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.