When Manny Ramirez was a member of the Red Sox, he caused fans a lot of headaches. Now, as a member of the Dodgers, he’s still causing Sox fans headaches.
Ramirez returns to Fenway Park as a member of the Dodgers this weekend. And, as was often the case each season of his Red Sox tenure, many fans aren’t sure whether to boo him or cheer him.
During his time in Boston, Ramirez gave us plenty of reasons to loathe him: phantom injuries that wouldn’t show up on tests but would cause him to miss games; not hustling, at times not even running, demanding trades, arguing with teammates and pushing down traveling secretaries, and, most of all, seeming to not care.
Of course, he gave us plenty of reasons to cheer. Along with David Ortiz, he was part of what statistically was the best 3-4 hitting combo since Gehrig and Ruth. AND, he just happened to be the MVP of the first Red Sox World Series in 86 years.
Ultimately, he was the worst kind of baseball player — the kind that quits on his teammates and his fans — and at the same time our Baseball Jesus, saving us from 86 years of torture.
So now, just like years ago, we don’t know whether to boo him or cheer him.
Fans booed Johnny Damon when he came back as a Yankee. But his sins were much less. All he did was go for the money as a free agent, just like 99.9 percent of all other athletes. And just like you’d do in the same situation. This despite all his heroics in the 2004 playoffs.
Johnny shouldn’t have been booed. But to me, Manny and his quiting present and much more difficult case.
Come game time tomorrow, I don’t think Manny should be booed. Face it, without him we don’t win two World Series. And maybe it’s easy now to take those for granted. But for those of us who REALLY remember what it was like before 2004, we’ll never take those for granted.
However, Manny quit, and quit many times on this team. He should never receive a standing ovation in Fenway Park, just like he should never have his number retired.
Just polite applause please, and then cheer for him to quit on the Dodgers.
Just recently, a friend and I were talking about what to do about Manny Ramirez. He’s entering the first of his two club option years; he’s getting old; and his production is on the decline. On the surface, for $20 million a year, he isn’t worth it. But, how can you replace him in that lineup? One of the only ways, I said, was to get Matt Holliday.
So, it was kind of exciting to read today that the Sox are considering letting Manny walk and going after Holliday. The problem, though, is my friend disagreed with me, saying Holliday’s stats away from Colorado don’t hold up. And we don’t want another ex-Rockie bust. (Remember Dante Bichette?) Given how good Holliday has been in recent years, I didn’t believe it. So I decided to take a look at his numbers.
Now, first let’s just state the obvious: There is no replacing Manny Ramirez. Manny is one of the greatest right-handed hitters in baseball history. And he and Papi make up the best 3-4 combo since Gehrig and Ruth. (For those gasping, the stats back it up. But that’s for another blog.) The problem is, at this point even keeping Manny for the next two years isn’t replacing Manny. His production is on the decline, and what you’ll get out of him the next two seasons – while it might be good – won’t be Manny-Ramirez-good. And, for $20 million a season, it is worth looking around, especially with a guy like Matt Holliday possibly available.
However, as it turns out — to my shock and dismay — my friend was right and I was wrr . . . wro . . . .I was misinformed. Last season, Holliday hit .376 at home, but just .301 away. He stroked 25 homers at Coors, but just 11 elsewhere. And his slugging dropped from .722 at home to just .485 away.
None of this bodes well for him joining the Red Sox. First, he’ll be replacing an elite Hall-of-Famer. That’s never a good start. Second, how will fans (and the organization) stomach it if he is putting up numbers like .299-23-108 year after year?
And yet, I think the Sox should grab him.
Since 2003, we’ve been rather spoiled, enjoying a couple of bad dudes in the middle of our lineup who could regularly put up .310-35-120 (or better) year after year. Those guys are hard to come by, and finding two guys like that is even harder. But even without those kind of guys, a team (especially a team run like the Red Sox) can still find ways win.
Chances are we’ll never find an adequate replacement for Manny Ramirez. But even without the crazy power numbers, Holliday can still hit. And just take a look at Mike Lowell if you want to see how a good right-handed hitter can use the wall in Fenway. (And Holliday is a much better hitter than Lowell.) Holliday won’t consistently put up Manny Ramirez numbers. Nobody will. But Matt Holliday will still give us a very productive and potent bat for years to come.
Okay. So maybe that headline may catch me some flack. But I’ll back it up.
CNNSI recently released their list ranking all the ballparks in the major leagues. They surveyed fans about their ballparks, weighing such factors as affordability, tradition, neighborhood and fan IQ.
They said their rankings hurt the old ballparks like Wrigley (15), Yankee Stadium (20), and Fenway Park (21). I have to agree with their list; I personally am trying to lead the campaign to tear down Fenway. It’s a terrible place to watch a game. Hell with the romance. I want a comfortable seat that looks toward home plate instead of centerfield; open-air concessions instead of a cement dungeon.
