Saturday, April 09, 2011

Losing Manny is Our Loss

For those of us that thought the Bay Rays' signing of Manny Ramirez was brilliant, we're looking pretty stupid today, no? The announcement was shocking and stark and for many, it was a day of victory. There will be no moralizing here. There are enough writers who probably cheat on their taxes that will salivate over this story and lace their articles with sarcasm concerning the slugger's "slinking" from the game. No, there are no judgments here. For one, what will Manny care with what one more writer says? He's got eighteen seasons in of doing what he loved to do. He has two World Series rings, twenty-nine post season homers and he made well over $200 million for his career. What will he care? So go ahead, moralist writers. Knock yourselves out. Have fun. You've been waiting for this moment. For those of us who love to follow baseball and to watch it, this day is a huge loss.

Why? Because for better or worse--and we usually got equal doses of both--Manny Ramirez was the most entertaining player of our era. He was a lightning bolt of either hate or love, antipathy or adoration. His swing was the most vicious we've ever witnessed. His smarts as a batter unquestioned. And this Fan doesn't care what he put into his body. There is nothing he could ingest that would make him that talented. Yeah, it could make him stronger and it could make him recover from ailments, but it couldn't help him hit a hurtling fastball or a wicked curve. There was art to his at bats and those are now gone forever.

He was our baseball clown. His adventures in the outfield only compounded the thrill of any game in which he participated. His dreads were an added dimension unlike any other player in the game. For most of his career, you didn't want to be gone to the bathroom, concession stand or kitchen when Manny was coming to the plate. His were the most anticipated at bats of the day. His presence in the Red Sox line up made David Ortiz Big Papi. Both now are clouded with the same PED questions. But while it lasted, those two sluggers back to back made all those Yankee-Red Sox match ups more fun than at any time in the rivalry's history. He brought the Indians to the World Series twice. Where have those Indians been since?

He was a unique talent and a magician with the bat we won't soon see again. He has Hall of Fame numbers, but will never see the inside of the Hall. No, the writers who have the votes in this day and age are too busy being our Puritans. Their white-washed sepulchers will continue to hide their inner selves. Manny Ramirez was no saint and he will never be pictured in this space as such. He was a man-child prone to tantrums and emotional roller-coasters. He never stayed happy for long and his play suffered when he wanted more money. Those facts are all well documented.

But this Fan never worshiped Manny Ramirez. It was simply a blast to see what the heck he would do on any given day. There are no judgments here. There is only a bit of grief that the story is over. The most entertaining player of our era is gone. We are the ones who lose here. But it sure was fun while it lasted.

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