Manny cared about serving Manny, making money and nothing else
Manny Ramirez retired as a cheater and a quitter, but he does not care
Ramirez isn't an evil man, but he played and acted with a disregard to the team
Manny quit on the Red Sox twice and also torpedoed the Dodgers and Rays
Manny Ramirez is a cheater. He's a disgrace. He's not going to the Hall of Fame. And you know what else? Manny doesn't care.
So why should fans care?
Manny's not an evil person. He was a guy who'd come to the park early, whistle while he worked then go off into the night after the games. He stayed to himself and most of the time you hardly knew he was around. He usually had a hug for everyone but never had a lot of friends in the clubhouse.
We certainly knew he was around whenever he was in the batter's box. Manny was, without question, one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all time. He was a latter-day, juiced-up Jimmie Foxx. He compiled a .312 batting average and hit a whopping 555 home runs. He was Most Valuable Player of the 2004 World Series when the Red Sox put a 86-year-old Curse to rest.
Manny was a savant slugger. His simple mind made it easier to hit. He never carried baggage to home plate. He never worried about failure. Every at-bat was a clean slate.
"I see the ball and hit it,'' he would say.
Manny quit baseball Friday rather than serve a 100-day suspension for failing yet another drug test. He was 1-for-17 with the Rays in his final few days in baseball.
A lot of Red Sox fans will love him forever because he was part of that championship season in '04 and again in '07. Certainly there was lots to like about Manny. He worked harder than people thought. Ever-clueless, he could be funny and charming. There are a million goofball stories about Manny, and we don't need to recount them all today.
But I am thoroughly convinced that he never cared about anything other than making a lot of money and taking care of Manny.
Mission accomplished. Manny made over $200 million playing baseball. That's all the ever mattered to him. And he won't care that his name is trashed now that he has retired. The checks always cleared.
It always amazed me that so many fans were OK with Manny's disregard for the team. Manny quit on the Red Sox in 2006. At the end of a five-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees in September, he just shut it down for the season. David Ortiz never forgot that. Big Papi was trying to hit 60 homers that year but couldn't do it without Manny in the lineup.
Manny famously quit on the Sox again in 2008. This time we knew why. He wanted a contract extension. An eight-year, $160 million deal wasn't enough. Manny wanted more. So in the final year, he staged a midsummer sit-down strike. One night in New York, Terry Francona sent him up to pinch hit against the Yankees, and Manny took three straight strikes, then went back to the bench and sat. The bat never left his shoulder. It was his day off, and he was not going to make any effort. Then he said his hamstring hurt. He never could decide whether it was the right or left hamstring. He finally got the Sox to trade him to the Dodgers. It was a disgrace.
Everybody in Los Angeles fell for the act at the beginning. Manny crushed the baseball and led the Dodgers to the playoffs. There was a Mannywood section in leftfield at Dodger Stadium. They sold Manny caps and wigs at the concession stands. He pried another big contract out of Frank McCourt. Clueless Frank talked about putting a "Ramirez Clause" (money toward charity) in every Dodger contract. A few weeks later, Manny was slapped with a 50-day suspension for failing a drug test. He torpedoed the Dodger season. Just as he did in Boston in 2006 and 2008. Just as he did to the Rays this year.
Manny doesn't care. "Manny being Manny" means looking out for yourself and laughing all the way to the bank while pathetic fanboys drool over your poster and remember all the great hitting.
Maybe everyone was cheating. But nobody else got caught three times.
That's right. Three times. Manny's name was also on the list of the 103 ballplayers who tested positive in 2003 before there were penalties for using performance-enhancing drugs. Ortiz also turned up on that list.
It certainly taints what the Sox accomplished in 2004 and 2007. As a Sox fan, the best you can do now is say, "our cheaters were better than your cheaters.''
No Hall of Fame for Manny. Not for this voter. Manny has Hall of Fame numbers. But he quit on the Red Sox, he quit on the Dodgers and he quit on the Rays. And it looks like he was cheating the whole time.
Manny could really hit, but he never cared. Neither should you.