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An Irish wake for Manny Ramirez

Apr 11, 2011, 4:31 PM EDT

Manny Ramirez

I’m probably in the distinct minority of people who are kind of bummed that Manny Ramirez‘s career is over. I mean, yes, I can agree that his time was up whether he was getting suspended or not. I can see now that my preseason optimism about his stint with the Rays was misguided.  Whatever the case, my impulse right now is to have an Irish wake for a career that was an outrageous amount of fun for the most part, even if the guy himself was basically a loon.  I feel like drinking strong drink and telling funny Manny stories.

Jon Heyman helps us out with that a bit today, passing along a Manny Ramirez anecdote that I had never heard before, though I’m guessing has been in general circulation:

When O.J. Simpson had his infamous car chase in June of 1994 and it was being played in the Indians clubhouse that day, Manny wanted to know what was happening. When one of his teammates told him that O.J. was accused of killing his wife, Manny memorably said, “Oh ho, not Ogea! I know his wife.” Ramirez didn’t read newspapers and somehow thought the player meant their Indians teammate Chad Ogea, a pitcher who was not as quite as well known as O.J. Simpson.

I don’t care who you are, that’s funny right there.

Beyond the anecdote I think Heyman gets it mostly right on Manny.  The guy wasn’t dumb, like so many people say. And, yes, selfishness explains a lot more about his career and his quirks than the eccentricity that is so often ascribed to the guy.  And as Heyman suggests — and as HBT commenter/baseball historian Mark Armour explained last week in the comments here — for all of his hitting greatness, Manny was the best example of some really bad baseball.  Station-to-station, defense-free take-and-rake baseball may have been in a team’s best competitive interests for a great many years and was certainly in Ramirez’s financial interest, but it was and still is really hard to watch.

I disagree with one comment Heyman made: that anyone who votes for Ramirez for the Hall of Fame necessarily endorses drug use.  As I’ve explained in the past, I think it’s possible to reconcile a player’s drug use and his worthiness for the Hall of Fame by (a) eliminating the moral component of it; and (b) doing our best to determine if, absent PEDs, would he still have been a Hall of Fame player.  I probably need some time and deep thought about whether Manny Ramirez fits that bill, but my initial impulse is to say he would, and I don’t think saying so makes me an endorser of drug use.

Overall, though: a tough but ultimately accurate account of Manny, I think. Which is what I wish we’d see more of at funerals.

  1. Jonny 5 - Apr 11, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Is there some type of steroid formula you’re working on to determine if a player would have been HOF worthy had he not taken steroids? It is possible. I think. The only problem is you’d have to assume the player always used.

    KEVIN !!! what’s up? Is this doable?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 11, 2011 at 4:45 PM

      Nah. Just eyeballin’, guessing and using the idea as a thought exercise.

      • Utley's Hair - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:14 PM

        I’m always game for drink and funny stories. But I draw the line at a round of Manny Boy.

    • Kevin S. - Apr 11, 2011 at 7:33 PM

      I have no idea if you’re referencing something or actually asking me, but what the hell, here goes.

      The answer is yes and no. On the one hand, there is no set “PED impact” on a player’s stats. It depends on what was used, how it was used, how long it was used, what a player did in conjunction with it, how a player’s body reacted to it… way too many variables. On the other hand, we *can* compare what a player did to what we’d expect him to do, controlling for age, environment, etc. The residual isn’t necessarily going to be the result of steroids – there are many other things that can alter a player’s career arc, simple randomness being the most prevalent – but it might be instructive to look at a player’s career (or segment of his career) and see if, given what we know, we can explain why it took the path it did. For example, Brian Cartwright wrote an article after A-Rod confessed to steroid usage explaining that there was no real spike in his production over the time he claimed he was using:

      Craig, I would add one more reason why it’s not endorsing drug use to vote for players who used – the historical precedent of the BBWAA to leave punishment for cheating to Major League Baseball and simply judge a player on the merits of his career. I doubt anybody would argue that a vote for Perry or Ford was an endorsement of doctoring the baseball, or that a vote for Mays or Aaron was an endorsement of amphetamines. Both were against baseball’s rules when they were done. Baseball did nothing about it at the time, and the writers didn’t take it upon themselves to deliver justice after the fact.

  2. micker716 - Apr 11, 2011 at 4:58 PM

    Why do so many continue to insist that Manny isn’t dumb after relating yet another story showing how dumb he is? He’s not “eccentric”, “different” “care free” or just “Manny being Manny”. He’s dumb. I’ll remember a very talented borderline moron. A very rich moron.

  3. dodger88 - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    I see the “would have been a HOF before steroids” argument when we believe that a player (i.e. Bonds) had racked up a great career before it appears he took steroids. In the case of Ramirez, did he only start in 2003 or was it closer to 1993?

