On Friday, Manuel Aristides (Onelcida) Ramirez returns to Fenway Park for the first time since July 31, 2008.
How do you feel about this?
As a reporter, I like it for the story line. Personally, I am not emotionally vested in Manny’s return. Then again, I am a guy who has only talked to my twin brother a handful of times over the last 10 years. I tend to not get caught up in these emotional instances.
Yet, Red Sox fans are an emotional group with long memories. 2008 was not all that long ago. Nomar Garciaparra received a standing ovation when he came back to Fenway as a member of the Oakland A’s, but that was five years removed and a precipitous decline in production later. Also, for the most part, Garciaparra did not do as much to anger the Sox fan base before he was shipped out of town as Ramirez would do four years later. Also, Nomar’s trade brought valuable pieces to a team that eventually won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
Nomar never stood like a statue and struck out against the Yankees when Mariano Rivera was closing out a game with runners on base. Nomar never pushed traveling secretary Jack McCormack (that I know of). In the retrospect, given how the rest of his career played out, it is probably fair to say that Nomar did not fake any injuries to get out of playing a weekend series or two.
Oh yeah, Nomar was never cited for using human chorionic conadotropin (hGC) and suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing drugs.
To be fair, Garciaparra is not free from steroid speculation, nor are any of the players of the era. For Garciaparra’s sake, there have not been rumors or whispers connected to him and performance enhancers the way it has been with other players, even stand up guys like Todd Helton have been accused at one time or another.
When Manny digs in on Friday night, it will be interesting to see exactly the type of salute he receives. Perhaps some of it will be laudatory …
Though most of it derogatory.
Ramirez is a shell of his former self. Since being suspended he has hit .279 with a .407 on-base percentage with 19 home runs and 75 RBI in 477 plate appearances. Those are actually decent numbers … if you are J.D Drew. Ramirez’s career line of .312/.411/.589 is spectacular and it is hard to imagine that an aging slugger, no matter how good he is, will put up those kind of numbers year-to-year. Yet, the Dodgers, who were pretty much held captive by Ramirez and Scott Boras after the 2008 season, are paying for the old Manny and instead are getting a Drew type production.
The things about Drew is that he does not shake the boat and plays good defense. Even if you believe that he is overpaid, his personality and behavior has never been that of Ramirez. Does an extra 40 points of batting average and ungodly power numbers allow Ramirez to behave that much different from Drew?
Really, it comes down to the fact that the only fans that appreciate The World of Manny are the clowns who buy tickets to the “Mannywood” left field bleachers of at Dodger Stadium. From the perspective of the rest of the baseball universe Ramirez is a selfish prima dona whose only agenda is his own.
There is, of course, another side to this. The aforementioned long memories of Red Sox fans cannot forget 2004 and their World Series MVP. Nor that he destroyed Francisco Rodriguez in the 2007 ALDS on the way to another championship. Then there are the oft-innocent seeming antics that Boston thought “cute” for about seven years such as cutting off a throw from the outfield to the shortstop, tripping over himself in left field or going to smoke a Cohiba in the Green Monster. For 4,682 plate appearances, that was a Ramirez that Boston loved. Launching 500 foot home runs helped, but he was Boston’s misunderstood, affable slugger and damn the rest of the league. He worked hard, had a great eye and a deadly swing.
So, come first pitch Friday night, which Ramirez will you choose to remember?