Manny A Lesson of How Things Were

It was sad news for Cleveland baseball fans on Friday, in spite of the Indians’ winning streak.  Former Tribe outfielder Manny Ramirez announced his retirement after failing another test for performance enhancing drugs, thus avoiding a 100 game suspension.

As someone who enjoyed the Indians of the 90’s when their lineup was filled with players like Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga, Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, and Ramirez, it just made you sad. 

Ramirez was the best right-handed hitter seen in our lifetime, and now a career that should have ended in Cooperstown, instead finishes up in disgrace. 

He ends his career with a .312 lifetime batting average, 555 home runs, and 1831 RBI’s, a total that ranks him 18th all time. 

Driving in runs was Manny’s specialty.  He knocked in over 130 runs four times in his career, including a team record 165 with the Tribe in 1999, breaking Hal Trosky’s long time record. 

He also drove in over 120 runs seven times. 

Instead, he likely will be remembered for being goofy, for quitting on his teammates in Boston in 2008, and for failing three drug test for performance enhancers. 

That’s a shame, but he has no one to blame but himself. 

Ramirez has said he needed help getting around on 88-90 MPH fastballs, which made me think that’s how players who reached their late 30’s performed before the nineties.  Their bat speed slowed down, and their production suffered.

Ramirez’  last big season was ’08 when he hit 37 homers and had 121 RBI’s combined for Boston and Los Angeles.  He hit just 27 dingers since.

Yes, there are exceptions.  Hank Aaron hit 116 home runs after he turned 37, the same age Manny hit in 2009.  Jim Thome continues to belt them out at age 40, but even he has declined since 2006 when he turned 36.  Other players made adjustments in their approach at the plate.

Carl Yastrzemski used to hold his bat every high at the plate when he was younger, but as he aged he lowered his hands to be able to get around on fastballs.  He played until he was 44 years old, but his last 100 RBI season was at age 37.

Reggie Jackson hit 99 home runs in the seasons he turned 37 and following until he retired at 41.  Once again, his last 100 RBI season was at age 36.

The point is these sluggers made adjustments to get around on fastballs, but in doing so, they gave up the ability to make more contact and therefore drive in runs. 

There is a reason guys like Russell Branyan don’t knock in runs.  It’s because the good RBI men get them with singles, doubles, ground balls, and flyballs.

Meanwhile, Barry Bonds hit 195 home runs after the year he turned 37 years old, and knocked in 101 runs at the age of 39.  He was still putting up outrageous OPS statistics at 42. 

In fact, his four best seasons in regard to OPS came after he turned 36.  Isn’t that strange?

Mike Schmidt, the greatest 3B of all time, had his last big year in 1987, when he was 37.  He was retired two years later, hitting .203.

Ken Griffey Jr.’s last big season came at age 35 in 2005, although he was a decent player until 2008 when he was 38.

The point here is that back in the days before performance enhancers, players slowed down greatly after they hit their mid to late 30’s for the most part.

This is what happened to Manny Ramirez.  Had he given into age and retired a couple of years ago, there would be no doubt about his credentials for Cooperstown. 

Instead, he forfeited this to try to squeeze out another couple of good years and another big paycheck.



One thought on “Manny A Lesson of How Things Were

  1. I was a little disappointef in Ramirez calling it quits. Even with the slow start, I liked him in Tampa Bay, and just knew, eventually he would heat up, and get cranking. I would have liked him to appeal, and fight the possible, pending suspension. Maybe he’s just gotten bored with the game, and the process. Rumor has it, Favre called it quits.

    I thought the Indians were one of the most exciting teams of the 90’s. Considering how explosive they were offensively, I thought they should have appeared in at least 4 World Series. They just never found the pitching to get the deal done.

    Personally, I’m sick of all the backlash on alleged PED’s. What exactly are they accused of taking, and whats the documented, medical advanteges that support performance enhancement. What studies have been done to support such vague statements. Ramirez has never been a physical specimen, and is far from one now, but he had the sweetest swing I’ve ever seen, rivaled only by the late, great Ted Williams.

    I don’t get into comparisons from different eras, those were different times, situations, and circumstances. Training is far more advanced now, most sports go year round, and are specific in new wave training regimens.

    Reggie Jackson was a different style hitter, he basically swung for the fences. He struck out a lot early in his career, and just looked worse doing so later in his career. Anything that puts you in a position to be able to play with, or through injury is can be considered performance enhancing.

    An energy drink, supplements, electric stimulation, cortisone injections, pain blocks, etc. whats the difference? Pitching was different, equipment different, its just too many variables to make unfair comparisons. Players are bigger, faster, stronger, and as I said before, workout, and train year round, not spend the off-season working second jobs to make ends meet.

    Same with Mike Schmidt, he had injuries towards the end of his career. As you get older, it gets harder to overcome injury, and nagging injuries are even worse to tolerate. Infielders, in my opinion, have more wear, and tear on them than outfielders. At times, even games get old. Scrutiny also has a way of killing your joy.

    I’m sure players slow down once the hit a certain age, I think its desires that change most. Most players that are gifted enough to have a professional baseball career, have played the game a very long time, lots,of games, travel, practice, and time consumption. Even Cal Ripken finally took a day off.

    when facing problems with bat speed, the first adjustment made, is a lighter bat, then shortening up your swing. I think the lack of stability, has also taken its toll on Manny. Most people are creatures of habbit. Since 2008, he played in Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Tampa. This after being in Cleveland (1993-2000), and Boston (2001-2008)

    My memories of Ramirez,will never be swayed, or tainted. Nobody in the game worked at his craft harder. He was always genuine, and giving of himself. He loved the game, he was loved by his teammates, money, contracts, and personal decisions on matters of personal business, can create strained relationships. Ramirezrovided me with some of my best memories of baseball in Cleveland. Like most African American stars, and those of color, he was destined to leave. They weren’t going to pay Belle, or Ramirez.

    Ramirez never got arrested, appeared on a police blotter, slapped a girlfriend, got stoppef over the legal limit, and he played on both coasts. He was a 12 time All-Star, 2 time World Series Champion, 9 time Silver Slugger Award, 2 time Hank Aaron Award winner, career batting average of,.312, 555 home runs, 2,574 hits, and 1,831 rbi more than speak for themself.

    I know Ramirez says he is comfortable with his decision, he’s always been a carefree guy, and I believe him, but trust me Manny, God wants to see that sweet swing in motion, just a little while longer…and so do I

    You can follow me for all things Cleveland Indians, and MLB on twitter @CLESmokeSignals

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