There are some things in this world that you just can't explain. Why do farts smell worse in the shower? Why is the word "brassiere" singular yet the word "pants" (and or panties) is plural? Why does bum piss smell worse than non-bum piss? Why do asian people make the best mexican food? And why does Manny do the things he does? There are no good answers to any of these. But the bigger question for me, at least as it pertains to Manny, is: why the fuck does anyone give a shit? What is so offensive about Manny Ramirez?
I am a dyed-in-the-wool ManRam fan. I bought his jersey days after he was purchased by the Red Sox in 2000. That jersey is stained with beer & spit from the bleacher seats in Yankee stadium, Jack Daniel's residue from Stan's and mustard and sweat from Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS at Fenway. He has provided me with my favorite moments as a Red Sox fan including an opposite field shot at Citizen's Bank that came within 3 feet of plugging my girlfriend in the face (while I stood motionless admiring it as it tailed right at us. And the moment isn't my favorite because it almost killed my girlfriend but because how cool it was to watch it sail so close to us and then hit the dude standing right next to us). I am way beyond biased when it comes to Manny. I can in no way react objectively to what Manny does on the field or off of it. But then again, neither can anyone else.
Third to Barry Bonds and A-Rod, no other player is as polarizing as Manny Ramirez. You either love him or hate him. Purists and baseball tough guys hate Manny Ramirez because he doesn't "bust out of the box" or run out pop-ups and watches his home runs for far too long. They feel that Manny's relaxed attitude is an affront to the game and the people that came before who allowed him to make $160 million. Manny Ramirez offends those people. My question is, why? What about him makes you so mad? Is it that you think he's a dickhead and is mean-spirited when he stands at the plate and watches his other-worldy bombs plug unassuming spectators in the 20th row of the bleachers? Is it that you think he doesn't try hard enough and isn't earning his paycheck? Is it that you think he doesn't care about winning? Because if those are your reasons, you have no clue what you're talking about. Let me parse through them in order.
Manny is a child. Almost literally. Those who have met him weave tales of his, how shall I put this, "simplicity." He's not splitting atoms nor is he reading the Science Times about the recent advances in the splitting of atoms (he's probably not reading "Hop on Pop" for that matter either). He's been pampered since he was young because he could hit a baseball better than anyone and he never really had to do much for himself. In the same way you can create a book filled with mangled english from speeches by our current President, you could fill a tome with wacky and bizarre tales of Manny Ramirez. Between stories about players finding stacks of uncashed paychecks in Manny's locker, Manny peeing in the green monster during the game, Manny diving to catch a cutoff throw (I wish there was video of this somewhere. That was one of the top 5 funniest things I've ever seen) or Manny conditioning any free agent agreement on the inclusion of his favorite clubhouse guy, Manny is one of the weirdest dudes playing sports today. But none of what he does has any malice or negative intent.
Manny doesn't pose at home plate to show up the guy he just hit the home run off. When asked yesterday, Manny said:
"Man, I'm just happy to do something special like that," Ramírez said yesterday. "I'm not trying to show up anybody out there. I'm just trying to go have fun. If somebody strikes me out and shows me up, that's part of the game. I love it. I like that. I like to compete, and when people strike me out or whatever and they show me up, it's all good. There's no hard feelings. I'm not trying to show anybody up."He poses because he is f'n pumped that he hit the ball so far (Buster Olney had a great line on the radio today when he offered up what goes on inside Manny's head when he hits a home run and watches it. To paraphrase, he guessed Manny's thoughts went something like "Hey!!!!! I hit a home run! Look how far I hit that!"). And while his "non-malicious intent" probably doesn't absolve him from fault for acting like an idiot in the eyes of those who already don't like the guy, it should at least offer some perspective.
While some may disagree, I think there's a huge difference between Milton Bradley standing and watching a home run while scowling at a pitcher who previously hit him and Manny Ramirez raising his arms after hitting the "to-back" portion of a back-to-back-to-back home run in a game in which his team is down 4 runs. Milton Bradley wants the other guy to feel badly about what just happened. Manny wants you to know how excited HE is about what happened. Is it bad baseball manners either way? Sure. But it's like the difference between being angry at a puppy for chewing up your shoes and being mad at your dad for chewing up your shoes (that's a bizarre analogy I know). And on a small tangent about the Game 4 home run in particular, I don't really get the outrage with Manny posing for the 3 home run in game 4. Yes, Manny looks like an idiot. But why should that make anyone angry? He was psyched, his team was psyched, but they were still down a ton and then the Indians shut them down. At the moment, it was a relatively big deal. If the Sox were up 4 runs, THEN you'd have a right to be angry because he was rubbing it in whether he knew he was doing it or not. But why are you mad at someone else making themselves look stupid. I'll never understand that...
Thh second and third reasons that people don't like Manny that I posed above are similar. He doesn't try hard enough to earn his huge paycheck and he doesn't care enough. First, he's probably the best right handed hitter since, well, whenever. He had arguably his worst year ever this year and still hit near .300 and knocked in almost 100 runs. He's also an unreal postseason hitter and in 88 games has hit 24 home runs (the most in the history of the postseason). Since 2003 he's hit .300 and above in every postseason series in which he's appeared (he's hitting .462 in this series). He's also arguably the most diligent tape watcher and batting practice participant on the team (and some say in the league). He has honed his craft to such perfection that he can hit a down and away slider almost 500 feet while most righties have trouble hitting it past the pitcher's mound. But because he doesn't run out a pop up to second base, he's not trying hard enough for everyone. Let's just say that I'm glad Manny has spent more time on down and away sliders than wind sprints.
The third argument that Manny doesn't care enough stems from his general demeanor and his quote yesterday:
If it doesn't happen, so who cares? There's always next year. It's not like the end of the world or something.What they fail to mention when speaking of this quote is what else he said:
"We're just going to go have fun and play the game," he said. "That's it. If we go play hard and the thing doesn't come like it's supposed to come, we'll move on. We'll come next year. Why should we panic? We've got a great team. If it doesn't happen, good. We'll come next year and try to do it again.So to summarize: he's having fun playing baseball, no ones panicking and he's confident that his team can play well and win this series. But if they don't win, he's not going to light himself on fire. The gall of that guy! Gimme a fucking break. Just because Manny doesn't whine like Paul O'Neill and Kevin Youkilis doesn't mean he gives any less a shit when he loses. He just looks like less of a dickhead doing it then those two.
"We're confident every day. It doesn't matter how things go for you. We're not going to give up."
"We've got a great team over here and the other side is playing great. They're pitching the way they should and they're coming through with big hits. What can you do? You just think about [tonight] and you just try to come and play hard and have fun. It's not over yet."
Here's my final point (of what has become a long-winded series of points), Manny Ramirez looks as though he is having more fun on the baseball field than anyone else. At the same time he's more locked in at the plate than anyone I can ever remember seeing. He rarely barks at a bad strike call he never airs his team's laundry in the media he never complains about the media (he rarely talks at all) and he's one of the hardest workers on the team. And when he does break the gilded rules of baseball decorum, he does it because he is completely oblivious to them and does it out of the pure joy of the moment or a lack of understanding that people give a shit about such things.
So You can hate Manny for what you perceive to be a lack of respect for the game; you have that right. You can continue to cheer for the guy who busts it down the line, hits .270 and always says the right thing. I'll continue rooting for that crazy fellow with the disgusting clown hair, ridiculous habit of finger pointing after reaching on a single that should have been a double. The one with shit-eating grin and the ability to hit a ball as well as anyone who's picked up a bat. You know the guy, the one who looks like he's having the time of his life. Yeah, I'll be cheering that guy.
Some gratuitous Manny: