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For the third time, Manny Ramirez will not play in the All-Star game after being elected to the team. During today’s Fox Game of the Week, the announcers were slamming on Ramirez and decrying the habitual “Manny being Manny” excuse—accusing him of not being a spokesman for the game, castigating him for disrespecting the fans, and even intimating that he was faking a knee injury to get out of going. Even Manny’s hometown paper is getting on his case: not just for missing the game, but for missing it while playing so well. (Only in Boston, folks.) Maybe if he sat out a few games and made a couple of errors they’d feel better about it. Yikes.

A wooja wooja woo.

But fellas, I have to stand up for the guy. Perhaps it’s because I’ve become accustomed to hearing the “Manny being Manny” excuse over the years—in other words, Fox, welcome to my world. Or perhaps I’m biased—as a Red Sox fan, I’d rather Manny take some time off, recoup a bit, and be able to play the second half of the season. Some may see Manny taking a mid-July break as laziness, but in Boston it just seems like he’s putting the the games that count ahead of an exhibition game. I think this may be the year that Manny finally gets the respect he deserves in Boston. After years of ups and downs, playoff games and trade demands, this year we’ve gotten to know another side of Manny.

He showed up to Spring Training in the best physical condition of his career. He arrives early at the park every morning to take extra BP—those gaudy numbers are no accident. And even his oft-maligned defense has improved in recent years. He accurately barehands wall-balls in a notoriously tough outfield and can make the glove-to-hand transition as quickly as an infielder (he had 17 assists last year; this year his fielding percentage is .992).

BadabingNot to mention, which is often overlooked, that he plays almost every single day. Jason Varitek gets every 5th game off (when knuckleballer Wakefield and his specialty catcher Mirabelli take the field) but is universally adored in Beantown and elsewhere (including, of course, Chez Sarah). Trot Nixon is similarly respected for his hardscrabble style, even though he’s a bottom-of-the-order type hitter who usually sits against lefties. And David Ortiz is everbody’s hero—show me someone who dislikes Big Papi and I’ll show you a New Yorker. He too plays almost every game, but he’s a DH—if his knees were bothering him, it wouldn’t be a problem, since he rarely has to do more than a home-run trot anyways.

Yeah, Manny has the crazy dreds and the pajama-baggy uniform and the pine tar-smeared helmet and okay, so he may have an occasional mental lapse. But he plays hard and he plays hurt. He doesn’t get much credit for it, of course, since he rarely complains about any injuries, but any player who plays almost every game (more than 150 for each of the last three seaons) has to be hurt some of the time. So he’s not going to the All-Yawn Game. His average at the moment is a mediocre .307, but his slugging percentage is .621. He’s second in the AL in walks and third in OBP. And since 1995, he’s driven in more runs than anyone else in the Majors.

Now that’s Manny being Manny.

20 Responses to “Manny being Manny?”

  1. Coley Ward says:

    Sarah, I think you’re missing the point. Nobody is accusing Ramirez of failing to play hard or failing to play well. Nor are they accusing him of failing to take enough bp. They are accusing him of being selfish and dishonest. If Manny is healthy enough to play everyday at a high level for the Sox, he could probably survive four innings at the All-Star game. Why should he play in the All-Star game? B/c he’s being paid millions of dollars to play baseball and in return he is expected to act as an ambassador for the league. He’s got to sign autographs, stay out of trouble and PLAY IN THE ALL STAR GAME. Is that so much to ask?

  2. Coley Ward says:

    Also, Manny’s .992 fielding percentage is a little misleading. That puts him squarely in the middle of the pack among left fielders. In fact, it ties him with Pat Burrell, who, you know, kinda sucks in left field. What else do Manny and Burrell have in common. Neither has good range. Burrell, by the way, led the NL in assists his first year in the league. Why? Was it b/c he has such a great arm? That’s part of it. But mostly it was b/c nobody respected him as an outfielder, so everybody tested him. That’s probably the reason Manny has so many assists this season.

  3. Wow Coley, I’m sensing some serious anti-Manny vibe in your comments! But this is just what I’m talking about. Manny can’t catch a break from the commentariat no matter how hard he works or how good he is. Manny is not being paid his millions by the league to be their ambassador. He’s being paid millions by the Red Sox to be their left fielder and cleanup hitter.

    And people *are* accusing Manny of being lazy, Coley, which is why I brought up the BP issue and other assorted examples.

  4. Coley Ward says:

    Manny’s refusal to play in the all-star game is tantamount to a political candidate refusing to take part in debates. Of course, candidates have no legal obligation to debate. Rather, they have a moral obligation to go before the voters and explain what they believe in and where they stand. Why do they have a moral obligation? Quite frankly, because the voters pay their salaries. Why does Manny have a moral obligation to play in the all-star game? Because the fans pay his salary. Personally, I don’t vote for political candidates who duck debates and I won’t vote for Manny for the all-star game in the future.

