Manny Ramirez was apparently breast fed up to and including age four. I just learned this.
One could say “this explains a lot” and it might be true, but rather than make a pejorative claim and I am simply going to file it away into the list of hilarious and entertaining events that I was privvy to in the life of Manny Ramirez.
There isn’t a single baseball player I like/have liked more than Manny Ramirez. His seasons in Boston were easily the most entertaining, fascinating, and awe inspiring thing I have ever seen. There’s a lot of more qualified people to talk on the subject, but I’m not some simpleton baseball fan who adores limelight figures and doesn’t “get it.” I love baseball. I know baseball. I love the stat revolution. And I love Manny.
He is a near perfect hitter with no holes in his game. He hits at any count. He hits any part of the plate. He can hit opposite field. He hits for average. He hits for power. He has been stunningly consistent. Hell, HE sets up pitchers to get what he wants. The only other player who comes up in conversations about “setting up” pitchers are pete rose and shoeless Joe. Yet, he doesn’t blink twice after a backwards K. He just keeps moving like a shark. His talent is a seeming anomaly.
I both like and detest the phrase “Manny Being Manny.” In someways it’s a perfect explanation for the stunningly bizarre range of behavior. It explains the unexplainable. But it’s ubiquity has afforded a kind of de facto accreditation for anything that happens to the guy. It’s almost stopped us from trying to figure out this guy. Why is he worth figuring out? To highlight:
-He has been a hitting freak forever, and a near legend for his ability when playing high school baseball in NYC.
-He frequently watched hitting film buck naked in the Cleveland clubhouse.
-He accepted the contract with Boston on the condition that they hire Frank Mancini… the clubhouse guy who set up the pitching machine for him… seriously. This is absolutely hilarious. Frank declined because he lives in Cleveland and is, you know, a clubhouse guy.
-He took frequent piss breaks in the green monster
-Coming back from a brief injury he had a stint in AAA pawtucket. He loved it there and wanted to keep playing there. Once he even supposedly requested a trade there (!)
-He once dove to cut off a throw from Johnny Damon in center… he was about 20 feet from him.
-He is oddly shy.
-He and Julian Taverez had the same exact nickname… for each other… “Rambo”
-He wears an impossibly baggy uniform.
-He would go months without depositing paychecks. We’re talking practically millions.
-He sold/helped sell his/some dude’s grill on Ebay.
-He is oddly punctual during the season (compared to his off season) and is often found asleep in the clubhouse when people get there.
-He made a great running catch, then ran up on the wall, high fived a fan, then threw it back to first to get a double play. This actually happened.
-Again, Manny was breast fed up until the age of four.
I could go on, in fact this is just scratching the surface, but you still get the idea.
So why do I like Manny so much? These just seem like distractions and news stories, but really they’re just details about an enigmatic figure. People give him crap for not playing the game “the right way.” I hate that. Really, everyone is supposed to play the game hard-nosed and gritty? Give me a break. It’s about contrast. It’s about stylistic discrepancy and awesomeness. I look back at my favorite red sox players, Oil Can Boyd. Bill Spaceman Lee. El Tiante. Pedro Martinez. Manny Ramirez. They were all eccentric, dominating performers. They had a bit of a screw loose. They were somewhat mystical. They had fun. They played a game and somehow transcended it. That’s what I love.
It’s a game. An incredible game, but a game nonetheless. Manny seems like one of the only people who is not afraid to treat it like one. Sure he gets paid millions of dollars, but we pay millions of dollars to see him. I don’t care about about his contract disputes. He’s angling for money. Everyone does that. It’s not a public service. It’s a game. And Manny is better at hitting than anyone else on the planet. (he’s freak performance the last 2 months in LA can attest). So I abandon the complaints. Manny is simply the most fun.
And that’s what I like best. I can’t help it. I just do.
To wit, a comparison: The 2007 red sox team had a hard-nosed, workhorse demeanor who cranked out an efficient title. It was near perfect baseball from a perfectly constructed team. Meanwhile, the 04 team was a bunch of “idiots” who magically came down from 0-3 in the ALCS and won that fucker. They went on to deliver the first world series title in over 80 years. Yet, with that crazy fucking roster of nincumpoops they had no business doing so.
Which team was more fun?