Did You Expect “Manny Being Yaz?”

Everyone is furious with Manny Ramirez because he asked for a day off on Friday night (our first game of this important series vs. the Yankees) saying his knee hurts. Dan Shaughnessy captures the controversy well, writing in today’s Boston Globe, “Something’s got to give. The owners are mad. The manager is frustrated. The GM is frustrated. Teammates are angry. Even with sycophants who excuse everything, Manny may have finally exhausted his reservoir of goodwill. He quit on the team in 2006 and now it looks like he’s quitting again. Is that OK with you, Red Sox Nation?”

Well, I certainly don’t speak for Red Sox Nation, but as the VP of RSN, I have two reactions to this whole Manny situation.

1. We can believe that Manny is telling the truth about his knee, or we can believe that he’s lying about it (or exaggerating). Either way, none of us knows whether his knee is truly hurt or not, so we might as well TRUST Manny. Why? For the simple reason that there is no good that can come from doubting him. And even if his knee isn’t sore enough to miss a game, the guy obviously has SOME reason that he needs a day off, a reason big enough to ask for a day to recover (and possibly even lie about an injury), so let’s just give him his day off and move on. We’d rather not play him anyway if he’s not feeling motivated and can’t get motivated. There’s no point in doubting Manny, and since the only data we have is his word, we might as well trust that.

2. Hello, sportswriters, team ownership, front office, and Red Sox Nation, is this whole “I need a day off” stuff from Manny really still surprising you? Did you think that Manny would suddenly undergo a metamorphosis this season and beg to play 162 games? Why haven’t we gotten over the outrage at this point and just accepted him as “Our Manny” and saved ourselves from the bother of getting angry every time he acts like…. Manny.

There’s a code of athletic conduct that I grew up with, and that’s part of the culture of U.S. professional sports, that says, “The team is the most important thing,” and “When you’re hurt, you play anyway, dammit.” But guess what? Manny didn’t learn this code in his childhood, and it hasn’t grown on him during his years in the Big Leagues. He’s a different animal. Way different. We all know this about him. So why do we keep driving ourselves crazy by getting mad at him? It’s sort of like getting mad at a two year-old for drawing on the walls with a crayon. That’s what two year-olds do. All of them. And that will never change.

Of course, the difference between Manny and two year-olds is, two year-olds learn to modify their behavior to comply with society’s norms. Manny never will. He’s a grown-up now, this is who he is.

But please also keep in mind that the very personality flaws that some of us find so frustrating in Manny also contribute to his greatness. There’s never been a more carefree, happy-go-lucky player, and I believe that that state of mind is a big reason why he’s so cool under pressure. Two strikes, two outs, down by a run in the bottom of the ninth with a runner on second? The whole stadium might be freaking out, but not Manny, he’s just chilling out in the batter’s box, looking for a pitch he can drive. And we all know, he’s better at this than 95% of all Major Leaguers.

Am I excusing Manny’s occasionally bizarre behavior just because he’s a Hall of Fame hitter? No. But Manny is a complex package, and after eight years with the guy, it’s a package we should all know well: Manny drives in runs. In the outfield, Manny waves to fans between every pitch. Manny demands days off regardless of the game’s importance. Manny strikes fear into every pitcher he faces. Manny enjoys himself all the time, even when he’s just made a huge error. Manny stands at home plate to admire his home runs. Manny sells grills on e-Bay. Manny is always among the league leaders in outfield assists. Manny rarely breaks a sweat running to first base. Manny doesn’t talk to the media, and when he does, he says the “wrong” thing. Manny is one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time.

Oh, and let’s not forget, Manny has two World Series rings. As Terry Francona said yesterday, “You know what, we have run into bumps in the road [with Ramirez] ever since I’ve been here. And there’s been some before I’ve been here. The result, two of the times, has been a World Series ring. And how you get to the end is what counts.”

If Theo Epstein thinks the Red Sox will win more games without Manny, he should trade him or not pick up his option for next year. (In Theo, I trust.) But please, no more outrage, no more surprise….. unless you really expected that someday we’d revise our favorite Manny phrase to, “It’s just Manny being Yaz.”

