Saturday, April 9, 2011

Manny Ramirez's Shocking Retirement

On Friday Manny Ramirez announced that after 19 seasons he would be retiring from the game of baseball effective immediately. Only hours later it was revealed that Ramirez had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in a random blood test during Spring Training.  This being his second offense Ramirez would have faced a 100 game suspension but instead he chose to walk away from the game officially ending one of the most impressive, and controversial, careers in baseball history.

Reaction from players and managers all over the league was one of disbelief. "I'm shocked," said Colorado's Jason Giambi in an interview with ESPN. "He always kind of portrayed that he was out there, but he knew how to hit, man. He was unbelievable when it came to hitting."

In a conference call to the press Ramirez had this to say about his decision, "I'm at ease.  God knows what's best [for me]. I'm now an officially retired baseball player. I'll be going away on a trip to Spain with my old man."

Had Ramirez not retired he would have become the first baseball player in MLB to get caught using performance enhancing drugs twice.  The first time he was caught was with the Dodgers a few years ago and he was suspended for 50 games.  Now at 38 years old and as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays Manny has chosen to retire rather than face his punishment.

So far every article I've read or interview I've watched has had the same theme, 'what will Manny's legacy be and did he ruin it with this latest positive test?'  Its an understandable question and a tough one to answer especially since another controversial baseball figure, Barry Bonds, is in the middle of one of the craziest trials in recent memory.

A lot of times I get accused for defending assholes and I guess that trend is going to continue because I am about to stick up for Manny Ramirez.

Maybe I am blinded by the fact that I am a Red Sox fan and he was so important in helping the Sox win both their World Series titles (MVP of the 2004 World Series) but I feel Manny's legacy will remain intact and here is why.  In ten years no one will remember that Manny played for the Rays and the White Sox, they might not even remember he played for the Dodgers, much the same way people always forget Jerry Rice played for the Broncos and the Seahawks.

When people look back on the career of Manny Ramirez they will focus on his years with the Indians and the Red Sox and the fact that he got caught cheating twice will more than likely be forgotten.  He had too many great and absolutely hilarious moments (like the time he dove to intercept the throw to the cutoff man) that will dominate the memory of the fans and overshadow his recent transgressions.

For me Manny Ramirez will always be one of the greatest right handed hitters in the history of baseball.  If you look at his career numbers he ranks right up there with some of the best players in history such as Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Joe DiMaggio.  His combination of power (555 career home runs good for 14th all-time) and his ability to hit for average (.312 lifetime career batting average) are extremely rare in today's game.

But it wasn't just his stats that made Manny so great.  He was a rare breed in baseball, someone with talent and an actual personality.  Too often the best players in baseball have the charisma of a brick wall and never look o enjoy themselves while playing.  The same can't be said of Ramirez who had a childish energy about him and always seemed to be smiling and having a good time.  That is why so many fans were drawn to him and enjoyed watching him play.  Sometimes it seemed like he didn't care or that his work ethic was lacking but former teammates say otherwise.

For teammate Omar Vizquel told ESPN his thoughts on Manny, ""A lot of people don't take it really seriously when they talk about Manny Ramirez.  But the guys who have been in the lineup with him and know how he works, his work ethic, he shows up at 2 o'clock every day, he takes extra batting practice every day and it doesn't matter if he went 5-for-5 the day before. He was constantly in the gym lifting weights. His work ethic was very, very good. And some people look at him on the field like, 'Who the hell is this guy? What is he doing?' There are actions that he does on the field that really don't reflect what type of player he was. But he was just an amazing guy."

Will he get into the Hall of Fame?  Probably not anymore because for some reason baseball treats its Hall of Fame like its the Hall of Morals instead of a museum celebrating the history of baseball.  I emailed Woody Paige of Around the Horn fame after Manny was caught the first time asking whether he would vote for Manny and this was his response, "James: I will not vote for players who have been found to use steroids unless the voting rules are changed."  Since that won't be happening anytime soon Manny may be out of luck when it comes to the Hall.

It truly is a shame because Manny Ramirez had such a great impact on the game and brought so much joy to so many people.  Ron Washington, manager of the Texas Ranger put it best, "You hate to see greatness all of a sudden just fade."

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello James,
Excellent post about Manny Ramirez. My personal opinion is that he is a cheater and should never be allowed in the HOF though...

Sorry pal