I've written a lot about Manny, quoted memorable articles about him, come across some classic photos of him, and taken a boatload of photos of my own, too. A digital scrapbook, if you will, after the jump.
“Pedro Martínez was laughing so robustly about Manny Ramirez forgetting how many outs there were in the fourth inning last night that he placed his glove in front of his face to camouflage his smile. Nice try. Everyone realized Martínez was giggling, howling right there on the mound in the middle of Yankee Stadium. When was the last time a Boston player did that?” A Rare Laugher in the Bronx for Boston (New York Times)
They put him on irrevocable waivers yesterday and even the bottomless-pocketed George Steinbrenner wasn't interested in acquiring one of the great hitters in baseball for, essentially, nothing--since he wouldn't have had to trade any players, options or draft picks, and even Manny's sizeable $104 million contract is economical for the likes of Steinbrenner and his cronies. Manny has even said, while wearing a Red Sox uniform, publicly and for the record that he has always wanted to play for the pinstripes. And they still didn't touch him. We can't give him away. "Tales of a Sox Shithead", November 2003 (V. early post I now disagree with - this is back when I had a 3-pack-a-day WEEI habit and a tendency to regurgitate what I heard on talk radio. It's painful looking back at that post, but the events are worth remembering)
The unexpected story line of the season's first month revolves around Ramirez, who apparently is constitutionally incapable of harboring a grudge. Given ample cause to resent the way he was treated in the offseason, when the Sox first placed him on irrevocable waivers, then tried to unload him to the Texas Rangers in a deal for A-Rod, Ramirez instead has become the ultimate happy camper, and has gone out of his way to let everyone -- including media types he has studiously avoided in the past -- know it.
His locker has become a regular stop for reporters seeking a postgame quote, and he has sat down for any number of TV interviews, including one yesterday afternoon with NESN.
"A lot of people expected me to come back mad, this and that," Ramirez said on camera. "But life is too short."
But what accounts for this newfound willingness to reach out more publicly, to become Manny Ramirez, media go-to guy?
"You're welcome," Kevin Millar said to an inquisitor posing that very question.
"Talking a Good Game Too" Gordon Edes, Nov. 23, 2004
When Manny Ramirez stands back and admires a 459-foot homer, you cock your head and gaze at him with complete adoration. Were Derek Jeter to do this, well, you'd require a new television shortly thereafter. "No Problem, Papi," May 5, 2004
The first thing my dad said to me as walked by carrying a dribbling sprinkler from one end of the yard to the other was, "Shithead struck out."
Shithead, of course, is my father's term of endearment for Manny Ramirez.
"Asshole," he added, for good measure. "We Didn't Lose, We Just Ran Out of Time", May 12, 2004
(Photo by Sam)
But then--oh, but then. Numero Venticuatro took the plate and blasted a monumental no-doubter into the Monster Seats. It was a moon shot so precise it gave me instantaneous goose bumps: it came down among a crush of howling fans in the precise spot where Millar's homer should have landed.
Fenway went nuts. Slattery's went nuts. And the wide-screen TV showed how Millar was waiting with open arms as Manny crossed the plate. "From Generation to Generation", May 24, 2004
Hitting is not easy. So much has to happen correctly with your body for you to hit the ball hard to every part. Of course, if a pitcher is behind, the zone I cover is smaller, so my body is ready to make a stronger swing. If the pitcher is ahead, I have to be more flexible, to let my body extend or move back with the pitch, so I can put the fat part of the bat on the ball. But the most important thing is to see the ball and move with it. I react to the ball because I want to hit it as hard as possible. If it's inside, you hit it hard to left; if it's outside the power is to right. So my philosophy is see the ball and dance with the ball, like if it was a very fast Merengue! Manny on his short-lived Web forum, May 2004
I keep thinking about Manny taking batting practice, how it was like watching a racehorse in full stride or a ballerina dance the "Arabian" or any other powerful, graceful animal I've ever seen in motion, how it finally made me really understand the phrase "poetry in motion", as I watched the ball inscribe...graceful arcs on the air.
I keep thinking about Kevin Millar with Manny in an affectionate headlock, both of them waving up at the fans straining at the walls by the field and crawling up over the dugout to get to them, thinking of Millar's sloppy grin in the bright sunshine and how perfectly they went together.
I keep thinking about Manny playing to the crowd every time he came up to bat, the way just his glance over toward our section would send everyone into ecstasies of fist-pumping, name-chanting and clapping. Say what you want about the guy, but more than anyone else I saw yesterday, he just lights up the ballpark. "Love Stinks", June 1, 2004
"There goes my Gold Glove." Manny Ramirez, June 12, 2004
Interesting strategy to bench your best hitter, Manny Ramirez, against the National League's most dominating righthander, Jason Schmidt, in order to give him two days off in a row. Ramirez hadn't gotten a breather, manager Terry Francona said, since the day he flew American and became a US citizen. Just a guess here, but if it was incumbent for Everyday Manny to get an extended hiatus, many Sox fans would have voted that Francona give him tomorrow night off at home against struggling righthander Kyle Lohse (2-4, 5.38 ERA) of the Twins rather than against Schmidt, who yesterday pitched his second one-hitter in barely a month for the San Francisco Giants to close out the Sox, 4-0, at SBC Park. (Edes, Globe, June 2004)
It is the face of a great silent comic, one that Mack Sennett would have cast on the spot. It is open and broad. Part of the appeal is the huge brown eyes and another part is the wild, brambly hair above them. But mostly it comes from the ability to reveal most of the humor without sharing all of the joke.
