Manny Holds Court After 50 Game Suspension

While watching ESPN’s live feed of Manny Ramirez’s press conference yesterday prior to the Dodgers-Padres game, I couldn’t help but think that I was watching a TV show or a low budget B baseball movie. Maybe a sitcom.

Here is Manny, supposedly disgraced and embarrassed, fresh off of a 50-game suspension for substance abuse, and the very first words out of his mouth were, “Showtime”. Then it went downhill from there.

When a reporter asked him how long he’d been doing steroids and when he started, his response was, “First I want to say that God is good and good is God.” Uh, OK. Thanks. I don’t think anyone asked you that. What was he going to do next? Suggest the reporters hold hands and sing Kumbaya?

That was followed by, “I don’t want to get into my medical records right now. I’m happy to be here. I missed the game. I’m ready to play. I was practicing in Triple-A and I can’t wait to get into the field.”

He dodged every question about steroids and PEDs, and said repeatedly that he only wanted to play the game, and he was happy to be back.

At one point, he did apologize to the fans and his teammates. “Well, I want to say I’m sorry to the fans, to my teammates that they’re always there for me,” Ramirez said. “I want to thank Frank McCourt for his support,” he added, referring to the Dodgers’ owner.

Asked what he was sorry for, he said: “Not being there for them. For not playing the game, because I’m a huge part of the Dodgers and I’m proud to wear that uniform. When I say I’m sorry, I let those fans down, that they go out there to see me.”

He admitted the episode was embarrassing, saying “There was only one man that was perfect, and they killed him. So that’s how I look at life.’’

Yeah, the words were there, but there really didn’t appear to be any emotion or feeling behind them. When Andy Pettitte apologized, you got the sense that he really meant it. When Alex Rodriguez apologized (the 2nd time), you got the sense that he was at least trying to build the façade of sincerity.

But with Manny, you get the feeling it was just words that he thinks people want to hear. You really can’t help but think that the only thing that really mattered to him was not playing the game he loved for 50 games.  That’s when he appeared to be the most sincere.

He reminded me of my daughter, when she was younger and got caught doing something she wasn’t supposed to. My wife or I would say, “And what are you sorry for?” and she would reply, almost in rote, “I’m sorry for disappointing you,” or “I’m sorry for setting the cat on fire”, or whatever, just because it’s what she knew we wanted her to say. Manny did the exact same thing yesterday, and had the same tone in his voice and the same look on his face that she used to.

And saying this really hurts me to say because for many years, Manny was my favorite player on my favorite team.

So now he goes back to LALA land, where the Manny worship can continue. He will be treated like a returning hero instead of the disgraced cheater that he should be. He’ll even find love in San Diego where the Dodgers are playing this weekend. Petco Field is just a couple of hours south of Los Angeles and still close enough for Dodger fans to make the journey to show support.

But, wait til he gets to New York next week. They will slay him there.

There is no doubt that the Dodgers are a better team with Manny in the lineup:

  April 2 – May 6  May 7 – July 1
Team Record  21-8  29-21
Batting Average   0.283 0.265
On-base percentage   0.376 0.333
Slugging percentage   0.426 0.385
Runs per game   5.56 4.4
Home runs per game   0.83 0.7

That certainly explains much of this hero worship out there, much like the hero worship and forgiveness that A-Rod recieves in New York and Barry Bonds always received in San Francisco.

And maybe there’s really nothing wrong with that. If a guy does something wrong, and pays the price for it, which Manny has done, not to mention his stats are now forever tainted, maybe he should be forgiven. I just wish that he wasn’t so damn smug about the whole thing. But maybe that’s just more of Manny being Manny.

Meanwhile, the person who is going to get left out in the cold in all of this is Juan Pierre, who has done a bang-up job filling in for Ramirez. Pierre has played in all 50 games of Ramirez’s suspension and has batted .318 with a.381 on-base percentage, .411 slugging percentage and 21 steals in 28 attempts (75 percent). He also has 14 doubles, three triples, and 32 runs scored.

The biggest problem is, is that he has hit 0 HR, and he’s the 4th outfielder in an outfield stocked with Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and now Ramirez. What’s a manager supposed to do? Pierre is a lifetime .301 hitter with 10 years in the majors. Prior to this season, his best year was in ’01 when he batted .327 with 46 stolen bases. In ’03 he batted .305 and led the NL with 65 stolen bases.

He hasn’t batted over .300 since ’04, but he is a base stealing machine. And he’s never hit more than 4 HR in any given season, usually only two or three, some seasons none. So the Dodgers knew what they were getting. The fact is, he’s played better in these last 50 games than he has in the past five years, and if nothing else, it’s going to increase his stock value when it’s time to move him.