It’s too late to apologize, Manny
April 18, 2011 § Leave a Comment
To his credit, Manny Ramirez stayed true to himself and to what he believed in all the way to his retirement from major league baseball.
On April 8, 2011, the MLB bode farewell to one of its most polarizing figures in recent history, Ramirez deciding to end his stellar 19-year career rather than serve a 100-game suspension, ESPN.com reports.
For baseball historians, Ramirez’s actions – caught using banned substances – might be a big deal, but not for me. I was raised in the 1990s and probably attended 15 to 20 games of Nos Z’Amours, les Expos de Montréal, before they left for Washington; and I have clear memories of about 5.
(Unfortunately for my sake, one was in sixth grade and the narrative includes such things as “overconfident 12 year olds,” “girls from the suburbs” and the “DGenerationX salute.” Details are unimportant.) Growing up, baseball was not my first love but I watched enough to know that something shady was unfolding. At first however, I mostly just loved the baseball hats. My first, of course, was from the hometown Expos. Then came a Boston Red Sox hat and after, one of the Okland A’s surprisingly — seriously, who wants to grow up to be an A’s fan except for Billy Beane, right?
All of which is to say that as far as I’m concerned, if you’ve played baseball during the 1990s you’re guilty until proven innocent. I’m not saying that’s right, just that that’s how it is; it’s not like Bud Selig gave me and the rest of the fans any other reason as he counted the dollars as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa counted their homeruns. No, guilty until proven innocent.
And while Ramirez sure has proven to be guilty twice, he was also a reminder of all that is still right with professional sports. Despite the fame, the money, the steroids, Manny still only wanted to have fun on a baseball field. That cliche is hammered home often these days, but it is true in Ramirez’s case. He played with a true passion and an innocence that reminded everyone of one simple fact: baseball is still just a game. That goes for both the players and the fans.
For that reason, teams turned a blind eye to the antics of this perpetual black sheep. He always was worth it in the end, because he sure could play. I’m far from an expert on baseball, but I have watched enough to know this: over his 19-year career, there were probably not more than one or two better batters than Manny Ramirez. There’s a case to be made for Barry Bonds, definitely; one for Albert Pujols as well. Otherwise?
Otherwise, you would be reaching, because look at Ramirez’s career stats.
Unlike his other infamous compadres of baseball’s steroid era, Ramirez wasn’t all about power. He did hit 555 homeruns during his career, but he was more than that. Ramirez knew what he wanted to do for every one of his at-bat and made sure to stick to it. Just ask Fausto Carmona and the Cleveland Indians rotation in the 2007 ALDS, when he hit .409 over seven games. Consider that Ramirez is one of only five players in history to have hit over 500 homeruns and maintain a .300 batting average; that Ramirez has the fourth highest career OPS (i.e. the ability to hit the ball and get safely on base) behind only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds.
The best right-handed hitter ever? Maybe not, but he definitely has a case.
And yet, will Manuel Aristides Ramirez be a Hall of Fame player when all is said and done? Voters likely will see his two positive drug tests and stay away from Manny. In the end, he will be kept away from his well-deserved place in the Hall of Fame because, at the very least, he hasn’t publicly apologized for his drug use.
In the end, it will be too late to apologize. Not that he would anyway.