Number Three was PNC Park in Pittsburgh, which I visited last year and absolutely loved. Number Two was Milwaukee, and Number One was Cleveland, both of which I hope to visit someday soon.
Now, here is the reason for the headline. In the CNNSI article, they ran the following photo:
Maybe CNNSI should have taken away points for overt racism. Because, as if the team name isn’t racist enough, I would really love someone to explain to me how it is okay to paint your skin red in Cleveland.
Indians fans have defended their team logo/mascot by saying it is tradition. But it is a tradition rooted in racism. What if your team came up with a black man as a mascot 100 years ago. Would fans defend that today? Would they show up at the ballpark painted in blackface? If their team name was the Chinamen, would they have a cartoonish (s)lant-(e)yed guy on their hats, while fans painted their face bright yellow? And if they did, would they get away with it without any outcry?
Maybe I’d feel different if I was a Cleveland Indian fan. But I hope I wouldn’t. Because if I was a Cleveland Indian fan who painted my face red, wore a shamefully racist logo on my hat and defended it all as “tradition,” that would make me a bigot.
- A week ago, I was heading to Fenway park, with the Sox enjoying a nice winning streak and the best record in the AL. That night, I thought nothing of it when they lost; I even went “cha-ching” to my brother when K-Rod saved the game for the Angels (he’s on my fantasy team). The Sox then dropped five straight, including a three game sweep at Tampa. That’s why you never take the success of your team for granted.
- Sometimes, I watch The Office and think, “Oh no, I’m Michael.”
- I’d be a hell of a lot happier with Lester’s performance last night if he hadn’t sucked so bad in his previous outings. Because of that, he was sitting his (a)rse on my fantasy team’s bench when he finally decided to be a real pitcher. Ninety-six pitches in eight innings? Usually he hits 96 pitches by the middle of the fourth. And he never goes deep into games. I actually was beginning to think he wasn’t so much a starting pitcher but more an early reliever.
- When I flipped it over to the C’s the other night (Why watch the entirety of a first-round game since they’ll crush Atlanta anyway?), they had a comfortable 10-point lead to start the fourth quarter. Now the series is tied 2-2. I want to watch tonight. But, for the good of the team, should I skip it?
- The Seventh Sign of the Apocalypse: My imaginary brother has posted two of the last three blog posts.
Perhaps there is only one thing that would have made today’s incredible Opening Day at Fenway Park even better: If Big Papi’s grand slam bid had traveled another five feet.
Other than that, a Red Sox fan would have a hard time finding a flaw with today’s game. Under a clear-blue sky, we watched the Red Sox unfurl a championship banner and receive their World Series rings, something that after an 86-year drought I don’t think Sox fans will ever really take for granted no matter how many World Series we win. Daisuke pitched another gem against a fierce (albeit 0-7) Detroit Tigers lineup, and he’s looking more and more like the pitcher we’d hoped he be. And Red Sox Nation righted a terrible wrong, welcoming back Bill Buckner in one of the most touching moments ever at Fenway Park.
Buckner never should have been the scapegoat for the Game 6 collapse in the 1986 World Series. After being up by two runs and being one strike a way from winning it all, the game had been tied up and the damage had already been done by the time the ball dribbled between his legs. Rich Gedman and Bob Stanley were in large part at fault, but perhaps most of all it was Calvin Schiraldi . . . who, while wearing the visage of a frightened child, proceeded to blow both Games 6 and 7. And still, he for some reason rode in the 2004 Championship Parade. Explain that to me, please. (I booed his (a)rse loudly; the one moment of seething hatred during the most joyful of parades.)
On top of everything, Buckner has gone on to become the national symbol for choking in sports. That is a terrible shame, especially considering the career he had. He played for 21 years, and newsflash: Nobody plays that long unless they are very, very good. During his career he got 2,715 hits . . . just a handful of injury-plagued seasons from being a surefire Hall-of-Famer. In 1985, he played all 162 games and hit .299 with 16 homers and 110 rbis. And, despite his bad knees, he played in 153 games in 1986 and was a core part of that team’s success, driving in 102 runs along with a career-high 18 home runs.
On a side note, given the hobbled image we have of him, it might be surprising to know Buckner stole 18 bases in 1985. And, if I remember correctly, his 6 stolen bases in 1986 were second on a team that was notorious for not running.
Buckner was a great and gutsy player. A guy who – had he been a bit healthier throughout his career – would undoubtedly be unshrined in Cooperstown. A guy who helped carry the Sox to the brink of a championship in 1986.
We didn’t need to forgive Bill Buckner. Bill Buckner needed to forgive us. I’m glad he did.
Now, can we kick Calvin Schiraldi out of Red Sox Nation?
(On a side note: It was great to see Curtis Leskanic involved in the ceremonies today, along with Brian Daubach. My brother and I were at Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, and there never would have been a Big Papi walk-off homer had Leskanic not pitched his cojones off in the late innings of that game. My brother is still searching for a Leskanic jersey.)