He is smiling at them now, the Boston Red Sox fans clustered three-deep outside the glass windows of a radio booth tucked into a wall just below the more famous wall that rises above leftfield at Fenway Park. You can almost see the smile go through the glass and out into the crowd, see it ripple through them as they poke each other and smile back at him. Manny Ramirez smiles again, waves and touches his heart, and the crowd seems to buckle from the radiating joy of his grin. (Charles P. Pierce, "Hitting Pretty: The Sweet-Swinging Days of Manny Ramirez", Sports Illustrated, June 2004)
Manny Ramirez makes the whole ballpark burst into flames whenever he approaches the plate, but, toward the end of the game, his at-bat is less important with an 11-0 score, so it's just me and another idiot in the field box ahead of me that stand to cheer him on. I don't know what comes over me, but I find myself waving frantically at him, yelling, "Manny! Manny!" as if trying to hail a long-lost friend on a crowded street.
"Manny! Manny!" I yell, waving like a total fool, until I see him smile and he lifts his arm in a little wave toward me and the other idiot hollering at him.
"Manny waved at me." I report to my father as I take my seat again.
"Sure he did," my father chuckles. "Saga in Two Parts", July 7, 2004
Frankly, I've never seen him hit like he did on that 0-2 pitch. None of the cliches--hit the cover off the ball, ripped one, launched one, hit a bomb, rocked him, took him deep, hit a tape-measure shot, hit a bullet, hit a rocket, crushed one, hit a laser, hit a rope--even comes close to describing the way he brought his bat around and absolutely murdered that pitch.
The ball shot in a straight line directly into the left-center field bleachers. Do not pass go, do not obey the laws of physics and inscribe an arc through the air, go directly out of the ballpark.
Normally, Manny has an uppercut swing at Fenway. That's because normally there's a wall where he hit the homer last night. So not only did he set off an RPG of a homer last night, but he did it into a place he's not used to, not really to challenge himself but just for fun. Off Roger Clemens, who even I must acknowledge is probably one of the greatest pitchers ever to play the game.
Manny rounded the bases. And he laughed. "Represent," July 14, 2004
But despite the win, we leave Anaheim the same old dysfunctional circus train loaded down with the usual Red Sox baggage. Why did Pedro get a vacation? Why is Manny sitting out games? Should we send the lynch mob to Terry Francona's house yet? After a series split with Anaheim, and a Yankees loss to Detroit, we're quite emphatically back to square one, and not just in the standings. " "Manic Depression," July 19, 2004
Bases loaded. No one out. First inning. 2-0 Yankees.
The back of Manny's helmet, far shinier than the front, gleams in the lights from the cameras, and the flashbulbs, and the stadium roof, gleams under the glare of approximately 70,000 eyes, as he takes his long, slow constitutional behind the catcher to stand in the right-handed batter's box.
He's greeted by a tidal wave of stomachs, upholstered in various shades of team colors, as the crowd gets to its feet. He's greeted by Manny, Manny, Manny, Manny.
The wind is even blowing out to left field. "Play by Play", July 25, 2004
It would be very easy for Boston fans to become still more jaded by the Nomar trade, to be reluctant...to embrace anyone fully, lest the relationship sour as it so often has in the past. Manny, though, is like sunshine forcing its way in--you can't keep a straight face watching him flap his arms and make faces at Pedro, as Pedro teases him from the dugout steps, both of them uncannily like a proud parent and a delighted Little-Leaguer who both know that there will be ice cream cones all around later on. "Ain't Love the Sweetest Thing", August 3, 2004
Manny Ramirez steps into the box, muttering an absolution over himself, grinding his feet into the dirt, tapping the bat against the plate. Jose Contreras, looking as if he'll melt as quarts of sweat pour down his dark face, delivers, and as soon as Manny's eyes widen and his bat starts around, you have a feeling. And as the bat connects, you know.
Manny knows, too, as does Contreras: they each have a part to play, here, but neither complies. Manny stands staring out at Contreras as if sending his last pitch into the right-field bleachers to tie the score between the Red Sox and the White Sox has been a flippant answer to an intrusive question; Contreras, rather than spinning to watch the death of his pitch in the humid August night, stares Manny down. The two simply look at each other for a long moment, before Manny's eyes slide slowly down toward his feet, and as if cued by this, his feet start their shuffling jog toward first base. "Build Me Up Buttercup", August 14, 2004
Manny, galloping across the left-center grass, snagged the ball backhanded with his back to the infield, and bounced off the wall with the resiliency of a toddler learning to walk. Pedro, watching, at first wore a look of "oh, shit", which then melted, magically, sweetly, into a smile of relief. A split-second later, Pedro would bend at the knees and point one index finger and one gloved left hand out toward Manny, his nose wrinkling in amusement, but it was that one fine moment, that one perfect transition between, "oh, shit!" and "Gracias, mi amigo," that set it apart from the usual goofiness. "Faces", August 17, 2004
Manny gaveth, and Manny tooketh away--he and Ortiz launched back-to-back bombs in the top of the eighth to put the Red Sox ahead, and then in the very next half inning a routine fly ball turned into a nightmarish freak show as Manny tripped over a blade of grass and sprawled to the ground, while the ball bounced first beside and then away from him, rolling to the wall to put men on second and third with no outs. "Psychological Warfare," August 23, 2004
Places I wish I'd been #32429: At a window seat table in the restaurant at Skydome, as Manny Ramirez' rocket of a home run came screaming off the field to smash against the glass. What a glorious piece of serendipity it must have been to be that person (regardless of whether they appreciated it)."How Do You Like Them Apples?" August 26, 2004
Now batting...the left fielder...Manny...Ramirez.
Thwap, a couple pitches hit the glove. A deep and angry rumble from the stands. The buzz of fevered conversation, grunts of dissatisfaction and observation.
Then a breath, a sweet silence, and the mute hurtle of a sphere toward its fate.