In November, 2007, I posted a great story about Manny being a good guy, a story that my father received in an email from a friend of his who randomly spent 15 minutes chatting with Manny following the 2007 Rolling Rally. It’s entitled, “Manny Being Magnanimous.”

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15 responses to “Did You Expect “Manny Being Yaz?”

  1. Exactly! RLC, I’ve been trying to explain to people why I’m not ticked off at Manny and all I’ve been able to say is “this is what he does, and then he hits.” Now, I can send them to this site and have them read it. I think Dan Shaugnessy believes his job is mostly to get people in an uproar the latest “travesty”. Go Sox!

  2. As a high-school Physics teacher, I often ask some of my struggling students: “how is being angry, upset, or disappointed in yourself going to help you to learn Physics?” The answer, of course, is that it won’t. You have to work hard with a positive attitude. You don’t have to be happy about setbacks, but you need to accept them and move on.

    I think that the same is true in anything that a human being would like to accomplish. Including baseball. However, those negative emotions are really hard to control. So much so that they are seen as “normal.” So much so that when people are confronted with somebody who has managed to shut down those negative emotions, the accuse that person of not being committed to being the best that they can be.

    But I think that is as far from the truth as can be. Somebody who is really committed to being the best that they can be, is going to look for every advantage they can get. If you are happy, calm, relaxed and having fun; you’re going to do better than if you are angry, agitated, tense and not having any fun. Maybe Manny is a goofball because he is more seriously committed to his profession than people realize.

    And, as a final note: maybe he remembers that his friend Pedro sort of got dicked over by the Red Sox in contract negotiations. I have nothing against Red Sox management. But, management is management whether you’re talking about a chain restaurant or a MLB franchise. They have priorities that can be very different from the priorities of their employees.

  3. I think the outrage is b/c “normal” people sometimes act a little crazy. On he flipside, would it kill Manny to even act excited about a series that not only has the fans fired up but actually matters in the playoff race? I guess not. He decides to take himself out of the lineup. Instead of looking down Joba and shoving doubles down his fat throat, he looked like Nomar of 2004 watching his team die a slow painful death while being perfectly able to play. I, like you, had finally embraced Manny and learned not to overreact but a “child-like” figure wouldn’t have the gumption to ransom his team in order to play. This is how long-term contracts work in the end. The player and agent take advantage of the team for years and once the team has the option towards the end, the player and agent get all bent out of shape. One more thing, this team hasn’t earned their fandom. I don’t care that people have jumped on the bandwagon but they continually lay down on the road. They should try to make a statement once in awhile. The fact that Red Sox fans would even enter the Trop in the summer when the other options like enjoying the beach are right there, makes no sense to me. How does the team repay them for their support? Lose every road game. I think we can now safely ask any player with a competitive bone in their body if Boston is a cool place to play baseball and know the outcome. Yeah, sometimes it is uncomfortable but it always matters to people. Finally, does anyone remember asking their dad about what different contracts meant and knowing agents names? This is ridiculous.

  4. Hey, D Iverson….Pedro didn’t get dicked over. He was a baby. He was on the decline. He asked for too much (notice he’s been hurt the majority of the time in NY). He played the whiny “I’m disrespected” card. His time was past, and it would have been a horrible business decision to give him that kind of money for 4 years. Same with Johnny Damon. We loved them as our Sox, but they were bad business.

    People shouldn’t be surprised by Manny’s actions, but that doesn’t mean that the Sox should throw money at him for quitting on the team periodically. In the offseason, they’ll find a suitable (read: acceptable w/o the drama) replacement. They won’t necessarily get his numbers, but will get solid production for less money with less headaches.

  5. If you have three kids and one always asks for more food than the other two you cannot just throw him out but instead talk to him and tell him the reason why he should just share equally.Well for manny he si willing to take what it comes if that makes both sides happy.

  6. Just about every time Manny pulls one of these “paid vacation” stunts or issues his annual trade demands, he takes his media beating and comes back raking. (*This does not include the 2006 shutdown, obviously, since he didn’t come back.) I always look forward to the Big Incident because now we’re going to get about six weeks of Manny shredding opposing pitching. It’s like Groundhog Day. I just wish he’d done it back when he was in that cold spell leading up to the All-Star Break.

