The knock on Ramirez is that he benefited from the Indians' having had more runners than the New York City Marathon, but good hitters on strong offensive teams, such as Paul O'Neill of the Yankees and B.J. Surhoff of the Orioles, proved that not everyone could drive those runners in the way Ramirez did. O'Neill and Surhoff each had more at bats with runners in scoring position than Ramirez, and neither came within 55 RBIs of him. That's because Ramirez hit .386 and slugged .757 with runners in scoring position. "Robbie got on base and got his hits," Orioles third base coach Sam Perlozzo says of Alomar, "but Manny was the guy who scared you. He did the damage. I mean, all the time. He killed us."
Yes, every once in a while Ramirez needs a compass and a map to navigate the outfield and the base paths. The RBIs, though, are only the beginning of the seismic impact he had at the plate at a time when the American League need only station kegs at third base to complete its slo-pitch slugfest mentality. Ramirez was the only player in either league to finish among the top five in all three Triple Crown categories (his .333 batting average ranked fifth and 44 home runs tied for third), and he also led the American League in slugging percentage (.663), finished second in on-base percentage (.442) and only once played as many as five consecutive games without an RBI. "I was on to Robbie and Pudge for most of the year," Stanley says of his MVP thinking, "but Manny's numbers just kept going up and up and up, and finally I just said, 'O.K., I give. You've got it.' "
He does here, too, on an unofficial ballot that lists the candidates as follows: 1) Ramirez, 2) Jeter, 3) Rodriguez, 4) Alomar, 5) Martinez, 6) Palmeiro, 7) Garciaparra, 8) Giambi, 9) Green, 10) Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.
Obvious greatness gets overlooked in the mad search for nuance. The Indians have made a shambles of the American League Central for five years running, yet they've never had the MVP or Manager of the Year. Ramirez should be rewarded for amassing a once-in-a-lifetime season for the first club in 49 years to score 1,000 runs. He was the dominant player on a dominant team. It's as obvious as the outline of an ink blot. Isn't it?