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October 27, 2004. That was the night. Euphoria spilling through the streets of Boston, the dream had come true. The Red Sox, after 86 years, had finally won the World Series and on the back of World Series MVP Manny Ramirez.
As Red Sox Nation watched Manny sprint in joyously to the infield to celebrate with his teammates, we all wished we could run in with him. We loved him and the heavy stick he carried to the plate. He, alongside David Ortiz, had finally brought the Commissioner’s Trophy back to Fenway.
In the series, Manny batted .412 with 4 RBI and a homerun. He was the rightful recipient of the MVP award. After being presented with the honor Manny said:
“I don’t believe in curses, I believe you make your own destination.”
At the time, Ramirez had no idea where his final destination would really be. I’m sure he assumed it would be somewhere in Cooperstown. Now after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs for the second time, he could find himself being left off a number of Hall of Fame ballots altogether.
Staring a 100-game suspension in the face for his second failed test, Ramirez decided it would be best to retire. The retirement is a shocking and sad way to end what was an amazing career. When Manny was in Boston, he and Ortiz were like brothers. After hearing the news, Ortiz felt for the troubled slugger.
Ortiz said, “It’s sad to see a player with that much talent and an unbelievable career, get him out of the game with negativity.”
The numbers for Ramirez were a direct reflection of how truly talented he was. In 19 years, Ramirez hit 555 homeruns with a career batting average of .312. He drove in 1,831 runs and was a 12-time All-Star. He played for the Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers, White Sox and Rays. He was one easily of the most feared right handed hitters the game had ever seen.
Manny’s personality was just as big as his bat, and at times, it was tough to bring him back to earth from Mannyland. The act started to get old when Ramirez started hiding in the Green Monster between innings and went after teammate Kevin Youkilis in the dugout during a game on June 5, 2008. The team was tired of the antics and finally shipped Ramirez to LA for Jason Bay in a three-team deal.
In LA, Manny showed new life and brought energy to Dodgers Stadium. Like in Boston, Manny eventually quit on his team and force himself out of town, but not before he’d fail his first drug test that led to a 50-game suspension.
Ramirez was later claimed off waivers by the Chicago White Sox, but wasn’t the same. He was then signed by the Tamp Bay Rays this offseason. Ramirez wouldn’t be there long. He failed a drug test in spring training to force him out of the game.
The steroid issue in baseball has been well documented and many of the players with steroids attached to their names are facing a tough road to Cooperstown. A number of Hall of Fame voters have made a stand against steroids and performance-enhancers, vowing not to vote for players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Roger Clemens. The difference between Ramirez and those men is that their drug use was before Major League Baseball’s drug policy was adopted in 2006. Manny failed his tests after the policy had been in place, proving to be just flat out stupid.
Manny was never known for his brilliance, but failing two tests after a policy was in place puts a huge asterisk next to his name on the ballot. It forces voters to assume that if he was doing this with a policy in place, he must have been doing it all along.
Ramirez now has left himself with little to no chance of getting into the Hall anytime soon. Maybe one day when some new voters are in place and the “steroid era,” is far in the past he’ll have a chance.
Manny was Manny for 19 seasons. He hit the leather off the ball all across the country. He gave us laughs and warmed some hearts with a smile and a two handed point. It cannot be denied that he was one of the best we’ve ever seen, but finally Manny being Manny was too much.
Manny had this to say about his retirement:
“I’m at ease. God knows what’s best [for me]. I’m now an officially retired baseball player. I’ll be going away on a trip to Spain with my old man.”
That could be the only trip Manny will be making, because the once feared hitter won’t be making a trip to the Hall any time soon.