    Like most of his era, Ramirez’s HOF worthiness will be debated without truly understanding how many players were clean vs those who used some sort of PED. If you tell me that only 10% of players used PEDs I find it a lot easier to say keep them out compared to a scenario where a near or clear majority of players used PEDs.

    • crpls - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:55 PM

      Why do people always seem to ignore he passed several drug tests until failing his FIRST one in 09? Started in 03? Oh jeez.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 11, 2011 at 6:09 PM

        Bonds passed a lot of ’em too. “The cream” and “the clear” were considered undetectable. The drugs are usually ahead of the testing, and for a long time, there was no testing.

        That is the problem with getting caught…it casts long shadows over everything that happened before, and ruins credibility.

    • bigharold - Apr 11, 2011 at 6:16 PM

      “Like most of his era, Ramirez’s HOF worthiness will be debated without truly understanding how many players were clean vs those who used some sort of PED.”

      I think once more time passes and perspective is gained you will see an rational attempt to take this aspect of the PED era into consideration. It’s important to keep in mind that pitchers were juicing as well as hitters so there could be the defense of “I was just fighting fire with fire” from players.

      One the one hand you can’t merely exclude all players from the “steroid” era because we can’t be sure who was using and who wasn’t. It’s not as if ALL the records from that era can be invalidated. On the other hand, if you take into consideration that a large percentage were in fact juicing, perhaps even a majority, than you are obliged to do the mental calculus to make some type of determination as to whether a player is HOF worthy even if his connection to PEDs is well documented.

      Manny situation frankly doesn’t lend itself to a lot of sympathy. Forget all that stuff about Manny being Manny and about how selfish he was or how he completely sucked on defense or even the two occurrences where he flat quit on his team. Lets say those things neither count for nor against him. What you have left is his hitting ability which now has had serious doubt cast on it. He was apparently caught in 2003 and as well as twice in the last few years. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say half of his career is tainted by steroids. That certainly takes the edge off of the assessment of him being the “greatest right hand hitter” of …. “fill in blank”.

      There have always been eras in baseball; the deadball era, the era before players of color were allowed in MLB, the 154 vs the 162 game era, the era before the mounds were lowered, the pre and post free agency eras. All of these eras had a significant effect on the competitive balance as well individual performance. The steroid era is just one more and with a little time and distance it too will be evaluated so that the players of that era can find their proper place in baseball’s history, including the HOF. And, some of those players will have been known steroid users, … but Manny won’t be one of them.

  4. tomemos - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    “I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!”

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 11, 2011 at 9:26 PM

      I knew it was you. You broke my heart.

  5. spergler - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    Listen, I’m a big hall guy. I want anyone who ever loved baseball to be able to find their hero’s plaque on the wall. That means Manny should be in.

    When I was young, my parents took me to Cooperstown and, sure, it was almost a spiritual experience, as indeed was the National Air and Space Museum I first visited around the same age. And as cheesy–yes cheesy–as the room of plaques is, it’s the part of the place I remember most. In part, that’s because my dad’s favorite players from growing up were there. In part, it’s because there were so many that I thought I could never learn about all of them (and I was right).

    But I promise that if the museum takes the position that baseball of the era in which I grew to love the sport isn’t worth celebrating, I could never share that experience with my children.

  6. clydeserra - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    Bad defense is bad baseball, yes. But what Ramirez did at the plate was very good baseball. He did not make outs and beyond that hit the ball far when he did.

    There is nothing about Ramirez’s batting that could ever be considered bad baseball. That’s flat wrong

    • Jack Marshall - Apr 11, 2011 at 11:19 PM

      Oh really? I guess you never saw Manny drag his ass to first on a DP ball by grandmother could beat out, but Manny couldn’t be bothered. Or stand admiring a supposed home run that hit the wall, with him only reaching first, or getting thrown out at second.

      • cavredleg15 - Apr 12, 2011 at 1:00 AM

        Batting is different than running the bases-

  7. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Apr 11, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Could you imagine if the Museum of Natural History decided to eliminate the dinosaurs on some ethical grounds (“the Bible never mentioned dinosaurs”)? The HoF is a museum, and it will be grossly incomplete without the likes of Bonds, Rose, Clemens, McGwire/Sosa, Arod, Manny etc.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 11, 2011 at 9:29 PM

      Carl Everett would love this idea, since he thinks there weren’t any dinosaurs since they aren’t mentioned in the Bible.

    • Jack Marshall - Apr 11, 2011 at 11:21 PM

      There are no sportsmanship requirements for dinosaurs.

      It they want to exhibit Manny’s skeleton at the Museum of Natural History, though, I’d have no objection.

      • fquaye149 - Apr 12, 2011 at 11:13 AM

        I hardly think the morality clause is a “sportsmanship requirement”. It’s a consideration. If it were a requirement the Hall of Fame would be about half the size it is now.

