Posted: Friday June 10, 2005 12:36PM; Updated: Friday June 10, 2005 4:37PM
Manny Ramirez is in the midst of one of the worst batting seasons of his career.
For most players, 11 home runs and 43 RBIs at this point in the year -- he's on pace for 30-118 -- would spark dreams of All-Star appearances and contract extensions. But those numbers get Manny Ramirez benched.
There's something strange happening in Boston: Ramirez, a hitting savant renowned for his ability to stay upbeat and oblivious to whatever chaos surrounds him, sounds tense and discouraged. Red Sox manager Terry Francona sat his cleanup hitter against the Cardinals on Wednesday. More surprising was Ramirez's reaction -- he reportedly thought he deserved to be benched.
While his power and production numbers are respectable, Ramirez has hit only four homers since May 1. His average (.254), on-base (.345) and slugging (.478) percentages are the lowest marks of his career. And he's hitting just .130 against left-handed pitching, which he usually crushes. Francona said he thinks Ramirez's stroke is off because he's trying to pull everything. Maybe, but you have to wonder if age is a factor in the slump -- and if this is the beginning of a career decline for the slugger. Ramirez turned 33 on May 30. According to baseball-reference.com, here are the five hitters whose stats most closely matched Ramirez's through age 32, and what they did after their 33rd birthdays. In most cases, their production tailed off quickly:
On the decline?
Ramirez's career statistics
How hitters similar to Ramirez performed after their 33rd birthdays
Retirement/ Current Age
Other observations from around the majors:
What's taking him so long? The baseball world has been on pins and needles for weeks now, waiting for George Steinbrenner to hurl lightning bolts -- or at least a few pink slips -- down from the Yankee Stadium owner's box. A coach. A GM. A groundskeeper. A coach, a GM and a groundskeeper. Someone has to pay for the Yankees' struggle to stay above .500, especially now that the team has become fodder for midmorning network ridicule.
"My gosh, can't they beat anybody?" Regis Philbin railed on Live with Regis and Kelly after New York lost to the Brewers earlier this week. "The Milwaukee Brewers? Give me a break. A guy named Ben Sheets pitched last night. I'm a baseball fan and I've never heard of Ben Sheets."
Uh, he's no one, Reeg -- just another faceless first-round draft pick, an Olympic gold medalist and a two-time All-Star. Philbin's snub aside, things are looking up for the Brewers, even if they are three games under .500 and buried behind the Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates in the NL Central. Sheets is part of a surprising staff that's fourth in the NL in team ERA (3.72). Wonder if Regis has Doug Davis (who at 8-5 has more wins than Pedro Martinez, Matt Morris, Mark Mulder or Randy Johnson) on his fantasy team?