The air is split wide open. Cries of joy break the atmosphere...they pound the field like an inexorable downpour, reaching critical mass and modulating into a hysterical chant, "MAN-NEE! MAN-NEE! MAN-NEE! MAN-NEE!" "Good Times Never Seemed So Good", September 1, 2004
The ball pops off of Mark Kotsay's bat in the way it has all night, following the two home runs in the early innings that comprised two-thirds of the A's scoring against the Red Sox yesterday. It arcs over Bill Mueller's head and then dive-bombs toward the left-field grass, where Manny Ramirez is charging hard, curls flapping, outsized pant legs billowing; in a last-ditch effort, Manny gathers himself up and flings himself toward the ball, gloving it and wrapping himself around it, rolling once, twice, before springing to his feet again. "Angels in the Outfield," September 7, 2004
My father retired to the basement. Steve, my sister and I remained in the living room, with me grousing and griping about my father's grousing and griping about Manny, punctuated with grousing and griping about the Sox' inability to get hits, and therefore validating, with their final shutout score, my father's ire for Manny.
"I can't watch the game with you people." My sister finally declared, heading for the basement in her "Pokey" shirt. "You are way too judgemental."
Later on, there were many throw pillows living up to their name in my parents' living room as the Sox' offensive impotence sent me into quite a tizzy indeed, which was stoked by my father, who took the holier-than-thou route: "I may badmouth Manny," he said. "But I've never badmouthed the team."
"Oh, shut up," I groaned.
"I did badmouth Carl Yastrzemski all the time, though, when he played for the Sox," my dad confessed.
He shrugged. "I didn't like his attitude, either." "This Sox!" September 12, 2004
There's nothing more frightening than a man who can afford to look ridiculous. Everything about him is all floppy and cuddly, from his baggy uniform to his pudgy belly to his frizzy dreds. When he runs he looks like a puppy whose ears are too big for it. While stealing bases left and right--for no reason, out of nowhere, making his first and second steals on the year, respectively--in the fourth inning, he was smiling. Jovial. Mugging for the dugout. There's nothing more frightening than a man who knows where he is, and that where he is belongs to him.
That kind of Christopher-Walken villain character, the kind that invites you for a glass of vino, smiles and laughs and shakes your hand. That's what was walking, with a posse numbering in the five figures standing behind him, toward home plate.
Little rivulets of sweat were making their way out from under the pitcher's hat band, like rats jumping ship.
There's nothing more frightening than a man who turns to face you, eyes glowering from under a dark brow, with the game on the line and one gloved hand on his hat, settling back into his stance like Michael Jackson back in the day, the Prince of Pop, King of this place, how do you do, I'm Manny Ramirez, welcome to my Fenway Park.
And what will he do today? Will it be the Grand Slam? A double off the wall to clear 'em? Ah, not this time. A sacrifice fly. Is he a little off his game? Did he decide, with some kind of preternatural wisdom, that this was all he needed--did he spare you this time?
There's nothing more frightening than a man who bounces back to the dugout laughing, wild hair flying, who smiles over his shoulder at you without even giving you a hint. "Drive Slow Your Car", September 15, 2004
Lifted by some angel, every ounce of Manny Ramirez took off toward the ball from the puddled warning track. At the apex of a miraculous leap, aided by a fan diving out of the way in the front rows, Manny Ramirez's glove intersected with the ball, and he came down to earth again, ashen-faced, uncharacteristically grim with the weight of what he had accomplished. He had the presence of mind to show the umpires the ball, appearing out of his glove like a portent from heaven. Surprise!
Meanwhile, Cairo, oblivious, continued rounding the bases. He reached home plate and went to high-five the chagrined Kenny Lofton. Witnessing Lofton's discomfort, Cairo whirled and stared blankly out at the field. After a protracted silence, Cairo held up his hand, index finger extended, and twirled it around in the air, his eyebrows raised quizzically. His lips were not hard to read in the seconds that followed: "It was an OUT?!?!?" Various bystanders shrugged.
The camera cut, then, in what has to be one of the all-time classic examples of sports cinematography, to Manny, who had regained himself in left. Smugly, Manny gave Cairo his famous double-guns. "Siyahamba," September 17, 2004
Game five [of the ALDS, 2003]. Manny at bat. "Come onnn, shithead," my father muttered at the screen. Manny swung, connected, and the ball rocketed out past the left-field wall, bouncing in the tunnel and stairs in the corner. Manny stared out audaciously at Barry Zito, making sure to lock eyes with him when he turned around. Manny walked, slowly, one step, then two, and then brought his right arm around to point to the Red Sox dugout. He began to trot around the bases slowly in his loping gait, and I thought it was one of the greatest moments I'd ever witnessed. "Next Year is Here", October 4, 2004
Just as the pitching stabilized, into the breach came Manny Ramirez, so overjoyed at his first post-season RBI that, slowing to celebrate on his way to first, he only made it about halfway to second before escaping a run-down only with a bellyflop and the fact that no Cardinal was protecting first.
But it gets worse. With one out in the eighth and Keith Foulke bearing down hard for each precious strike, Renteria singled to left, and Manny not only let it fall but juggled it for what felt like a few solid minutes while a run scored. On the next play--the next play! Manny appeared to have a bead on the ball and appeared to be preparing to catch it, but the only way I can figure it is that the left field grass suddenly rose up and swallowed his left foot, as he clotheslined himself and went down in a heap with the ball glancing off the back of his glove. And the tying run scored.
Among the mob of thoughts crowding my head were the following: Manny, you asshole. "A Bad Case of Renteria," October 23, 2004
I can't find the article, but I remember it mentioned they were eating chicken and pasta. Together in the clubhouse, Manny Ramirez and Kevin Millar were sharing a meal when the media descended on them, flies to the picnic, if you will.
Here I descend into rank speculation: I picture Millar turning with his mirrored sunglasses, chewing, an impish smile breaking out as the cameras and microphones approach. I picture Manny's velvety, bottomless black eyes beginning to dart nervously. I picture them both continuing to shovel forkfuls of pasta and chicken into their mouths, swallowing meditatively, watching reporters approaching.
Or did it start with one reporter, one beat writer they know well, and gradually morph, amoeba-like, into a full-fledged spectacle?
Either way, before television cameras and as captured in articles no longer in print, reporters began firing a volley of questions at Manny, which Millar intercepted. Though the questions were asked and answered in perfectly intelligible English, Millar, grabbing a microphone, insisted on "translating." By the time the clip made it to the airwaves, the reporters must have known that the joke was on them, that the only appropriate response to such benevolent but pointed ribbing was to smile back, to lighten up, to get the joke and laugh at themselves along with the wild-haired duo addressing them with a wink and a snicker.
The entire thing snowballed from there, of course, until Manny was doing press conferences and exclusive interviews and giving quotes post-game in front of his locker. Until Manny was running out onto the field clutching a tiny, flapping American flag, having just been inducted as a United States citizen. Until suddenly we were shaking our heads not at Manny himself, but at our own sour disposition towards him in previous seasons.
Another part of this metamorphosis was a renewal of our awareness of Manny's gifts; without pharyngeal drama on which to speculate, Manny forced attention back to his swing, his stance, his approach, and with them his batting average, his power from foul pole to foul pole, his improved fielding techniques, his more spirited baserunning. In other words, by stepping out into the public eye off the field, the real Manny--the prodigy on the field--made himself newly visible.
And here was Millar again, first leading and then happy to follow the Manny Parade, pointing out in another Spring Training special how short Manny's step is, just a tiny, measured lift and replacement of the foot as the pitch comes in, conserving and redirecting the energy of his swing up the column of his body, adding the pop that sends baseballs hurtling over the Monster while Manny stands back, untwisting slowly, left hand flung out to one side, right hand only just disengaging from the bat, watching the ball fly with those inscrutable eyes behind lengthy, little-boy eyelashes. "Pretty Good Year, Part II"
Another aspect salvaging this particular afternoon of
dodgeball baseball is continuing our ongoing argument about Manny Ramirez:
"Millar...Millar's killin' me out there in the field. We should've kept Mientkiewicz."
"Whoa, all of a sudden, you're dogging Millar?"
"He's just not good with the leather."
"Okay, so how come Millar's just 'not good with the leather', and Manny's an asshole?"
"Millar's a dirt dog. He doesn't take himself out of the game. We needed Manny up the other night, and he took himself out of the game."
"Dad, how do you--"
"We needed him up, damn it!"
"Dad. How do you know if Manny is or isn't hurt."
"Because! You don't pull a quad and then go out there and be in the field and runnin' around. He's not hurt. He's just an asshole."
"I guess what I don't like, Dad, is how you vilify him personally when you don't even know him."
"Oh, and I suppose you know Alex Rodriguez." "Donnybrook," April 24, 2005
Also, back at the point where we were slapping around Rodrigo Lopez and it looked like we might actually, I don't know, win the ball game, Manny Ramirez came to bat as the ninth Sox hitter of the fourth inning with the bases loaded for the second time. He walked up to the plate, regarded the panicking Lopez with raised eyebrows, and smacked his first desperate pitch into left field for two runs.
It was just so nasty the way Manny hit the first pitch. It was the ultimate loogy to hock on the corpse of the game for Lopez. He didn't hit a grand slam or a wall-ball, didn't torture or toy with Lopez and build the count, just knew Lopez would be trying to throw a strike right down the middle and pretty much just pimp-slapped said strike without an iota of mercy in his entire being. "About Last Night," April 27, 2005
My father called me on my cell phone the other night to exclaim, "Did you see that?!?" I was at dinner with friends at the time and so I did not, in fact, see it, until yesterday when I caught a highlight on ESPN (complete with blooper montage before showing the highlight). What is it about Manny that makes him unable to make the most routine fly-outs and yet turn into Torii Hunter on really tough, ridiculous catches? "All Lovely Tales that We Have Heard or Read", June 25, 2005
Then there was Manny's home run. Understand: I love Manny. Love him in a way that some people just don't understand. Watching him swat balls into the stratosphere with such skill and ease is one of the things that completes the "Boston Red Sox Experience" for me. But I will say this: It seems as if he's spending a lot more time this season watching his home runs leave the yard. Manny's always been a bit of a "watcher," but this season, it just seems so pronounced, so in your face, that I worry the dude's gonna take one on the dreads at some point. The grand slam he belted last night... it seemed as if he admired it for about fifteen minutes before he started 'round the bases. Surviving Grady, "Jesus Saves!" July 6, 2005
Crusoe Cano hit a routine fly to left field. Manny went into a hook slide for no discernible reason. Manny missed the ball. The ball went bouncing merrily over toward the left field corner. Manny rolled around on the ground for a time. I smacked my forehead.
Manny hauled himself up and went stumbling after the ball. I was reminded just then of Bill Simmons' highly apt description of Manny "playing the outfield like a drunk man running from the police." Manny was gamboling and rushing and generally looking like a complete idiot out there, until he caught up with the ball.
Cano, seeing Manny's bumbling, tried to stretch his double into a triple, and Manny flipped the ball to Bill Mueller at third base, and Cano was out.
The ballpark erupted. It was simply unbelievable. The most incredible thing, though, was not Manny turning an egregious error into an assist--the most incredible thing was Manny's pure arrogance in performing the feat; he never looked at third base after releasing the ball, instead strutting off around his territory like he was simply, undeniably, the most incredible outfielder that ever lived.
"Manny, you beautiful bastard!" Steve cried. "Credit Where Credit is Due", July 15, 2005
Manny, if you want privacy, come work my new job for me, live in my $450 per month apartment in Cincinnati, Ohio and I'll take over the $10 million condo in the heart of a cool city, the hot Brazillian wife and the cute baby with the afro, alright? --Rallycuff (RIP), July 2005
Why vilify Manny all the time? Do you just think that if you pick at it long enough, Manny will leave town, and secretly you can all applaud your inflated sense of self-importance when you've actually had a measurable (if largely pointless and unacknowledged) effect on something? Is that how it works? Keep beating the same dead horse till you get a reaction from somewhere? Because really, if fairness and objectivity are being paid more than just lip service here, then pick on everybody. Start digging into the private conversations every Red Sox player has had with Francona. I'm sure there have been some doozies in the past. In other words, if you're determined to be relentlessly negative, be thorough about it. Pick on someone else for a change, dammit. Not only is this drama so patently unnecessary, but the topic of Manny's supposed moral infidelities is old. It's used up. It's NOT. EVEN. INTERESTING. "What He Said", July 27, 2005
"Batting fourth. The left fielder. Manny. Rrramirrez..." It cracks me up how this announcer starts to put on this thick Latin accent whenever he announces an Hispanic last name.
There were faint boos from somewhere in the distance (thankfully for them, no one I could see or reach), and then all around us people started to cheer and clap emphatically, and we joined them.
But then, when the Sox fanned out to take the field, we saw a familiar figure ambling across the right-field grass, and it wasn't Kevin Millar, who had been announced at that position. It was Gabey. Millar, instead, took left field. And the panic began.
My phone flashed. A text message from my dad: "Manny isn't in the lineup! Mom just heard. Will keep U posted!"
I felt actual adrenaline burn in the pit of my stomach, squinting into the awkwardly angled setting sun. Were we witnessing something extraordinary? Had Manny left without fanfare or goodbye? Was he flat-out refusing to play the game? Had the situation escalated that far? "Hammer Time," July 30, 2005
(Photo by Sam)
I've said before that Manny, more than anyone else, just lights up the ballpark when he comes up to the on-deck circle. Even in some humdrum midseason game, Manny's appearance at the top of the dugout steps sends a near-audible jolt of electricity zinging through the stands. People stand, scream and generally lose their minds just at the sight of him. This is on a regular day.
Raise it to the tenth power, and that was today. It was as if we'd just acquired him, rather than elected not to trade him...
And then...he not only came up, but he hit a miracle of a single up the middle (faint shades of game 4) to score the winning run.
You can't make that shit up. You can't script it. You can't even imagine it, and suddenly there you are and there's nothing in the universe besides you and the television and beyond, the park where something lives that you can't touch, but can't possibly live without.
Nothing happened! Nothing. Manny Ramirez was not traded. That is all. The first place Red Sox swept a struggling Minnesota team. It was nothing.
It was everything. "Reality is a crutch for people who can't cope with drugs," July 31, 2007
(Photo by Sam)
(Photo by me)
The Curt Schilling / Manny Ramirez interaction showcased in the NESN broadcast today was absolutely precious to me. After hitting his home run, Manny came strolling through the dugout and sat next to Curt briefly. The two exchanged words--impossible to tell what was said. But Manny got up and opened the cooler to get a drink and then walked off shortly afterward, while Curt sat, furrowing his brow in consternation, shaking his head, seeming to go over it again in his mind, and then shaking his head again.
I don't care what the conversation was about. I loved every nanosecond of that exchange. It was like two different species sniffing each other. Two different species, both of whom are monsters for our team. "Notes from the Postseason," October 1, 2005
Redsox.com reports that Manny has been spending "post-batting practice moments...taking more batting practice in the tunnel behind the Boston dugout.
"I think he's been looking at his hands, where they are, pre-pitch," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He did the same thing last year. Sometimes coming out of the gate, you just lose your comfort zone for whatever reason. He'll get it."
For whatever reason, Ramirez has been a slow starter the last couple of years, though his career April numbers heading into this season (.325 average, 68 homers and 246 RBIs) weren't too shabby.
I like that image, of Manny studying his own hands. --April 15, 2006
...after the Indians pitched around Ortiz to get to Manny (apparently they haven't gotten the memo that Manny's pretty much hitting again), Manny unloaded on Guillermo Mota, a three-run homer to the opposite field, while no doubt Cleveland fans cried into their feathered headdresses about why this guy ever got away.
Manny trotted the bases, a simple and uncomplicated figure in that moment--a hitting machine, a man born to hit, a man paid to hit for us, and so: we win. The end. "I'd Rather Be Lucky Than Good Any Day", April 25, 2006
Manny seemed off in that universe of his own, that universe where pitches float as big as beachballs toward him at the plate and where he runs the bases as best he can given that hallucinations of circus animals are crossing his path (hence the run through the stop sign for, at that moment, the go-ahead run). That universe that makes you wish you could see through Manny's eyes, like looking through one of those little prismed telescopes that give you fly-eye vision. "Comma," May 25, 2006
Ramirez was smiling as he walked off the plane, saying goodbye to people as he left. He then promptly stopped at a fast-food Chinese takeout, still in the airport.
When asked by one passerby why he would go there, Ramirez, who was signed to a whopping $160 million contract by Dan Duquette in 2001, cracked: “It’s all I can afford on my budget.” Boston Herald, June 14, 2006
Then Carlos Beltran, the biggest pain in the ass ever to don a baseball uniform if it's not that of your home team, hits a cracking single to left, and here comes a--
And then it's one of those times that Manny has gulped down a can of spinach in the outfield while no one was looking, and suddenly, the ball comes screaming in from left field like it hit a springboard out there off Beltran's bat, and then Varitek has it in his glove and then MIGHTY EARTHSHATTERING BOOM Jose Reyes is lying in several pieces on the ground.
Okay, I'm exaggerating a little, but that impact (as illustrated salaciously by the many slow-motion replays that followed it) was truly wince-inducing. Reyes got owned. By Varitek's leg. Which, frankly, is the last leg anyone should want to fuck with.
And then Manny, nodding and chuckling to Pedro in the dugout, the way he used to, pointing to his temple the way Pedro so famously did once to Jorge Posada. "When Something Happens and Does Not Completely Unhappen," June 27, 2006
Even if it's totally true, that Manny's absence from the All-Star Game is a slap in the face to the fans (I for one am not feeling particularly slapped at all; frankly I didn't even vote for the All-Stars and I'm more offended by Mark Buerhle as the starter for the American League than anything else), my contempt for the way the usual suspects are jumping all over the chance to rip Manny knows no bounds. Here it is July 8...any time between now and the trading deadline is their usual time to pick on Manny, and here we are again, another year, another Manny controversy. They'll make it up if they have to, but this year they don't, and so they are seizing on the opportunity to hold themselves up the aggrieved representatives of a slighted legion of fans with aplomb that would better suit a Southern tent-revival preacher. My brothers and sisters the shame! The shame of his absence from the game three million honest hard working people voted him into!
Does anyone else notice this pattern!?!? Does anyone else notice it happens EVERY SINGLE YEAR, despite the fact that Manny doesn't change, his status as a Red Sox doesn't change and probably won't change, and the fact that Red Sox fans continue to cheer for Manny?
It's a total insult to the intelligence, what these columnists and TV commentators and radio buffoons are doing. Any guy on this team--ANY guy--has skeletons in his closet, sins and peccadilloes the media could be just as self-righteous in dogging him for. But Manny's an easy target, so let's go after him. AGAIN. It's July in Boston, and that's apparently just what we do. "That's Deputy Loretta to your sorry ass," July 7, 2006
Exciting news on the home front for me--after learning Manny actually has a meniscus tear, my dad, the most unrepentant Manny hater I personally know, emailed me to let me know he was considering that he thought maybe he should consider lightening up on ol' Manuelah (as he calls him). I sent him back a link to Boston Sports Media Watch's compelling persuasive essay about Manny, which pushed him further along the path of forgiveness, I'm happy to report. "Friday at Fenway," July 14, 2006
One out in the top of the ninth, with Manny at the plate, is when I tuned in; I had been dorking out at my friends Andy and Andy's house watching Dr. Who all night. And Mr. Fruto seemed to be following a pitching strategy of hucking the ball in only the most general, loosely defined vicinity of the batters' box. Ball Four went clear over Manny's head, but where any other pitcher might have earned a mound charge with such a delivery, Manny merely collected anything that had not been securely fastened to his body, namely, his batting helmet and bat, and went to first base, probably glad to be out of Fruto's line of fire (presumably). "Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man," July 22, 2006
Let us also not overlook Manny's defensive gem in the ninth, either. Brian Fahey smacked a double off Jonathan Papelbon, setting teeth on edge all over the Olde Towne, with memories of That Tampa Bay Game still fresh in everyone's minds. But then, Fahey got a bit greedy, and tried to stretch his hit into a triple, and Manny gunned him down. With the bases empty and another out up on the board, Papelbon got Melvin Mora to ground out to second, ending the inning and the Orioles threat.
The last few nights, if ever I was tempted to aim my frustration at one player in particular, it was Manny. He seemed to be doing his best to ruin the team's chances--there were times in that Royals series it began to seem deliberate. But tonight he is back in my good graces. Someone needed to sack up today, and Manny did it. "Manny's in the details," August 12, 2006
Unfortunately, it seems like peace and quiet is going to be hard to come by in these parts at least until the baseball season is officially over, and probably not even then, given the way the Hot Stove usually works in this town. This morning, when I turned on the radio, there was yelling. All the way to work, there was yelling, most of it about Manny Ramirez, but some of it about Terry Francona and maybe 2% of it about Theo. A caller by the nickname "Chuck the Yankee Turd" pounced on his chance to rub salt in the wounds. And then there was more yelling. The main host of the show even lost about an octave of bass in his voice hollering about how Manny Ramirez should just be forced to play.
And this was on an FM rock station. "Totally weak, Kyle", August 28, 2006
MY DAD: He's a dog.
ME: Dad. He's not technically required to be there any earlier.
MY DAD: He's a dog. Everyone else is there.
ME: You know, next year when he goes to another team or retires, and David Ortiz is setting a new Major League record for intentional walks, you'll be all, "Why can't we get someone to hit behind Ortiz? What happened to Manny? And blah blah blah."
MY DAD: Dog. Total dog. "The Annual Conversation," February 20, 2007
Steve on Manny: "I think he's doing pretty well. He hasn't created any divets or fallen on his ass or cut off throws from center field at all lately." "I really forgot how much watching Pap strike a bitch out does for my health and well-being." April 13, 2007
Manny launches one. In the slow-motion replay the ball seems to leave his bat at a near 90-degree angle, and it takes all of three seconds to get out of the park. Manny, meanwhile, untwists in that slow way he has when he's really unloaded, bringing his arms back round straight-elbowed in front of him. I know he's posing, but I also feel there's an element there of coming out of a trance before he can begin his shuffle around the bases. "Dream yourself a dream come true," April 23, 2007
It turned out to be the game-winner, it was his second homer of the night, and it was an impressive shot indeed, but the way Manny walked off the plate made his homer in the ALDS in Oakland in 2003 look like a decorous, head-down trot around the bags. As Sarah once put it, it's like he should take out a cell phone and snap a picture of the pitcher on his way out of the box. Both arms in the air...the slow stroll to first...it would've been one thing if it had truly been a walkoff homer, but there was still plenty of baseball left to play.
Where I differ from Manny-haters is that I truly don't doubt Manny's intentions in acting like this sometimes. Everybody knows he's been in a slump so far this year, even going so far as to tell people "I can't hit anymore." He's getting up in years. To send a shot like that to the place he hit it must be gratifying beyond what I can imagine, and I'm sure he was simply happy that he hit it that far. But I can also understand why some people involved would be tempted to give him a knuckle sandwich after that display. "Call of the Big Papi," May 4, 2007
You pretty much had to have seen it, but the look on Manny's face made me think of what David Ortiz said about him in the Big Papi book: "Manny can really make you laugh. But he doesn't always know he's doing it." He was definitely completely in the moment--if he'd looked up afterwards and seen someone busting a gut over it, he would probably have been confused.
But oh, was it funny. It was the kind of disarmingly funny thing that makes you forget everything else that's going on at that moment. The kind of thing where you just have to stop for a moment, whatever you're doing, and say, sweet, suffering Jesus, that's hysterical. Just the look on this face...
Yeah. You kind of have to have seen it--and the moment right after it, which was when NESN switched to a shot of second base with Robbie Cano manning the bag, just in time for Manny to come bursting into the frame from the right, all billowing uniform and do-rag coming undone because he'd run right out from under his batting helmet, capping off his sprint with a full-on belly-flop onto second base, which he clung to as if washed out of a volatile ocean onto a rock.
I remembered the line from Charles P. Pierce's profile on Manny in SI back in 2004: "It is the face of a great silent comic, one that Mack Sennett would have cast on the spot." Manny's face in that moment of crashing up onto second base was also something I'll never forget, but can't fully describe in words.
"Bug-eyed" is at least part of it. There was a touch of chagrin, too, a vague sense that what he'd just done was probably pretty dumb-looking, though of course he didn't even know the half of it. But that doesn't even come close to doing it justice. Suffice to say, it just, to quote a line my mother uses, "struck me funny."
That's what I think Ortiz was trying to say, though. I don't think it's too rare an occurrence for Manny to have that effect. "Baserunning like Benny Hill," June 4, 2007
...the other night, when one of the first things I saw on my triumphant return to NESN viewership was Kevin Youkilis with two fistfuls of Manny's hair in his hands like horse reins. I didn't even laugh right away--I just sat there almost catatonic, watching as Alex Cora danced around Youk and Manny crazily and Mike Lowell yelled random stuff in the background and all four of them did so many adorable, lovable things in the space of 30 seconds I couldn't even really take it all in. "Home, where my music's playing", June 23, 2007
Jerry Remy laid in to Manny in the sixth inning tonight after Coco was thrown out at the plate with what could've been the tying run against Fausto Carmona, who'd had a no-hitter going until Coco singled to open the frame. First Remy noticed that Coco had slowed up as he rounded third, and that split second's hesitation had probably cost him the run. Then, reviewing the footage, Remy determined that the on-deck batter was nowhere to be seen in the shot of Coco headed toward the plate. Now engaging in some detailed analysis, Remy determined that the on-deck hitter, Manny Ramirez, was just visible on the top step of the dugout in the very corner of the frame as Coco headed for home. Thus, Remy declared, Manny was a contributing factor in the loss of the run: Coco was expecting to see him signaling if he should slide or stand, and when he didn't, he pulled up a little. Hence the hesitation and the out call at the plate.
Will the wonders of baseball never cease. "In which Manny manages to lose a game from the on-deck circle", July 25, 2007
It's clear from his half hour of gesticulating and bitching loudly to whoever was within earshot that he felt the pitch was up and in. But I'm personally surprised the home plate umpire didn't throw him out after all the time he spent on first base chirping and making a gesture like he was leaning out of the way of a pitch, which was not at all the case with that one anyway, and honestly I wanted to smack him. Maybe in a somewhat parental way that would separate me from the true Manny haters, but still. Bang zoom. To the moon."Same old story, same old song and dance," August 4, 2007
Another animal-related highlight of the game had to do with Manny Ramirez's home run celebration, which directly preceded the mascot v. Coco incident in the fourth. After Manny jerked one to center to make the score 3-0 Sox, Manny celebrated thusly on his return to the dugout: he had Wily Mo hold up a towel, he and Julio Lugo put their hands pointer-fingers-up against their heads like bulls, stamped the ground, and then Manny ran through the towel while Coco waved it.
For a moment, all was silent in my apartment. After the second or two of shock had passed, though, I was guffawing so loud I'm pretty sure the neighbors could hear me. "Why the Red Sox are still the best show on television," August 5, 2007
My dad is officially in love with Jacoby Ellsbury. "HE HAS TO PLAY." my dad declared on the phone, shortly before I told him not to spoil the game for me, when he called after Jacoby's triple. "Get rid of Manny, fire JD Drew, and let this kid play. He is freakin' un-believable."
"Okay, Dad, if you get rid of Manny and Drew you only have two outfielders," I reminded him. "Are you saying Jacoby can play two positions?"
"Oh, hell, all right, keep Manny I guess. But wait till you see what he does." "Paradigm Shift," September 4, 2007
1-0 count to Manny. K-Rod on the mound. The bespectacled firecracker delivered the next pitch at 96 mph, throwing so hard he whirled 360 degrees...following through.
And Manny hit that ball with a crack the likes of which have rarely been heard even in the hallowed confines of Fenway Park. A crack that rang out into that attentive silence and smashed it like a hammer striking glass.
The crack ran through the players, jolting them to a man into standing position, thrusting fists into the air. The crack set the crowd ablaze, thundering down joyful noise, arms raised in full Hallelujah position. "The Stand," October 6, 2007
"So...right. I guess Manny said something? Or whatever?
I missed it. What'd he say?
I'm sorry. Come again?
I beg your pardon. I couldn't hear you over those stats. "Joshua Fit the Battle," October 19, 2007
Manny Ramírez got a ride from a Massachusetts state trooper on the tarmac. He tried to open the back door, which is reserved for bad guys. A trooper moved in quickly. "No Manny, you can't go in the back," said the trooper, smiling and opening the front passenger door. Boston Globe, Flying High Again, October 30, 2007
"Yeeeeahhh!!" Manny hollered over the amplifier as the crowd went absolutely insane and Papi pointed and laughed and grinned and waggled his eyebrows and teased fans along the sidewalk. "We numbah one!!" Manny held up one finger to demonstrate. I thought people's heads were going to explode from screaming so much. Those two know how to rile up a crowd like I've never seen. "It's hard to stay mad, when there's so much beauty in the world", October 30, 2007
In many of the photos from this postseason, but especially the shots from multitudinous angles of the Game 2 walkoff, Manny’s face has a look I find even more enigmatic than usual. In the most joyous of moments, his face is alight, but calm, his eyes staring off somewhere far beyond the camera. At his most ecstatic, Manny does not grin—he goes still. "Manny and the Zen of the three-run walkoff", Still, Pretty Good Year: Part III. ALDS, February 13, 2008
We have all seen Manny Ramirez do many things. Auction a grill on eBay. Step into and out of the Monster between innings. Re-create the pose of a charging moose with teammates in the dugout. Grow dreadlocks. Call himself a 'bad man' at a press conference. And we've seen him quibble with umpires before about balls and strikes.
