I’m probably in the distinct minority of people who are kind of bummed that Manny Ramirez’s career is over. I mean, yes, I can agree that his time was up whether he was getting suspended or not. I can see now that my preseason optimism about his stint with the Rays was misguided. Whatever the case, my impulse right now is to have an Irish wake for a career that was an outrageous amount of fun for the most part, even if the guy himself was basically a loon. I feel like drinking strong drink and telling funny Manny stories.
Jon Heyman helps us out with that a bit today, passing along a Manny Ramirez anecdote that I had never heard before, though I’m guessing has been in general circulation:
When O.J. Simpson had his infamous car chase in June of 1994 and it was being played in the Indians clubhouse that day, Manny wanted to know what was happening. When one of his teammates told him that O.J. was accused of killing his wife, Manny memorably said, “Oh ho, not Ogea! I know his wife.” Ramirez didn’t read newspapers and somehow thought the player meant their Indians teammate Chad Ogea, a pitcher who was not as quite as well known as O.J. Simpson.
I don’t care who you are, that’s funny right there.
Beyond the anecdote I think Heyman gets it mostly right on Manny. The guy wasn’t dumb, like so many people say. And, yes, selfishness explains a lot more about his career and his quirks than the eccentricity that is so often ascribed to the guy. And as Heyman suggests — and as HBT commenter/baseball historian Mark Armour explained last week in the comments here — for all of his hitting greatness, Manny was the best example of some really bad baseball. Station-to-station, defense-free take-and-rake baseball may have been in a team’s best competitive interests for a great many years and was certainly in Ramirez’s financial interest, but it was and still is really hard to watch.
I disagree with one comment Heyman made: that anyone who votes for Ramirez for the Hall of Fame necessarily endorses drug use. As I’ve explained in the past, I think it’s possible to reconcile a player’s drug use and his worthiness for the Hall of Fame by (a) eliminating the moral component of it; and (b) doing our best to determine if, absent PEDs, would he still have been a Hall of Fame player. I probably need some time and deep thought about whether Manny Ramirez fits that bill, but my initial impulse is to say he would, and I don’t think saying so makes me an endorser of drug use.
Overall, though: a tough but ultimately accurate account of Manny, I think. Which is what I wish we’d see more of at funerals.