Friday, August 08, 2008
Still the Man-ny
[Yeah, this is old news, but I'm still putting it up. I wrote most of this at the trade deadline, and never had a chance to finish it.]
(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Let's get this right out there. I am a Manny fan. Even going into this season's annual "Manny wants to be traded/the Sox want to trade Manny" soap opera, I was firmly on the side of keeping the right-handed half of the best one-two punch in baseball—even if neither Manny not Papi were quite living up to their own reputations this season. Ramirez is clearly still an impact player.
Frankly, I love having the guy on the Sox. The dreds and uni pants cut like too-big jeans? The Grill? Hilarious. I love "Manny being Manny."
His detractors? The vast majority of fans and radio people in Boston are jackasses, and give Manny WAAY more shit than he deserves, and appreciate him far less than he has earned. He has put together a dominant Hall of Fame career in Boston and won TWO FUCKING CHAMPIONSHIPS after an eighty-year drought. All he gets in return is grief. Well, that and $20 million a year.
In Boston, if you are a fiery white guy with a grimy helmet, all you have to do is lace 'em up. (see: Youkilis, Kevin; Nixon, Trot; Pedroia, Dustin). Strike out with the bases loaded? Just throw your shit around the dugout, all is forgiven. Ground into a double play? Bounce your helmet into the fifth row.
If you are reserved or stoic, you get killed (see: Drew, J.D.) And if you are flaky or have a big contract, you better not be a minority.
I think it is unquestionable that race plays a factor in Boston, no matter how much they want to pretend otherwise. Manny got NO credit for the fact that he worked fucking hard to be one of the best two or three right-handed hitters of his generation. He is a first-ballot HOFer—yet Peter Gammons (!!) attempted to throw that aside last night, likening Manny's mercurial attitude to fucking steroid use, and should give voters something to consider. That's a fucking OUTRAGE.
And it would NEVER have been uttered about a white player.
Manny's hitting prowess commonly was tossed off as some kind of "savant" skill that comes naturally to him without effort—as if he could just roll out of bed and hit .320 /40/ 140. That's bullshit. Any time he periodically fell short of his own lofty standard, it was because "he didn't care" or "wasn't trying." That's fucking crap. Manny is on the wrong side of 35. His bat is slower. His body is susceptible to things that don't show up on the MRI. He won't maintain that pace over a season. He is declining as a player because of age and mileage—not a lackadaisical attitude.
Again, white guys are good through grit and determination, guys like Manny are "naturals" and gifted.
Manny was a student of the game and worked every bit as hard as Ted Williams. No one watched more video or studied the pitchers more than Manny. What's more, no one has ever accused Manny of using PEDs. I'm always reminded of Bill Simmons excellent line contrasting Giambi and Sheffield's complex steroid abuse with Ortiz and Manny being "a couple of goofy Dominicans who between them could hardly mix up a batch of Thera-Flu."
* Manny played the game clean, with enthusiasm much of the time, and in the face of a fan base that never really appreciated what he gave them. They took it for granted to be sure, but never truly appreciated it. On top of that was a GM and ownership team that repeatedly tried to trade him and never gave him any respect (he preceded them in Boston). Considering this love/hate scenario, it's no wonder this deadline dance occured every year. Despite that Manny still produced and brought home the hardware.
This season it seems the relationship was totally poisoned in Boston, and a deal was the only real solution. I can live with that, and, in retrospect I like the trade—we got a good young player back. Both Jason Bay and Manny are thriving in their new environs and I always like to see that. Here's hoping Manny carries the Dodgers to the post-season, and the Sox don't suffer without him.
Thanks, Manuel Aristides Ramírez Onelcida, for being the best clean-up hitter the Sox ever had. Thanks for two World Championships, and thanks for being Manny, Manny. Good luck in L.A.
*Edited to clean up the awkward transition where I picked up the post after a week.
MORE: Fellow Manny-Men and far better writers than I, Charlie Pierce (here and here) and Chad Finn (here and here) pay tribute.