Manny and the Hall of Fame: Forget it, dude. But what of his legacy?

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Manny Ramirez has the statistical resume of a Hall of Famer. Now, in light of his second drug “issue” — which is being reported as a positive drug test — the viability of his candidacy is probably nil.  It may have been anyway given his 2009 PED suspension, but if there was any doubt about it, this has ended it.  Barring a sea change in the attitude of Hall of Fame voters — remember, these guys won’t vote for someone who they even suspect may have used PEDs –Ramirez will be a one-and-done candidate when his time comes up in a little over five years. Then he’ll be the Veterans’ Committee’s problem someday.

The real question about Manny Ramirez, then, is not whether he’s a Hall of Famer, but what his legacy as a player is beyond the yes/no world of Cooperstown politics.

His accomplishments are outstanding: 555 home runs. 1831 RBI. 2574 hits. A career line of .312/.411/.585. A .937 career postseason OPS and two World Series rings, one of which came with the 2004 Red Sox which, some argue, counts for more than your typical playoff jewelry given the historic nature of it all.

But he is also now and will forever be tainted by his PED suspension and this final, retirement-inducing “issue.”  He was a player of undeniable talent but one who, more than any other Hall of Fame-level performer, had his career correspond with the heightened offensive environment of what is now known as the PED era. He broke in as things went a bit nutty in 1993 and his time as an elite player ended almost exactly when he got caught by baseball’s drug testing program in 2009.

Manny Ramirez will almost certainly be characterized, at least in the short term, as a creation of PEDs.  This conclusion likely won’t explain how he was able to play at an elite level for four years after PED testing came online, and it will overlook the fact that, if his skills were purely the stuff of chemicals, few if any other players were able to do what he did.  I mean really, if one could take drugs to become a baseball player like Manny Ramirez, wouldn’t you expect to see more Manny Ramirezes around?

Time will help us sort that out, one way or the other. Time and perspective. We’ll have a better sense of what to make of Manny Ramirez some day. We have to.  Because God knows we’ve never had a good idea of what to make of him these past 18 years.

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.