Wednesday, March 5, 2008

2008 Preview: Manny Ramirez

Name: Manuel Aristides Ramirez Onelcida
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Age: 35
2008 Salary: $20M
Fun Fact: Manny Ramirez and Henry Kissinger both attended George Washington High School in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Manny Ramirez does not have a Nobel Peace Prize, Henry Kissinger does. This is an outrage.

During a given season Jason Varitek will probably run into more outs than Manny Ramirez. But when Manny runs into an out he has a way of turning it into a sideshow (amusing or infuriating depending on the situation) with all the telltale Manny flourishes: the playful smile, the shrug, the palms turned towards the sky. It looks something like this. The little league coach in you says, “Come on, get your head out of your ass!” When Varitek runs into an out he unleashes an expletive, wears a scowl, and darts for the dugout to don his catching apparel. The little league coach in you says, “Shoot, if only he had better wheels.” It is the unreasonable man who draws from the two players' very different responses the conclusion that Manny cares any less than Varitek.

For all the ink that is spilled about Manny’s off-field whimsy, his production at the plate speaks for itself. While it is common practice to paint the man as an idiot savant, his teammates have long been effusive in their praise of his hard work in the batting cage and in the video room. He is the greatest Red Sox hitter from the right side since the man they called Beast, Jimmie Foxx. Ten home runs shy of 500 and tenth in OPS all time (1.0023), Manny is a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Alas, his best years appear to be behind him. Dominate in the postseason, oh yes he did. But the 2007 regular season was a bit of a struggle, with Manny often looking uncomfortable at the plate, taking awkwards swings, and looking at a lot of called third strikes. Aside from a scorching hot July and October it was a pedestrian season for Manny, who finished with his lowest home run and RBI totals since he was a young pup in Cleveland. While Sox fans may be optimistic that Manny, inspired by a contract year, has arrived at spring training on time and in wonderful shape, the output of several similar thirty-six year-old sluggers before him tells a compelling tale. Stargell, McCovey, Bagwell, Walker, at thirty six none of them knocked more than 30 out of the park or drove in 1oo. With $20 million team options for 2009 and 2010, this may very well be Manny's final year in Boston.

Manny Ramirez's 2008 ZiPS projection:
.278 AVG/.381 OBP/.493 SLG
75 Runs
123 Hits
26 Doubles
23 Home Runs
98 RBI
71 BB
98 K

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