  8. frankvzappa - Apr 11, 2011 at 6:42 PM

    not having to hear about Manny anymore is going to be almost as glorious as not having to watch Maya Moore and womens college basketball on sportscenter anymore…a truly fine month in sports

  9. Chris Fiorentino - Apr 11, 2011 at 7:08 PM

    Why is Babe Ruth in the Hall of Fame? They didn’t let minorities play when he played, meaning the entire league wasn’t the best of the best as it is today. To me, these writers are stupid to think that people visiting the hall of fame, which is really what it is ALL about, isn’t it, give a damn whether a guy used steroids or bet on baseball.

    It’s ridiculous. A hall of fame without one of the best right handed hitters ever isn’t really all that much of a hall at all.

    • Kevin S. - Apr 11, 2011 at 7:20 PM

      Seriously Chris, you’re scaring me. Stop making sense!

    • bigharold - Apr 11, 2011 at 8:00 PM

      “It’s ridiculous. A hall of fame without one of the best right handed hitters ever isn’t really all that much of a hall at all.”

      Considering that it’s documented that he’s been liked to PEDs for about half his career AND since the inception of testing of any type, which would lead reasonable persons to think he was using them long before he got caught, calling Manny “.. one of the best right hand hitters… ” is debatable.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 11, 2011 at 9:31 PM

        Considering that it’s documented that he’s been liked to PEDs for about half his career

        That highlighted word doesn’t mean what you think it means as the failed test in ’09 was the first his name was mentioned, let alone “documented” with PEDs.

      • bigharold - Apr 11, 2011 at 9:56 PM

        It was widely reported that he was among the players on the 2003 list, hence documented. He failed a test in 2009 and was suspended, .. hence documented. He failed another test this season and retired rather than be suspended, .. hence documented. Three separate incidents that are documented.

        If you care to continue to give Manny the benefit of the doubt, .. be my guest. I prefer see him for what he was, .. a clown that could swing a bat well but all things considered not as well as his statistic would suggest.

        I am well aware of what the word documented means as well as my intent. Here’s a hint, …

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 12, 2011 at 7:05 AM

        “widely reported” isn’t documented. And he failed a test in ’09 and apparently again in ’11. That doesn’t exactly mean he’s been “widely documented to be on PEDs for half his career”, unless his career started in ’05 or ’06.

      • bigharold - Apr 12, 2011 at 1:32 PM

        ““widely reported” isn’t documented.”

        Really? Are we discussing baseball or is this an English lesson, … because either way your wrong.

        As per;

        1. a written or printed paper furnishing information or evidence, as a passport, deed, bill of sale, or bill of lading; a legal or official paper.
        2. any written item, as a book, article, or letter, especially of a factual or informative nature.

        Here are three articles that were wide distributed;

        So clearly Manny’s episodes with steroids were in fact written about and widely reported one would have to conclude that they were documented. Also, If you are going to quote me get it right. I never said ” …“widely documented to be on PEDs for half his career”, …”. Read it again. Backing up questionable vocabulary skills with poor reading comprehension skills is not the best way to tell somebody that they don’t understand what they are writing or know what a particular word means.

        As for the baseball side; he was found to be using PEDs in 2003 and again in 2009 and 2011. That time frame from 2003 to 2011 covers more than half his career since he broke into MLB in 1993. So he has been associated with steroids “.. about half his career.”, which is what I did say. To give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he wasn’t using the all the time in between would suggest that Manny has integrity that he’s heretofore NEVER demonstrated. One would need to suspend logic and reason to think that a three time loser with regard to PED use, such as Manny, didn’t use in the interim. But, if you insist on defending him by all means go ahead. Everybody is entitled to their opinion.

  10. Jack Marshall - Apr 11, 2011 at 11:15 PM

    A vote for Manny is a vote for bad character and bad sportsmanship. The drug use was just frosting on the cake, a symptom, not the disease.

    He didn’t hustle, he didn’t respect the game, his team mates or the fans. It is amazing to me that so many people admire this clown.

    • Kevin S. - Apr 11, 2011 at 11:43 PM

      Seriously, do you deliberately ignore, like, the entire history of the sport when you go off on your screeds? People have been forgiving character and sportsmanship if the performance is there for as long as baseball’s been around, and no amount of wish-casting is going to make baseball’s history line up with Terrance Mann’s Disneyfied nostalgia.

  11. cavredleg15 - Apr 12, 2011 at 1:03 AM

    If Ty Cobb is in the HOF. There is no reason to keep Manny out. Debate that.
    Morality it’s a bitch isn’t it.

    • fquaye149 - Apr 12, 2011 at 11:16 AM

      And it’s not just Ty Cobb. Plenty of all-time great players were complete horsecrap human beings (at least as far as we know). Rube Waddell, Lefty Grove, Ted Williams, Ralph Kiner, Babe Ruth, Ducky Medwick…the list goes on and on

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