Manny Ramirez: Clown or competitor?

Love him or loathe him, everyone has an opinion on Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez.

By TOM JONES and ANTHONY PEREZ, Times Staff Writers
Published October 26, 2007

So today, we present both sides of the argument, a little point-counterpoint on Manny Ramirez, from two Times staff writers.

Not sliding, 390-foot singles, not hustling, oh, that’s just Manny being … a great hitter, a dog of a ballplayer.

There is no question that Manny Ramirez is an elite hitter and belongs among the best of all time. But as good a hitter as he is, he's just as bad (if not worse) a ballplayer.

Contradiction? Hardly.

ALCS Game 5, first inning, two outs, Ramirez on second. Ball is hit softly to right. Ramirez rounds third, takes time to flip off his helmet (is this Little League?) and decides not to slide at home plate, easily tagged out ... standing up. And by the way, the throw was high and on the third-base side, meaning a slide actually might have scored a run.

So he learned his lesson, right? Yeah, right.

In the third, he hits a shot to deep right-center. He admires it (as he always does), slowly leaves the batter's box and jogs to first, trying to slap hands with the first-base coach as he rounds the bag.

One problem: The ball hit off the top of the wall, meaning it was not a home run. Oh, and the umpires never signaled home run. Fortunately for the Sox, David Ortiz decided to actually be a ballplayer rather than a spectator, running all the way from first and scoring on Ramirez's 390-foot single. One more time: a 300 ... 90 foot ... single.

Ramirez, meanwhile, stood on first signaling timeout like an athletically challenged actor in the role of a sports figure (think Anthony Perkins as Jimmy Piersall in Fear Strikes Out).

If this were an aberration, no sweat. But it's the norm, a foreign word used with this guy. I like that he's colorful; I despise that he dogs it time and time again.

Enough already of the oh-so-worn-out cliche of that's just Manny being Manny. It's Manny being arrogant, Manny being lazy, Manny being selfish, Manny dumping on his teammates and fans, Manny disgracing the game.

Before Game 5, he sounded off on the possibility of Boston being eliminated with a loss: "It's not like it's the end of the world."


The real sign that Armageddon is upon us will be when this guy gets it. So sleep well, world.

Anthony Perez, Times Staff Writer 

Please! What fool would not build a team around one of the best hitters the game has ever seen?

Manny Ramirez can play for my team anytime. In fact, if I had to win one game and there was a draft to pick a team, Ramirez would be my first choice. Why? The guy is flat-out a hitting machine, perhaps the most devastating right-handed hitter the game has seen since guys like Mays, Aaron and Clemente played. And, he's a winner.

Coming into the World Series, Ramirez had played in 18 postseason series. His team won 11 times, usually because of the things he did at the plate. In baseball's postseason, Ramirez is sixth all time in runs scored, fifth in hits, third in total bases and his 24 homers are the most of anyone. Those numbers mean that not only does Ramirez show up to play, he shows up at the most critical times. The bigger the game, the better he plays.

His comment before Game 5 that if the Red Sox lost, it wasn't going to be the "end of the world" is maybe why he's so good under pressure. And, you know, he was right. The world would've continued spinning if the Sox had lost.

But don't take Ramirez's comments to mean he didn't care. He has God-given talent, but there is no way a player can put up the incredible numbers Ramirez has put up if he doesn't dedicate long, hard hours in a batting cage to being the best player he can be.

Does he flake out now and then? Sure, I'll grant you that. But isn't that what makes sports fun? Isn't it great to watch Manny flip off his helmet for no apparent reason? Hey, I like hard-nose, get-dirty-and-keep-your-mouth-shut players such as Chase Utley, too, but I don't want a whole sport full of Chase Utleys. Put it this way, I like vanilla ice cream, but I like banana splits, too. They might not be good for you all the time, but they sure are fun.

So yeah, when he pulls some shenanigans like not busting hard down the line or not sliding, I'm willing to say that's just "Manny being Manny." Because I know that Manny being Manny also means Manny hitting big home runs, Manny delivering in the clutch and Manny leading his team to another postseason series victory.

Showing up when it counts most? That's about the most respect a player can show his teammates, his team and his fans.

Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer