Tag Archives: manny ramirez

No More Manny

In Theo I trust.

If he thinks this trade will help the Red Sox win another World Series ring, then I guess it really is time for Manny to go.

That said, it’s hard to fathom that the Boston Red Sox just let one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time — a guy who helped the team win two World Series rings — walk out the door in the middle of a pennant race. The Yankees love this trade. Their fear of the Red Sox vanished at 4:20pm yesterday. Oh, and Joe Torre went to bed last night with a BIG smile on his face.

I am a fan. I am an emotional fan who loves Manny’s joyful, teddy bear personality, his majestic presence in the on-deck circle and batter’s box, and the way he wrecks pitches in the strike zone. I acknowledge that he was not the perfect competitor during his years in a Red Sox uniform. His jogging to first base sometimes drove me crazy. But in the same way a parent keeps loving his kids no matter what they do, nothing Manny ever did or said made me dislike the guy. It wasn’t blind affection. It was eyes-wide-open appreciation for a marvelous player I “knew” better than any other.

I will miss Manny and I will root for him as a Dodger. I hope he finds peace in L.A. and that this trade ends up being a great thing for him and his family.

Time to turn the page on the Manny years, one of the most amazing chapters we’ve ever experienced in Red Sox Nation. It’s Jason Bay time. The 2008 World Series MVP.

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The Truth About Manny (If Only It Were That Simple…)

Is the following quotation from a book review that will eventually be written about the events that finally led to Manny Ramirez’s brilliant Red Sox career ending in a ball of flames?

“The story examines the variations a mistruth can go through when filtered through person after person and illustrates how different people can have multiple perceptions and interpretations of the same event. The various points of view the reader sees provide insight into the story that none of the individual characters possesses.”

No, this is an excerpt from a review of the book, Nothing But The Truth, by Avi, which is one of the books I read with my class when I was a 9th grade English teacher. But the lessons of this profound book apply directly to this whole Manny Ramirez situation. All of you who have read this book understand that there is NOT “one truth” in the drama that has played out over the last week — and over the last eight years. There’s Manny’s truth. There’s Manny’s wife’s truth. There’s John Henry’s truth. There’s Theo’s truth. There’s Francona’s truth. There’s each teammate’s truth. There’s Dan Shaughnessy’s truth. There’s Jerry Remy’s truth. There’s the stat-man’s truth. And there’s YOUR truth, based on everything you have read, heard, and seen — and the mindset you bring to this situation.

The book reminds us that everything you hear from a second-hand source has been distorted in some way, often a small way and and often unintentionally. It reminds us that two people can witness the same scene and describe it totally differently — and both descriptions can be accurate. It reminds us that all reporters, players, and fans perceive the things Manny does and says — and the things that are said about him — through the lenses of their own prejudgments and cultural values, so all reporters, fans, and players see and hear different things. It reminds us that we almost NEVER know the true context of the quotations we read and the actions we witness, and that reporters can tell you the complete truth — and mangle it at the same time. It reminds us that a small misunderstanding can snowball into an out-of-control mess when one warped interpretation leads to multiple responses that are even more off-base, and the original players in the drama react to these responses in ways that make the situation even worse, and on and on it goes, the downward spiral of miscommunication and misinterpretations compounding in a horrific way.

Ultimately, it’s futile for reporters (and fans) to state unequivocally what’s going on in this Manny Ramirez situation — BUT because it’s their job (and because they’re programmed to think their version of the truth is “the right” one), that’s what they do. And this often takes us even further from “the real truth.”

We should be careful about judging people based on shreds of information (from second-hand sources in the media) that barely scratch the surface of a complex scenario. (For example, Manny Ramirez and Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormick have worked together for eight years — there’s a history there that we know nothing about.) The press is paid to tell us what happened — but only the BEST reporters dig below the surface to find the REAL STORY. There are conversations that have taken place that we don’t know about (Scott Boras?) and factors at play that we can’t comprehend (culture differences?) that, if we were aware of them, would shift whatever opinion we currently have about Manny Ramirez and others who have played a role in this saga.

