Thursday, April 17, 2008

Your Profanity-Free Thursday Afternoon Post

There's plenty I could be doing today that's not writing for the 40 or so of you who log on, dutifully, every day, to hear what two guys you may or may not know say about the Red Sox. Hell, I run a semi-respectable business magazine (Though that's all I'll say about it lest I end up like XMas Ape). But no: I'm going to talk baseball, or at least talk something. And before I continue let me just say I appreciate it, especially our Icelandic following, which, lest you think I'm kidding:

Though I worry a bit about the Icelandic economy in light of this week's New Yorker article that indicates the subprime disaster in the U.S. might take a toll on the island nation; like most of James Surowiecki's articles, I admire the writing and reasoning even if I'm straight bankrupt, intellectually speaking, on the subject.

If all of this is supposed to be a lead-in to some Red Sox thoughts... well, I'm not sure what to make of the team yet, except they're freaking awesome, and Manny is on a tear, and I can't believe this is probably his final year as a Sox. Or at least potentially his final year. For all that's happened in the last 10 years to transform the Cursed Sox into the Model Franchise, there was nothing bigger than when the Sox signed Manny. It's hard to remember now, but absolutely no one wanted to play in Boston in the late 1990s. Say what you want about Clemens' rampant a$$holitude, the man wasn't exactly breaking news when he said players hated the Sox' management. Add to that Boston's unsavory racial history, and suddenly a lot of people are using the "Fenway's locker rooms are too small" excuse not to play here. There was a time, in 1999, when we signed Jose Offerman and Sox fans got atwitter. That was the free agent we could get, that's the type of franchise we were, and nothing was going to change that.

Then the winter of 2000/2001 came along and fundamentally changed what it meant to be a free agent in baseball. The big names were A-Rod, Manny and Mike Mussina, though Darren Dreifort got a 5-year, $55 million contract too. Everyone got paid. Mussina went off the blocks early, but A-Rod and Manny dragged on and on and on. had a page where it would have all the free agents and the news of the day next to their faces; I must have reloaded this page at the college newspaper office once every five minutes. It just never occurred to me that a player could want to come to Boston, and yet the Manny saga dwindled to a two-team race between Cleveland and the Sox. I just assumed he would go back to Cleveland, but he didn't. One day, at my non-cable television home, my roommate came in and told me it was a done deal. I flipped on the radio and listened to the all-news station for an hour, waiting to hear the announcement every 10 minutes: "Manny Ramirez has signed with the Red Sox for 10 years, $200 million."

The next year, Manny hit a home run in his first Fenway Park at-bat, and it was on. People hated him from the get-go, though, because he didn't look like the typical Boston ballplayer, but all he did was hit and hit and hit. Through the years, people have attacked his spaciness, his oversized uniform, his dreadlocks, his tendency to admire home runs and doubles, his defense, his baserunning, his phantom injuries, his real injuries, his late-night drinking habits with Enrique Wilson, his trade demands, everything, and the guy just goes out there and hits like he's in a time warp. He's 35 years old now, but he might as well be 25. I chuckled when I read Baseball Prospectus' preview this year, because for all their number-crunching, they flat out blew it. They wrote that it was "fundamental that he is in decline." This based off one bad season, which increasingly looks like it's going to be sandwiched between two typically hall of fame years. So it goes.

At this point, Manny will leave the Sox as the second-greatest hitter in their history, and, like the first, he was not always beloved by the press. And in truth, David Ortiz has stolen some of Manny's thunder the last few years, but here's Ortiz, faltering for the first time in five years, and Manny keeps raking. Let's realize what we have before it's gone and give Manny the appreciation he deserves. To the best Sox hitter in 50 years. Hear hear.


rm said...

Amen brother.

Ben said...

A few things:

1) This won't be Manny's last year in Boston.

2) Your memory is faulty: "People hated him from the get-go."

Other than that I've got nothing to add. Nicely done.

Bryan said...

1) Could be.

2) Jesus f*cking Christ, from the first time he struck out then. Sorry, yeesh.

Bryan said...

Or didn't run out a ground ball, more like.