Friday, August 01, 2008

Manny Being Manny Finally Got To Be Unacceptable

I don't remember my question, I don't remember his answer, but I will never forget his grin. It was early in the 2001 MLB campaign, and Manny Ramirez now a member of the Boston Red Sox, was going to do something he never did with the Cleveland Indians. He was about to answer one of my questions on the record.

Manny Ramirez was the most exasperating athlete I ever covered in over a decade of covering MLB, the NBA, and the NFL in Cleveland. It wasn't that Manny was a bad guy, he was always very polite, smiled when he saw you. But he was the only athlete I ever covered on a daily basis during my career that I could never get a read on. I never had any idea what went on inside his head, nor did any member of the Cleveland media.

I covered Manny as a radio beat reporter while he played for the Cleveland Indians from 1995-2000. During that time period he never once spoke to a reporter. Not that we didn't try, during Manny's last two seasons in Cleveland, 1999, and 2000, I was one of a trio of radio beat reporters that would approach him once a month. Every month for two seasons we went through the same routine, Manny would be sitting in front of his locker, and one of the three of us would ask him if we could ask him a couple of questions. Very politely Manny would say "Not right now." Our next question would invariably be, in a little while? At which point he would get up look you in the eye smile, say "No" and walk out of the clubhouse.

Manny of course left the Cleveland Indians after the 2000 season as a free agent and signed a mega-deal with the Boston Red Sox. Thus began a love/hate relationship between the fans of Red Sox Nation, the Boston media, Boston management and Manny, that finally ended on July 31, as the Red Sox made a deadline deal trade involving Boston, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Manny Ramirez is now a Dodger, because after seven and a half seasons, the Red Sox had finally tired of Manny being Manny.

You could be frustrated with Ramirez, but you rarely stayed upset with him for long. He would make a base running blunder in the fourth inning, and get thrown out. Then he would come up in the ninth and hit a walk-off home run. You would start to scream that Ramirez should be a DH, and then he would make a play in left field that you did not think he was capable of. Just when you thought you had Manny figured out, he would totally surprise you. He was a great showman when he wanted to be. The day he was sworn in as a United States citizen, he took his position in left field in Fenway Park waving a tiny American flag.

Red Sox Nation will always be indebted to Manny Ramirez for being a major factor of winning the World Series in 2004, and 2007. He was as much of a factor of the Sox breaking the "Curse of the Bambino" as David Ortiz, and Curt Schilling were. However for almost Manny's entire tenure with the Red Sox, it seemed they were on the verge of trading him. Reports surfaced in 2001, that he was unhappy in Boston and was calling his former teammates in Cleveland, saying he wanted to return there. There was the widely reported incident a few years ago when Manny missed a game against the New York Yankees and then was seen in a hotel bar with Yankees infielder Enrique Wilson his former teammate with Cleveland. Then of course the Red Sox had a trade engineered that was sending Ramirez to the Rangers for A-Rod, but it fell apart and A-Rod was traded to the Yankees.

But this season things went past the point of no return. Earlier this season Ramirez pushed the team's traveling secretary Jack McCormick to the ground, when Manny did not receive the amount of game tickets he wanted in Houston. Manny later apologized to McCormick, but the gesture was totally out of character for Ramirez. Ramirez for all his faults had always been the laid back goofy guy, not prone to temper tantrums.

However the final straw that broke the proverbial camel's back occurred last Friday. Ramirez who had already been put into the lineup by manager Terry Francona said he could not play because of a bad knee. His timing for this stunt could not be worse, it was the opening game of a three game series at Fenway against the hated Yankees. According to the "Boston Globe" Manny was told that if he did not play Saturday it would be construed as an "act of defiance." Manny played but apparently the Friday night incident made the situation between player and team irrevocable, and the trade was consummated.

Manny Ramirez is one of the greatest hitters of his generation, and is probably a lock for the Hall of Fame. He along with Vladimir Guerrero have the uncanny ability of being able to hit balls way out of the strike zone. Manny is a true hitting savant. But he also is maddening, he can be incredibly indifferent, or incredibly sensitive. And there is no rhyme or reason why he does what he does, it's always been chalked up to "Manny being Manny." The Red Sox will miss his offense, but not his unpredictability. It turns out that Manny was Manny once too often.

© Copyright 2008

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  • I'm Matt Loede
  • From Cleveland, Ohio, United States
  • Matt has been involved in sports media for over ten years, with experience covering the NFL, NBA, and MLB for the past 13+ years.
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