Manny Ramirez returns to Fenway Park tonight and he'll get booed with gusto -- which he deserves. It's nice to know that folks in Los Angeles now understand what we were trying to tell them when Manny first got to L.A. in 2008 and everybody out there talked about mean Boston and how Manny was just "misunderstood.''
Now they understand. Manny is all about Manny. And greed. Oh, and he's also a steroid cheat, who's been caught twice.
Manny the con man spoke through an interpreter (White Sox bench coach Joey Cora) when he joined the White Sox in Cleveland Tuesday. What a fraud. Ramirez went to high school in New York City. He's been speaking fluent English for decades. He understands everything he hears in English and has never spoken through an interpreter until this week.
Good luck, Ozzie Guillen. You've managed some beauties before, but you've never had a guy like Manny.
And good luck to you, too, Jerry Reinsdorf. The Sox boss doesn't like his players in dreadlocks, but when Manny was asked about it Tuesday he said (in Spanish) "Tell him that's a stupid question.''
Ha ha. How cute? Just Manny being Manny, right?
Ramirez is one of the great sluggers of the steroid era. If he hadn't been caught cheating twice (Manny showed up on the 2003 list, and was suspended for 50 games for failing a test in 2009), Ramirez would be a first-ballot, Hall of Fame lock. His numbers make him the Jimmie Foxx of his time. He was a terrific hitter in Cleveland and did a lot of great things in his seven and a half seasons with the Red Sox. He was MVP of the 2004 World Series, which remains the most important season in Red Sox history.
On a daily basis, there's nothing evil or disruptive about having Manny on your team. He shows up most of the time, puts in the work, and produces. He keeps to himself for the most part and generally acts like your average 12-year-old kid. There's no evil force at work.
He's goofy. He'll forget to cash paychecks, disappear inside the leftfield wall to take a leak, cutoff a throw from a centerfielder, and forget how many outs there are. He's been known to hug complete strangers.
Sometimes teammates are strangers to Manny. There's nothing menacing about Manny Ramirez.
But he quits. He quit on the Red Sox twice. He quit in September 2006 for no apparent reason. In 2008 he was mad because the Sox were not extending his contract, so he acted out. He slapped Kevin Youkilis in the dugout. He toppled then-64-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick when he couldn't get a bunch of tickets for his friends an hour before gametime. He was asked to pinch hit on his day off, and took three strikes without moving the bat off his shoulder. Then he invented hamstring injuries to get himself traded. It was blatant. When he left, he spoke of how he "suffered" in Boston.
Manny's early days in Los Angeles were heavenly. He carried the Blue to the playoffs. He cultivated a few reporters and got great reviews. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said it was a pleasure to et to know Manny and put a charity "Ramirez Clause" in all Dodger player contracts.
Now Manny has quit on the Dodgers. After the early Manny Mania with "Mannywood" and Manny wigs and fawning fans and media, Manny quit again. He got himself suspended for taking female fertility drugs. In his final Dodger at bat last week, he was asked to pinch hit with the bases loaded in Colorado. After taking a called strike, he argued with the ump and got himself ejected. That was it for Manny in Los Angeles.
After playing for patient managers (Terry Francona and Joe Torre) who excused his actions, Manny gets to play for Ozzie Guillen, perhaps the only active baseball manager capable of behavior more bizarre than Manny. This is going to be fun to watch. And we get to see it at Fenway tonight, Saturday and Sunday as the White Sox come to Boston still hoping to catch the Twins in the American League Central.
It's harder for Manny to hit now that it's harder to juice.
Testing is not his friend. Some of the power and skill is gone.
But he's still Manny. And it will end badly in Chicago, just as it did in Boston and Los Angeles.