Tom Caron stated the truth he perceives on last night’s post-game show: “”Manny has acted and spoken his way right out of this clubhouse.”

Or, maybe WE’VE acted and spoken Manny right out of this clubhouse by our tainted and sensationalized reporting of “the truth” and our lack of understanding about a unique personality who, through it all, drives in runs with a smile on his face. That’s certainly Manny’s truth. He said last night, “Mental peace has no price and I don’t have peace here.” When I put myself in his shoes, that’s a truth that’s easy to see.

Mamas, It’s OK To Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Mannys

Over at Boston.com’s “Extra Bases” blog, there were over 50 comments on Monday from fans reacting to all of this Manny business. A few of them accused Manny of being a bad role model for kids. For example, here’s what commenter “Paul W.” wrote:

“When I tell my little leaguers to model themselves after a major leaguer, I leave off Manny. I don’t want my players to think that selfish behavior is a positive attribute for a team. Follow Varitek, Pedroia, Schilling, or Beckett’s example, even Jeter’s or Posada’s. Any of these guys because they love and respect the game. But never Manny.”

I’ve taught middle school and coached a total of about 30 youth sports teams over the years, and I know where Paul W. is coming from. Yes, in ONE obvious way, Manny’s approach to the game of baseball is not what I would teach my young players. His obvious flaw is that, frequently (but not always), he fails to sprint down the first base line as soon as he has hit the ball. Sometimes, he hangs out in the batter’s box and admires the ball he has just hit, and sometimes he runs at less than 100%. This isn’t OK in the majors, but it’s a cardinal sin in little league. (I know that Paul W. is also referring to Manny’s alleged lack of “team spirit,” but no matter how confident sportswriters and fans are about the details of this most recent story about Manny’s knee, we don’t know the whole story).

Yup, Manny loafs sometimes. Yup, that can be maddening and costly. However, in many ways, Manny sets a positive example for young baseball players. Here’s what I would say to players on my youth baseball teams about what to emulate about Manny Ramirez.

1. He approaches every at-bat with a clear mind. Manny’s not thinking about his last plate appearance and he’s not thinking about his latest gaffe in the field. He’s not even thinking about his contract and what his agent, Scott Boras, wants him to do. No, Manny leaves that all behind when he strides towards the batter’s box. He’s in his own MannyZone, and he’s thinking about two things: seeing a strike, and hammering it. Even with two strikes, Manny’s focus is unbelievable.

2. He expects to get a hit, every at-bat. The way Manny walks to the plate with an air of self-confidence, settles into the batter’s box, taps the plate with his bat, assumes his regal batting stance, and stares out at the pitcher… everyone in the park knows he’s already envisioned the line drive that he’s about to smash. This summer, my co-coaches and I taught our eight year-old players to chant the words, “I crush balls in the strike zone,” while standing in the on-deck circle and stepping into the batter’s box. Why? We were teaching them to think like Manny.

3. When he strikes out or grounds into a double play, Manny immediately puts the failure behind him and moves on. No frustration, no cursing himself or the baseball gods, no wasting emotional energy on “what-ifs.” (Maybe this is why Youk and Manny don’t get along.) Manny just accepts his fate, takes a seat, and starts preparing for his next at-bat. Sometimes his lack of frustration is interpreted as a lack of intensity or competitiveness, but anger just doesn’t work for Manny – and anger and frustration don’t work too well for kids, either. The play is over, now move on in as positive a state of mind as you can. That’s Manny.

4. Manny plays baseball joyfully. Just about every little league coach in the land tells kids, “Have fun out there!” But do they really mean it? The truth is, it’s simply not O.K. in our U.S. athletic culture to appear to be having fun in certain game situations. Manny is happy all the time, whether the team is winning or losing, whether he’s just hit a grand slam or grounded into a double play, whether he’s benched or facing a 3-2 pitch in a clutch situation, whether the media is writing character-puncturing articles about him or cozying up to him for “being Manny.” As a coach, I really DO want my players to have fun playing baseball, and Manny’s a tremendous role model in this way.

