|Manny Ramirez Approaches 500 Home Runs|
Written by Paul Keen (Contact & Archive) on April 29, 2008
Let me set the scene for you. Bottom of the eighth inning, Rangers Ballpark, score tied between the Rangers and Red Sox 3-3. The game was close to the end, and David Ortiz stands on first base. A pair of baggy baseball pants work their way to the batter’s box. They belong to Manny Ramirez.
Joaquin Benoit throws his first pitch. Strike one. The 0-1 count doesn’t bother Boston’s faithful fans. They know the player at the plate, like the great Ted Williams, is so focused on hitting that everything else took a backseat.
Benoit throws his second pitch, and Ramirez connects. The ball flew deep into left field for a two-run home run. 5-3, Red Sox lead. The score doesn’t change. This was career home run 496 for Ramirez, but it’s all in a day’s work for him. Ramirez always does things his way.
Ramirez has spent his career being two things: bizarre in his personal habits and amazing in the box. Boston has put up with one so that they can get the other; Cleveland was willing to do the same. With the 13th overall pick in 1991, Cleveland drafted Ramirez at the age of 21.
The Tribe was undoubtedly focused on what Ramirez was also focused on: hitting the baseball. Ramirez spent a couple of years in the minors before being called up. While his hitting was not his finest in his rookie year, he kept it up since then. His batting average climbed from .170 in his first season to .269 in his second. He hasn’t gone below .292 since then, usually hitting well above .300. Ramirez has been selected to the All Star Game 11 times, won two Hank Aaron Awards, nine Silver Slugger Awards, and was named World Series MVP in 2004.
It’s no wonder Ramirez is such a valuable asset to the Red Sox. But with the good hitting have come his eccentricities. His bizarre traits go well beyond the baggy pants. Ramirez has often flirted with the idea of free agency or at least signing with another team. He has even gone as far as saying he would like to play for the New York Yankees. Maybe it’s just a scare tactic to get him a good deal, since nothing brings the wrath of Red Sox Nation like management not keeping good players.
There is more to consider than just upsetting a bunch of drunken Bostonians, though. Ramirez is coming up on the end of his eight-year contract with the Red Sox after he was granted free agency in 2000. After being paid $160 million over the past eight years, Ramirez could have a $20 million option for the next two years. Because he was a key part in helping Boston break the curse and remains one of the keystones for the dynasty that the Red Sox are becoming, many people wonder if he’ll stick around. Manny, once again being Manny, says he wants to be there for his kids and that home runs don’t matter to him in the grand scheme of things.
As he approaches 500, it certainly matters to us.