But I don't think we've ever seen Manny absolutely lose his everloving shit at an umpire like he did with Tim McClelland last night, when Manny thought that what turned out to be strike three was ball four. Maybe Manny could, uh, look at the umpire for the call before deciding whether to run down to first base or not, granted, but that kind of reaction from him is so rare that I give him a little more of the benefit of the doubt. "One of THOSE games...", April 17, 2008
Manny's first homer last night was a decent shot, especially to straightaway center in that ballpark. But the second, two-run jimmy-jack? I immediately received the following voicemail from my father, who, let's remember, does not like Manny all that much: "That was a serious, SERIOUS home run, that second one that Manny hit. Are you kidding me? He CRUSHED that ball right off the bat. Hope you saw it. See ya."
Crushed is one way to describe it. Here are a few more:
- Mammoth blast
- Titanic moon shot
- Absolute bomb
- Monstrous homer
Manny can also be said to have:
- Nailed it
- Tattooed it
- Hit the cover off the ball
- Lost one
- Teed off
I'm sure you can add plenty more of your own...and yet I feel like with a home run like that, words don't really do it justice. It's hard to find the right string of sufficiently expressive adjectives--you just have to see this homer, if you haven't already, and watch the impressive angle at which it comes off the bat, register the approximate half-second it takes to carom off the facade of the far left-field bleachers, and gauge its several-hundred-foot cruising altitude. "Manny Magic," April 18, 2008
Probably my favorite moment of the whole game was in the third inning, when Manny combined with Julio Lugo to relay a ball from deep left center and throw out the lead runner at second (Matthews again - he was everywhere this game). As Manny settled back into position after the play, practically our whole section started giving him his own patented double-gun salute, exaggeratedly, raising our arms over our heads and bringing them back down again, the better to make sure he saw us.
Like Matthews, and most other professional ballplayers, Manny's developed at least something of an ability to ignore fans shouting at him--or at least to avoid stirring them up into a frenzy by waving or giving the double-guns back. But even from about 100 feet away, I could see him smile, nod just slightly, very quickly touch the bill of his cap. "No Dice," April 24, 2008
(Photo by Sam)
The Tigers brought out one Freddy Dolsi from their bullpen, a brand-new rookie fresh from the farm. Remy and Orsillo pointed out, as the slight Dorsi was throwing his warmup pitches, that he'd been up in the bullpen several times throughout the game. "He's practically pitched a whole game in the bullpen," said Don.
"Hopefully he worked out some of his nerves," replied Jerry.
Unfortunately for Freddy Dolsi, the next man up, and his first-ever Major League hitter, was to be Manny Ramirez. The Bad Man took all of a second to take Dolsi's first ever Major League pitch deep to straightaway center and through the hedges out of the park. Welcome to the bigs, kid, and have a nice day. "Batter up," May 3, 2008
Manny watched, as I knew he would, walking placidly partway down the first base line before breaking into a trot, double-high-fiving Luis Alicea as he rounded the first corner. When he reached the plate, he paused to hug Mike Lowell, and then sauntered over for more love from his teammates gathered at the top step of the dugout.
My favorite moment of the aftermath was when Papi enveloped both Manny and Julio Lugo in his arms and bounced them both up and down there in front of the dugout. That was just cute on principle, but even more endearing was how completely relaxed and exuberant Manny looked, with his cheek pressed against Papi's shoulder, leaping into the air. "500," June 1, 2008
(Photo by Sam)
It's tradition in this town for Manny to get barbecued every summer along with the burgers and dogs. It's not that I've concluded there's a conspiracy, though, either--sometimes it's hard not to wonder just what he could possibly be thinking.
Take the way he bumbled the fly ball from Maicer Izturis in the bottom of the 6th really could have been taken either way, too. It's not like flubbing the hell out of fielding plays is something new for Manny. But even Remy and Orsillo noted that the botched dive that started it all was totally unnecessary to catch the ball.
And then the exaggerated way he flopped back to the ground again, finally all but literally pulling the ball out of his ass...Javy Lopez's teeth were gritted. Jacoby Ellsbury was standing over Manny, trying to grab the ball, and Manny wouldn't let him. Manny came up grinning sheepishly and laughing, but Tito spat and stared daggers toward left field from the dugout.
Another thing that could go either way. Nobody likes padding the other team's already embarrassing lead with an abjectly humiliating fielding error. And interpreting expressions on the faces of people I don't technically know, I realize, is not an exact science. But I know the feeling of disappointment that came over me as I watched Red Sox players and coaches all looking in his direction as though they were choking back murderous urges. I know it's making me wonder just what I should believe. "Fugly," July 19, 2008
Whether it's front-office sabotage or simply the truth coming out, we're seeing a different, more distasteful side of Manny being exposed more sharply than ever before. It seems people are coming out of the woodwork to volunteer their strange and / or terrible stories about Manny's antics, not all of which are so cute...Normally, I dismiss the annual Manny Being Manny flak. But this year feels a little different. This year has really got me wondering. "Oh, the Drama!" July 26, 2008
(Photo by Sam)
In all honesty, even with his comments and behavior over the last couple weeks, this [trade] is still really difficult to talk about. Allen Chace at Over the Monster, July 31, 2008