Manny Ramirez will turn 45 years old at the end of May, but he hasn’t stopped playing baseball. He signed to play this season with the Kochi Fighting Dogs, an independent league team on the Japanese island of Shikoku. It has been six years since Ramirez last appeared in a major league game and this winter he received 24% of the vote for the Hall Fame – far short of the necessary 75% required for induction, yet enough to remain on the ballot next year. Anything Ramirez does for the Fighting Dogs this year will not count toward his official Hall of Fame resume – but with Manny, it’s not the official resume that matters.
Having been caught red-handed with PEDs, Ramirez is a known cheater in an era swamped with “did he or didn’t he?” garment-rending from old school baseball-philes and HOF voters. His prodigious numbers – .312/.411/.585, with 555 homers and nine seasons of top-10 MVP voting finishes – suggest a true legend of the game. Yet, his proven use of performance enhancers puts him beyond the pale for many fans and voters. Manny Ramirez was a polarizing player during his MLB career and remains one to this day.
He is also one of baseball’s most colorful and quirky characters. And it is for that reason baseball fans should celebrate that we will have more Manny in our lives this summer. It is highly unlikely we will be treated to a delight that tops this – the most athletic play in baseball history:
One of the knocks on Manny in his prime was that despite being a fearsome, focused hitter, he was indifferent or below-average in the field. Yet, he was capable of making plays that made fans say “wow.” Aside from the aforementioned greatest cutoff ever, there is this gem:
If you were to poll Boston Red Sox fans, they would probably vote this Manny Moment their favorite – because a walk off in the postseason is always memorable:
Before he was Boston’s lovable idiot-in-chief, he was part of the Cleveland Indians, where he showed off base running skills like these:
Yes, that is a major league player wandering off second base in the middle of an at-bat, like some little leaguer who has no idea how the game is played. Did he think the inning was over on a ball? Did he see a ghost?
This is what made the Manny Ramirez Era so enjoyable: He often provided moments that had never been seen before, and never will be again.
Of course, no retrospective on Manny Moments would be complete without mentioning that one time, during the middle of an inning, he opened a door in the Green Monster and left the field:
Manny being Manny became the shorthand for these moments – it encapsulated just how inexplicable and “you had to see it” the man was on a baseball field. One more year in the Japanese independent leagues means we get more chances to see what Manny might do next. Few have ever produced more “did you see that?” moments than Ramirez.