5. Manny works hard in the off-season to get his body ready for spring training. He takes about ten days off after the season ends, then begins a strenuous workout regimen with one of the toughest trainers in the business. All good youth athletics coaches tell their players, “You want to get good? Work hard.” In 2007, The Boston Herald interviewed Seattle’s Raul Ibanez about his off-season workouts with Ramirez in Florida:

“In between sets, everything is timed, and he would always be reminding [me] to keep working. He works his tail off. I knew he was hard-working, but he exceeded my expectations. We would start at 10 and he was coming at 9 to do his workouts. He was working out an hour more. He influenced everybody to come in and work out earlier.”

Now is Manny a perfect role model for young baseball players? No. And neither am I, and neither are you. I would tell little leaguers, “Manny does some things badly, and some things exceptionally well. Let’s learn from what he does well.” Over the last decade, the closest MLB has come to a flawless role model has been Ironman Cal Ripken. Great leader, great worker, played hard, played hurt. But to create an ideal role model for young players, I’d want to combine Cal with Manny. Mix Cal’s determination and toughness with Manny’s jubilant, expectant frame of mind, and you have a powerful, positive role model.

My idea about what to DO with Manny (keep him, or trade him?): Pick up his option for 2009 and tell him we’re NOT picking it up for 2010. Get one more productive year out of him at $20M and ensure his self-motivation by guaranteeing him free agency in 2010. I love Manny and don’t want to lose him, but his age (and the physical decline that inevitably comes with age, unless you are Roger Clemens) worries me.

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.”

What Have You Done 500 Times?

So Manny finally connected for his 500th career home run (and then his 501st, 502nd, and 503rd). Only 24 people in major league history have achieved this milestone. That’s one of the marvelous things about baseball — performance is so quantifiable. We KNOW that Manny Ramirez is one of the greatest 24 home run hitters of all-time. It’s simply not debatable.

So this got me thinking — what’s the equivalent of hitting 500 home runs in non-athletes’ careers? What’s a high level of accomplishment in your field that only 24 people in history have ever reached?

I was a teacher for eight years. Perhaps the equivalent to 500 home runs in teaching is having 500 former students credit YOU with having taught them an invaluable life lesson.

For a pediatrician, how about accurately diagnosing 500 difficult-to-diagnose cases, keeping the patient and parents calm, and prescribing proper follow-up care?

For a minister, priest, or rabbi, the equivalent might be delivering 500 truly superior sermons.

For a parent of five (like me), I’d say showing up for 500 little league games, soccer games, swim meets, karate tests, dance recitals, school plays, class art shows, teacher conferences, and graduations — without missing one — would be the equivalent of hitting 500 home runs.

Probably during the season of 2011 or 2012, Manny will hit his 600th home run. I don’t even want to think about what it would require to be a 600-homer parent…..

An 8 Year-Old’s Fantasy Baseball Draft: Emotion vs. Analysis

fantasy-baseball.jpgI started playing online fantasy baseball in about 1995 or so, and it’s now an annual tradition. Draft day has become a holiday on my calendar and is as eagerly anticipated as any day of the year. This year’s draft — my son’s first — will go down in history as my favorite of all-time, for it demonstrated the emotional hold that our beloved Red Sox players have over us, especially when we’re kids.

A Co-Manager Comes of Age

The last two years, my almost-nine year-old son has “co-managed” my fantasy baseball team with me (I’m in a 12-team Yahoo! league with my brothers, sister, father, and several close friends). The main impact of his co-management has been the reliable presence of Nomar Garciaparra on the roster and also in the starting lineup whenever he has been healthy. (“Daddy, put Nomar back in the lineup!”) Although my son was only five years old when Nomar was traded, #5 remains a god in our house.

backyard-and-hes-off.jpgThis past fall, my son managed his own fantasy football team against his dad, uncles, aunts, and grandparents and WON the league. He established himself as a draft wizard, grabbing Peyton Manning, Randy Moss, and Adrian Peterson with his top three picks. So, riding a wave of pride and optimism, in February he asked to manage his own fantasy baseball team. Confident that he was ready to compete with the big boys, we expanded the league to 13 teams.

