hall, even if you note on his plaque he was effectively removed from the sport near the end of his career for violating anti-doping policies.

4) Juicing is overall a silly to rail against; as mrgrimm notes, lasik, cortisone injections, Tommy John surgery... these are all performance enhancing. When I said Koufax was on steroids, it's true: steroids were a wonderdrug and their discoverer won the Nobel prize. Koufax pitched the bulk of his HoF career getting through the pain and arthritis because of steroids.

Which is what I don't get about anti-PED stances: are we suddenly Christian Scientists now, when it comes to sports? What exactly is "purity" when modern medicine can do so much? I've often compared PEDs in professional sports to office drones "needing" that caffeine fix before a day of writing code or attending meetings. Should I be fired from my job because I start my day with a mocha?

When these players take substances, they tend to be drugs that allow your body to repair faster from injury/workouts- which means they can bulk up faster, and which means hitters and especially pitchers don't break down as fast over the course of the season. They still have to work out, they still have to train and practice, and they still have to execute better than all but 700 or so other people on the face of the planet. Pitchers have historically decayed over the length of the season, as if your body repairs itself 99% after ~4 days from the stress of a start, by the end of the season you're at 74% and pushing hard to go 7 innings; if it repairs 99.5%, you're at 86% going into the playoffs. That's a huge difference over a 162 game stretch.

And why is this bad? Players get shots, they have physical therapy, they get lasik, they wear contacts, they get repair to joints and bones that would otherwise be career-ending... isn't this okay? They already had to be at the top of their field to even make the majors, and steroids don't turn a desk jockey into a #3 hitter. dixiecupdrinking points out that many a player took steroids who didn't have much of any career; it wasn't the steroids that made Bonds great, it just kept him great longer than mother nature might have intended a 40-year-old man to be. Which I for one don't mind at all.


But all my comments is irrelevent; those damn sportswriters alone vote for HoF induction too, outside of the veterans committee, and those nattering nabobs of negativity have their story and they'll stick to it, even as the broader fan base and the athletes collective shrug and say "so what"?
posted by hincandenza at 1:25 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah- I happened to look up the wiki on Albert Belle, and found this little tidbit:
In 2001, following Belle's retirement, the New York Daily News' columnist Bill Madden wrote:
"Sorry, there'll be no words of sympathy here for Albert Belle. He was a surly jerk before he got hurt and now he's a hurt surly jerk....He was no credit to the game. Belle's boorish behavior should be remembered by every member of the Baseball Writers' Association when it comes time to consider him for the Hall of Fame."
Responding to this, The New York Times sportswriter Robert Lipsyte observed:
"Madden is basically saying, 'He was not nice to me, so let's screw him.' Sportswriters anoint heroes in basically the same way you have crushes in junior high school... you've got someone like Albert Belle, who is somehow basically ungrateful for this enormous opportunity to play this game. If he's going to appear to us as a surly asshole, then we'll cover him that way. And then, of course, he's not gonna talk to us anymore—it's self-fulfilling."
What Robert Lipsyte said; it really is like a high-school crush that turns sour and reinforces its own negativity.
posted by hincandenza at 1:33 PM on April 12, 2011


I do have fond memories of taunting Belle from the left field seats in the Kingdome

Lucky you didn't get a fastball to the chest! ^_^

Which is what I don't get about anti-PED stances: are we suddenly Christian Scientists now, when it comes to sports?

Don't worry. We're gonna get there pretty soon. The cyborgs will help things progress.

What Robert Lipsyte said; it really is like a high-school crush that turns sour and reinforces its own negativity.

See Barry Bonds. Sure, he was always a spoiled brat, but he can also be a funny, intelligent guy. There's an alternate universe where he's a fan favorite and the press always love his quotes.

Albert Belle has some bad press, that's for sure. (His poor wife...)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:24 PM on April 12, 2011


What I hear on the TV tonight (first time I've watched in a long while, I usually go for radio) is that Manny is going to be the whipping boy for the roids era players. Which sucks since it will tarnish the Red Sox World Series on the way.

Dude got caught redhanded twice; yeah, he's not gonna come out on top here. He's the whipping boy for taking steroids AND for being stupid enough to get caught. Twice.

Luckily for the Red Sox, he was already gone for that first positive test. One might say it was convenient that a member of the organization ran the steroids witchhunt a few years prior, and they came out (relatively) clean.
posted by inigo2 at 9:13 PM on April 12, 2011


From what I can tell, the anti-doping stuff in Baseball is akin to the anti-concussion stuff in Football: Will the next generation of athletes be allowed to play this game, or not?

I've talked to a surprising number of people -- a surprising number of Texans, even -- who wouldn't even consider letting their kids play Football. And if Baseball becomes a realm where You Don't Go Pro Without Drugs, well...
posted by effugas at 11:46 PM on April 12, 2011


Really interesting article on Manny, before he was Manny, in today's NYTimes.
posted by .kobayashi. at 10:43 AM on April 26, 2011


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