Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Appreciating Manny Ramirez Part 1

Pretty tough to follow up Ben's post. I must admit though that I think I agree with about 100% of what he said. Anyway, onto my own deal now which is my much hyped - by me at least - article on the Great Manny Ramirez a player whom I may fall even more in love with this season to the point of making my wife uncomfortable on account of him being on both of my fantasy teams. Watch out world it could get awkward around here. I believe Rajon Rondo is actually looking into a restraining order after the 8 mixtapes I sent him. I would have sent him a new pair of roller skates, but I didn't want to cross that line. Seriously though, is there a more crushing experience than learning that your Man Crush du Jour is really, really, REALLY into roller skating? Of course not.

Stop. Manny Time. (It still works, you gotta love that. 1990 in the house, somebody get Blizzard Man on the phone.)

We all know that Manny famously signed with Scott Boras during the offseason and that the Red Sox hold team options at $20M a pop for the next two years which can be picked up after each of the next following two seasons. Right now, assuming that Manny can rebound from his subpar - for him - 2007 season I'd say the chances of the first and probably even both options getting picked up are outstanding. What I'd also like to throw out there - and this is 100% the Boras Factor - is the idea that Manny or Boras tries to hold the Sox hostage after this season by threatening some sort of a holdout if the Sox do not sign him to a new extension. My guess is that Boras would ask for something like 5 years and $110M which the Red Sox would probably laugh at AND would be fools to pick up. I have absolutely no sources saying that this may or may not happen, but you're crazy if you do not think that there is a very distinct possibility of it occurring. I know that is a Drew Rosenhaus Special that seems to happen in the NFL more than any other league on account of the contracts being non-guaranteed, but I have a hunch that we may head down that road in some capacity.

With all that being said, this could possibly be our last year to enjoy Manny, or at the very least enjoy Manny without the spectacle of some Boras ugliness or sideshows hanging over our heads or in our not too distant memories. Of course he could rear his head - he, meaning Boras - at any point this year so I hope I didn't speak too soon.

And with that, I want to get to the real meat of this article which is simply to tell everybody that Manny has been the best and most consistent hitter that the Red Sox have had since the mid-70's and that he is one of "those guys" that you'll be talking about forever and should go down as one of the five or ten best right handed hitters of all time. In short, Manny could very well be the best hitter you will ever see on the Red Sox in your lifetime, so enjoy it this season and take some time to think back to all the seasons since 2001 in which you have had the chance to see this guy hit. I know there have been some headaches - both major and minor - along the way, but admit it, being a Red Sox fan over the last eight years has been made infinitely more enjoyable with Manny around.

Before I move onto Part 2 of this in the next couple of days I want to leave you with these three thoughts:

1) Before signing with the Sox I considered Manny the most fearsome hitter in the American League. The concept of the Sox signing him seemed absolutely comical and when they got him I was absolutely beside myself. At the time I was still in college and people were literally high-fiving each other and hooting and hollering after the fact. Of everything surrounding Boston sports that I had experienced, it was the single most elating and exciting free agent acquisition that I could remember. This was not getting Dominique Wilkins or Brett Saberhagen years past their respective primes. Shoot, this was even bigger than getting Pedro. Manny was the man for lack of a better word in the AL at the time and everybody saw it as a foregone conclusion that he would wind up with the Yankees. At the time, the Yanks were winning every World Series while the closest the Sox had come to the World Series since 1986 was 5 game defeat to the Yanks in the 1999 ALCS. Needless to say that apparently stealing the best hitter from the best offensive teams of the past six years - you forget how loaded those mid and late 1990's Indians teams were, the 1999 team I still say was the best offense I've ever seen - from the Yankees and bringing him to Boston was about the biggest and most exciting coup the Sox could have made in the winter of 2000. Obviously the move panned out pretty well.

(You may also forget that Dan Duquette got panned at the time from the national press for committing so many years and money to a player with Manny's reputation - "Manny being Manny" was going on years before the infamous leak in the Green Monster - but as I said, the Duke had the last laugh.)

2) Since last year I have been actively reminding people of how good Manny is and to appreciate him. All the goofiness obscures his greatness and I don't mean to repeat myself, but it really should be enjoyed and appreciated.

3) Some stats to consider (courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com) for now before I really beat you over the head with them tomorrow:

Manny's 162 Game Average for his career (since 1993) -
112 RS / 41 HR / 134 RBI / .313 Avg / .409 OBP / .593 Slug% / 154 OPS+
**granted Manny has never played more than 154 games in a season and has only topped 150 games in 6 seasons since becoming a full-timer in 1995 but you still have to admit that those are pretty freakin' awesome numbers

Manny's Best Seasons Probably Didn't Even Come in Boston -
* In 1998 and 1999 Manny hit 89 homers and drove in 310 runs while hitting .313
* In 2000 Manny posted a ridiculous OPS+ of 186 while hitting .351 with 38 homers, 122 RBI, 34 doubles and an incredible OPS of 1.154 in 118 games

I'll let you chew on those for the time being. Coming up in the next few days, I'll compare Manny's Sox career to those of the other Sox greats since the mid-70's in Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Wade Boggs, Mo Vaughn, Nomar, and David Ortiz and show you why he is in fact the best you have seen and probably will see.

Until next time...

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