Anyone who watched baseball in the 90s or the first decade of the 2000s knows Manny Ramirez. But no one who watched Ramirez play can think of a single word that even comes close to encapsulating him. That’s why we repeat the phrase “Manny being Manny,” as he’s a player who’s impossible to define or compare to another player. At times throughout his career, Ramirez could be described as childish, a cheater, a free spirit, lazy, peculiar, controversial, charismatic, goofy, frustrating, a natural talent, and so much more. He’s an enigma wrapped in a riddle inside a savant.
If nothing else, Manny’s career is filled with memorable moments. Some were good, some were bad, and some were ugly. There was also a collection of moments that were just downright crazy and played a role in the growth of the phrase, “Manny being Manny,” the origin of which is attributed to former Indians manager Mike Hargrove in reference to Ramirez having a one-track mind that focused solely on baseball.
He’s in his own world, on his own planet. Totally different human being than everyone else.
Among his craziest moments are all the times Ramirez disappeared into the Green Monster at Fenway Park during pitching changes. At various times, he could be seen sipping Gatorade or talking on his cellphone, and there was even a time when he didn’t return to the field until the first pitch thrown after the pitching change.
Ramirez also had a crazy moment with a police officer in which he was pulled over and told by the officer that he would receive a ticket. Ramirez responded by saying, “I don’t need any tickets, I can give you tickets.” After receiving the ticket, Ramirez promptly made an illegal U-turn and received another ticket.
His ugly moments include a dugout fight with teammate Kevin Youkilis in 2008, less than two months before Ramirez was shipped out of Boston and traded to the Dodgers. There was also a terrible incident in which Ramirez shoved 64-year old Red Sox traveling secretary Jack McCormack to the ground during a dispute over game tickets.
Those two were among the worst but far from the only dark clouds during Manny’s career. He was often criticized for a lack of hustle and on a number of occasions was accused of faking an illness or a knee injury to avoid playing. Ramirez demanded trades on multiple occasions, frequently burning bridges before he left town. Manny was also given two separate suspensions after testing positive for PEDs, which may be the thing that keeps him out of the Hall of Fame.
But despite all of the bad, ugly, and crazy moments, there was also good Manny, and good Manny was one of the all-time greats. As a hitter, Ramirez was a natural, and for all the talk of him being lazy, many have testified that he worked as hard as anyone at studying video. All that natural talent made him a career .312 hitter in the big leagues and a 12-time all-star. Over his career, Ramirez collected 2,574 hits, 555 home runs, nine Silver Slugger awards, two World Series rings, and one World Series MVP.
Perhaps most importantly, Ramirez loved playing the game. Yes, there were instances when he sat out games amidst speculation that he was faking or exaggerating an injury, but Manny has also done everything he can to continue playing. Following his second PED suspension, he signed minor league deals with the A’s, Rangers, and Cubs and had a stint in Taiwan in hopes of getting back to the majors. In 2017, at the age of 44, Ramirez signed with a team in Japan just to keep playing.
Manny is really a simple person. He works extremely hard. He just wants to play baseball and go home and be with his family. How can you not respect and love a guy like that?
When people say, “Manny being Manny,” it often conjures up all of the inexplicable moments that occurred throughout his career. But maybe it should spark memories of a player who simply loved the game. Yes, Ramirez was at times childish, immature, and frustrating, but after everything that happened during his career, it’s hard to deny that Ramirez loved playing baseball or that he was one of the best players of his generation. He was unbelievably talented but often misunderstood, and maybe that should be the essence of “Manny being Manny.”