The Draft: Peavy or Beckett? Sizemore or Ramirez?

We bought all the fantasy baseball magazines and studied them closely for a month. The day of the draft (7:30pm start time), I hurried home from work to be sure he was ready, and when I arrived, I was treated to a wonderful sight. He had created an information cockpit for himself at the computer. Surrounding his seat on all sides were stat sheets, handwritten draft lists for every position, articles about sleepers and busts, and various pages ripped out of magazines. “Daddy, I know who I’m going to pick if I get the first pick,” he proclaimed eagerly. “Jake Peavy!” (Peavy scored the most points in our league last year — so he was a logical choice.)

A few minutes later, the draft order was revealed on our Yahoo! draft site. My son had pick #3, and I had pick #4. “I really hope Peavy will still be there at number three!” he prayed. I set up shop at my laptop in a room adjacent to his cockpit.

jake-peavy.jpgAt 7:30pm sharp, the draft went live. Suddenly, A-Rod was gone. “Yes! He took A-Rod!” The second pick was… Jose Reyes. And the clock started ticking on my son’s pick, number three. He had 90 seconds to click on Jake Peavy. But he froze. Pick Peavy, I urged. “I don’t know, Daddy,” he said, struggling with a decision. “Maybe I want Josh Beckett.” Peavy’s a great pick, Beckett’s a great pick, I told him. 20 seconds left. Make your pick! “I want Josh Beckett.” Click.

Emotion trounced Analysis. How great is that??

Fast forward to the second round. My son had spent the rest of the first round studying his notes to figure out who to take next. “If he’s still available, I’m going to take Grady Sizemore with my second pick,” my son announced. Good choice, I assured him. Then came his turn to draft. And he froze. Pick Sizemore, I urged. “Daddy, do you think I should take Grady Sizemore or Manny Ramirez?” he asked. You’ll be able to get Manny in the next round, I assured him. Go for Sizemore this round. “Don’t tell me what to do!” he said curtly. And suddenly, Ramirez was Beckett’s fantasy teammate.

Emotion 2, Analysis 0.

Let’s jump to the third round. “I think I’m going to take Jonathan Papelbon,” he said. “Do you think that’s a good pick, Daddy?” He’s a great player, I told him, but no one’s going to pick a closer until the fifth round at the earliest. You can get him in a later papelbon-wins-series.jpground. “Don’t tell me what to do!” Click. Papelbon joined his Red Sox teammates on a roster that was looking more and more like a tribute to the posters on my son’s walls.

Emotion 3, Analysis zilch.

Fourth round — analysis had been totally abandoned and emotion had taken over. He wanted to pick Dustin Pedroia but I convinced him that Mike Lowell would be a better pick. And in the fifth round, he picked his first non-Red Sox player: Torii Hunter. By the end of the draft, his team included Tim Wakefield, Johnny Damon, and of course, our favorite player of all time, Nomar Garciaparra (secured with his 24th, and final pick).

Clearly, my son drafted a good team. With Beckett, Ramirez, Papelbon, and Lowell anchoring his roster, he’s got as good a shot as anyone to win the league. But I’ll always remember all the research he did, all the logical planning and rational reasoning his left brain performed, and how the loyalty and emotion of his right brain – the side that loves the Red Sox – swooped in at those moments of truth and buried his analytical, stat-focused left brain. He’s eight. What a fantastic age to be a Red Sox fan!

And for the record, my first pick (#4 overall) was Johan Santana, and the only Red Sox player I secured was Coco Crisp. (My left brain is counting on him being traded, batting leadoff for a National League team, and winning the N.L. batting title…..)