  7. Trade Manny for Holliday and get it over with. I would even pay Manny for the rest of the year to get him out of here. Manny is not gonna produce, like he thinks, for the next five-six years. Get a budding superstar to replace an aging one. It will still cost you about 20 mill per year but you get a younger version in Holliday.

  8. Helena Martinez

    Yaz smoked at least a pack of cigarettes per day. Thankfully, Manny Ramirez has never been Yaz. That sort of cigarette smoking can detrimentally effect your athletic performance and lead you into popping up to the third baseman for the final out. Manny Ramirez ?
    Two-time World Series champ and my favorite Red Sox player of all ever-lovin’ time, followed closely by Bill Lee, who smoked ganja, but not with Yaz. Yaz was an uptight Nixon Republican with a nasty cigarette habit.

  9. Hi Rob,

    First off, very well said. Manny is pretty much Bob Dylan playing baseball; infuriating, confusing, mysterious, occasionally very disappointing… And an off-the-charts, years-beyond-everybody-else gift to the game, in every way. His antics and hitting are both national treasures for RSN. I would be so sad to see him go. Let’s retire him in a Sox uniform. That high-five catch into double-play is the play of the…. forever? And the walkoff against K-Rod last year? Oh, I love him.

    Secondly, this is an official public request (I e’d you as well) from a fellow BHS grad (’87) to help me with my dreams of singing the anthem at Fenway. I’ve made my living and raised my daughter (5? You’re a superhero) playing music. Singing the Anthem at Fenway is on my Bucket List. Please be in touch, take care, keep being a great Dad and Sox fan.

    Thanks,
    Jonah

  10. “This is where the wisdom hits the airwaves / This is where Yastrzemski makes the big play”

  11. YES. This is exactly what I’ve been struggling with for the last week. Everybody I know is all “trade him, he’s worthless, he’s a prima donna.” It infuriates me! From now on, I’m just going to email them all this link, I can’t say it any better.

  12. I have to agree with Mr. Shaughnessy – Manny is one of the best pure hitters to get to the plate. And, his ability to figure out pitchers and plan ahead for each at-bat is one of Manny’s great strengths. I am leary of his words – as it may be a signal of a return of the 2006 meltdown. But we have also seen where Manny makes some off-beat comment and then gets on a hot streak. With Big Pappy back in the line-up and several other members of the team hitting, it may mean getting Manny back into the fold.
    Worry about Manny? I think not. Lets get ‘Tek hitting again, and the whole lineup can be productive.

  13. Maybe Manny understands himself and what he needs to keep himself happy and motivated. How is one day off going to hurt the whole season? How many of us truly are indispensable?

    If only everyone were this smart! I think it shows more maturity than many people ever do.

  14. My recomendation: Place Manny on the 60 day DL, trade Hansen, Crisp and prospects to Colorado for Fuentes and Holiday. Crisp and Hansen could be great for the Rocks and I’m sure that they will never work in Boston. Let Manny rot on the DL for the remainder of his stint in Bean Town. This team needs a shake up and the 7-8 million owed to Manny would have to be eaten by the team to trade him anyway. So, leave him on the DL that way we wouldn’t have to face him this year, plus we would get two compensation picks in next years draft. Ala, Pedro and Lowe.

  15. Very well said. As a member of RSN – I love Manny. He is my favorite player. His career accomplishments speak for themselves. So he’s Manny being Manny again, has he ever not been? Everyone should be used to this by now. It’s how he is, he isn’t going to change, but if you take him out of the lineup permenantly, you’ll see just how big of a hole there will be – I”m talking huge hole! Even Yankee fans are saying that they fear the 3-4 punch of Ortiz and Manny the most. Part of why Ortiz is so good is because he has Manny behind him. Do you think teams will pitch to him the same without Manny there – or for that matter even pitch to him at all? Manny is one of the greatest players to ever play the game – and when it comes right down to it, that’s all that really matter. I”m wearing my new t-shirt that says – keep Manny in 2009.

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