Rosenthal: Manny Ramirez is unprofessional; should not make the Hall of Fame

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Earlier today Aaron took some mighty and righteous swipes at those who are treating Manny Ramirez like dead weight for the 2010 season. But Ken Rosenthal does those naysayers one better: he discounts Manny’s entire career based on, well, let’s let Ken explain it:

Manny’s Hall of Fame chances took a dramatic hit when he received a
50-game suspension last season for using performance-enhancing drugs.
But even if you remove PEDs from of the equation, he flunks the
“character, integrity and sportsmanship” criteria — badly.

He quit on the Red Sox. He quit on the Dodgers. The Hall includes its
share of miscreants, but Manny has routinely engaged in conduct
detrimental to his team.

True, these were relatively isolated incidents. Some statistical
analysts might look at his career numbers and say, “What more can you
want?” My answer: Basic professionalism.

And not just professionalism. Rosenthal ends his article by saying “certain standards of decency apply.” So apparently Manny is indecent too. My word!

Notably, Rosenthal does not explain how Ramirez “quit on the Dodgers.”  Earlier in his piece he notes how Ramirez didn’t play in five of eight games since coming off the disabled list, but Joe Torre simply didn’t write him into the lineup for those games, probably because the team was trying to get a deal done with the White Sox. I’ve seen nothing suggesting that Ramirez begged out, and the charge that he quit on the team seems pretty damn unsupportable.

I’m on record saying
that Manny’s final days in Boston were kind of bad, and I believe that
no matter how good his stat line was at the time. He missed two games that his team thought he should have played and had one notoriously indifferent at bat against the Yankees. And then of
course there was that incident where he pushed the traveling secretary down. Whether you consider that “quitting” on the team or not is a
matter of opinion, but I think it’s safe to say that there was something bad
going on.

But bad enough to nullify his Hall of Fame case even without taking PEDs into account?  Bad enough to warrant a comparison to Albert Belle, as Rosenthal does?  The same Albert Belle who was given a jail sentence for stalking a woman? Who chased trick-or-treaters with his car? Who threw a baseball into the stands and struck a fan? Who unleashed profanity-filled tirades at the media? Who destroyed tens of thousands of dollars worth of team property a year due to his violent outbursts?  Who, when asked by the Indians to issue apologies for his transgressions famously said “I apologize for nothing?” That’s the moral equivalence Rosenthal is making here?

Look, I’m not going to play the straight “look at the stats and nothing else” line when it comes to Ramirez, because that’s being a bit too cute. Manny is complicated. He’s been difficult. He’s never conformed to anyone’s idea of a model ballplayer when it comes to deportment and attitude and all of that. I get it. But at the same time, those traits have been wildly overblown by the media in both severity and significance.

In this age of players who are schooled in p.r. savvy from Day One, the press has been hungry for a heel for a good long time, and more often than not Manny Ramirez has been that guy. He took PEDs, but so did a lot of guys.  He had a little tiff with the Red Sox as he left, but a lot of guys have had worse tiffs with their teams.

Manny Ramirez isn’t perfect, but he’s no monster, and Rosenthal’s attempt to make him out as one rings hollow.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