  5. Dude, the only fans who pay for Manny are Red Sox fans!! With the highest ticket prices in baseball!

  6. I don’t have a problem with Manny missing the game. His participation doesn’t make me want to watch the game more or less. I do, however, have a problem with he and the Red Sox not telling the truth. If Mannny wants a break, fine, he and the organization should say so. But by concocting this knee injury as an excuse, they’re lying out of their teeth. Even they know that Manny ought to be there at the game, or else they wouldn’t have needed to make a lame excuse. They know they’re wrong. Be straight up about it.

    And as far as Manny’s defensive numbers are concerned, neither assists or fielding percentage tell you that much about a player’s abilities. If Manny simply stood there without moving a step to his left or right, merely catching the balls that came straight at him, then he’d have a perfect fielding percentage. It’s range that makes a good fielder, and fielding percentage doesn’t factor into that. Sure, if a fielder has many errors, then you can guess that he has a poor glove. I’d rather have a guy who may have a couple more errors but can reach for balls in the gap.

    And Coley may have a point about how more runners challenge Manny in explaining his high number of assists. But to add to that, I think that perhaps opposing players who aren’t accustomed to the Green Monster misjudge how much time they have to get from one bag to the next. In any other stadium, a shot off the outfield wall is a double. It’s not true in Fenway. To Manny’s credit, he’s learned how to play the Wall, but it is his sixth year at Fenway so it was only a matter of time, I guess.

  7. And as far as whether or not it’s fair to call Manny lazy, I think that Sarah’s take is a bit of a double standard. The phrase “Manny being Manny” perpetuates the notion that it’s acceptable for Ramirez to not try as hard. You expect the least out of the guy in terms of effort or coherence. When someone outside of Red Sox Nation makes the comment, it’s a case of Manny being misunderstood. If someone inside the milieu says it, it’s good natured ribbing and understanding that Manny will be Manny. I don’t get it.

  8. Sarah Green says:

    Paul, my point was that Manny *does* try hard, but doesn’t get credit for his efforts. I have to say, I think it’s partly a race issue. Look around the majors at the guys who get the “dirt dog” “hard-nosed” “110%” label. They’re mostly white. But Latino and African American players mostly get props for their “natural ability” and “great talent.” I just throw that out there as food for thought.

    Re: his defensive numbers, I’ve been watching the games and Manny has had some awesome throws to the plate so far this year. Maybe the runners are testing him, but at their peril. And I’ve seen plenty of guys have trouble fielding off the Green Monster, too (hello, Lastings Milledge). I mean, the thing does have a ladder on it. In fair territory. And there’s that strange garage door down in the corner, where balls have a tendency to rattle around. And the manual scoreboard. There’s a lot to contend with out there.

    Re: a double standard, I never said anything about a difference between Boston commentators and national commentators using “Manny being Manny” in different ways. In fact, I said that Manny was getting beef both from the national commentators and the local press. So I don’t know where you got that from.

    Speaking of players who shouldn’t be on the ballot, I say with pride that I did not vote for David Ortiz once this year. Why? Because David Ortiz is NOT a first baseman. Kevin Youkilis has been playing great ball down at first and has been a crackerjack leadoff man and deserved to be recognized for it, not bumped for the DH, no matter how cuddly and lovable he is. Note that David Ortiz could kill a man and still be the most popular player in Boston. Manny Ramirez could buy a round of beer for everyone in Fenway and still get the cold shoulder. Now that’s a real double standard.

  9. Coley Ward says:

    Paul, here’s what I’m curious about: you say that Manny’s decision not to play in the all-star game hasn’t effected your desire to watch/not watch the game. What if Manny, Ortiz, Utley, Reyes, Beltran, Izuki, and Soriano all decided not to play? Would you still be interested in watching the game then? I guess my point is this: if we give one player a pass, what’s to stop other players from skipping the game and instead spending a few days with their families or playing golf? Letting Manny get away with “being Manny” sets a dangerous precedent and threatens the future of the all-star game. Or, if you don’t want to be quite that reactionary, it’s just plain unfair to the other guys.

  10. Sarah, you and I aren’t disagreeing about much here, especially regarding playing the Green Monster. It’s a major adjustment and it’s the toughest left field in the majors by far. Like I said, Manny has learned how to play it like many Red Sox left fielders before him.

    And I completely agree that there are biases in the media and the fans based on race. I hear NY media hailing David Wright as the Mets’ MVP so far, but Carlos Beltran is putting up better numbers while playing a more difficult position and playing it well. To me, it’s not much of a discussion. It should be Beltran, not Wright. Moreover, when I was in Chicago in April watching a game at US Cellular, I was a little bothered by how many cheers guys like Jim Thome and Paul Konerko got, but World Series MVP Jermaine Dye barely got any recognition. Maybe the situation has changed since April, but I noticed the disparity back then.

    And in the fairness of the conversation, yes, I think that Pedro’s DL stint is a little too conveniently placed over the All Star break. I don’t think he wanted to play. And yes, I think both he and the Mets should have been much more forthcoming and honest.

    And I’m left a little speechless by your admission that you voted for Kevin Youkilis in the All Star Game. I suppose you could have done worse, but come on… Even using your non-DH rule, Giambi? No? Still too many DH at bats? How about Justin Morneau? Or Paul Konerko? I mean, I appreciate Youk – plays a great first base, a really tough out – but… No?

  11. Coley, I’m realizing that I probably should not have made that comment regarding my desire to watch the game or not based on Manny’s appearance. Not that I was lying. It realls does play no part. Because I wasn’t planning on watching it from the get-go. I disagree with so many facets of this – the home field advantage in the WS, the voting process where one person can vote 25 times, the managers choosing his bench, the minimum of one player per team, the “is it an exhibition or not?” ambiguity, etc. I’m basically a huge All Star game curmudgeon. It shouldn’t bother me that much, but it does. So Manny and Pedro skipping is miniscule.

    By the way, why does Zidanene Zidane always look like he wants to kick my ass personally?

  12. I just unilaterally elected Zidane to my “Fridge O’ Men” hall of fame. He resides there with Johnny Depp, Tom Brady, Jonathan Papelbon, and the Brawny Man. It’s quite a club. Puts the All-Star Game to shame, IMO.

    Youk gets my vote because he’s a tough out at the plate and he has played solid defense, with some really spectacular catches here and there. Youkilis also has the second-best OBP (to Giambi) of AL first basemen, and the most runs scored. As far as numbers are concerned, he’s holding his own against Konerko. His slugging isn’t as impressive, but again, he’s hitting leadoff. And if there’s a tie on my ballot, the vote goes to the Red Sox, of course!

    Giambi, despite more impressive offensive numbers, hasn’t played that many games at first and has a truly lousy fielding percentage, with 7 errors already this year. He also automatically disqualifies himself from both the ASG and my Fridge O’ Fame by being on the gear. Sorry, no points for honesty. And Morneau…Morneau means nothing to me. Sorry. If you’re going to vote for Morneau, you might as well vote for Youk. In which case, it’s so much more fun to scream “YOOOOOUUUUUK!”

    I was wondering why more people outside of Boston hadn’t mentioned Pedro’s little summer vacay, especially since Manny’s getting so piled on. I’m glad you brought it up. But I think Pedro really is injured (for all I know, Manny is too). Martinez usually is in the second half. That’s one of the reasons the Sox let him go. We in Boston really thought his arm was going to fall off any day now.

  13. This is some “in-my-face” baseball commentary for sure! Be gentle- this is my first umpbump contribution.

    It sure does seem like we are talking about two people here.

    “MBM” is the character who won’t play in Pittsburgh for the same reasons that Pedro used to jet home to the DR in mid July- he wants the break. Whether its fair to the game, the fans, the AL or Jeannie Zalasco really doesn’t matter. “MBM” is held to a different standard than not only Joe Bleacherseat, but also every other Sox player. This is because he demands it. He’s a relative recluse who shuns his responsibility to engage the media. Because of the happy-go-lucky attitude, the floppy hair, the baggy pants- Boston, baseball and the adoring fans do the only thing they can do- act like he’s a lovable lug that just doesn’t know better. At least Pedro was sort of honest about it. (I realize he’s actually banged up this time around.)

    Of course, the “other guy” in the Jeckyl and Hyde equation is the Manny-child prodigy who covers the plate, punishes mistakes and approaches at bats as well as any hitter in he game. The one problem I have with Sarah’s blog posting is that she fails to point out that Papi’s pace (chugging towards double X’s club record for HRs- the only Boston player to ever hit 50) is largely due to pitchers taking their chances at Ortiz rather than pitch to Manny with another man on base.

    If Papi cleaned up and Manny were in the three hole, Ramirez might be putting up numbers so gaudy they might not let him even play in the A.S. Game- too dangerous!

    Hafner and Morneau are more deserving than Youk. Love him, but c’mon. Hafner- who has played a little 1st this season- has 5 slams already! before the break! 5!

    Pap is already on the ‘fridge-o-men?’

    Nobody has ever explained what “IMO” means and I can’t figure it out. I’ll never be on the fridge.

  14. Damnit. I didn’t pay enough attention. I thought I was bringing Petey into the fray. Too late. I’ll do better next time. IMO.

  15. Sarah Green says:

    Gently: I realize I, like most of Boston, am moving a bit fast with Papelbon. He is on the Fridge O Men only on a probationary status, especially after yesterday’s game (blown save with 2 out in the bottom of the 9th). If his ERA rises above 1.00, he may be cautioned, and ultimately removed. Youkilis, despite my slightly irrational preference for him over all other AL first basemen, is disqualified from the FOM on account of unnacceptable facial hair, subcategory “soul patch.” Perhaps I should also have taken that into account when conducting my All-Star ballotting.

    Otherwise, am in complete agreement with Jeb about Manny’s impact on Ortiz’s numbers. That graf ended up on the cutting room floor, as I was starting to foam at the mouth. Ew, yucky.

  16. Nick Kapur says:

    Only someone who has had the pleasure of watching Manny Ramirez play for their team year after year would ever put the word “mediocre” before “.307 batting average”.

  17. Seriously, what does IMO stand for? Don’t leave me hanging. I need to know.

  18. I means “in my opinion”. I think.

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