Results tagged ‘ Manny Ramirez ’

A Bat, A Boy, Some Batting Gloves, And Evan Longoria

The cry from behind the Rays’ dugout was not the most common one, but it’s not like Evan Longoria had never heard it before.

“Evan!,” the young boy bellowed. “Can I have your batting gloves?”

Longoria, out by the batting cage on McKechnie Field in Bradenton, decided to engage. “I need them to hit. What am I supposed to do when I hit?” The boy looked back, startled and without riposte. “Yes. I’m talking to you. About batting gloves. I mean, if I give them to you, what do I use? Can I use your instead?”

Now the boy was back on more familiar ground. “My batting gloves are in my bag in the car.” Longoria played peeved, but evidently was, in fact, charmed.

“Maybe I should give you everything I use. Gloves, bat, cap. I just won’t hit.”

The boy became thoughtful. “No, don’t do that.”

Seemingly the end of the exchange, and Longoria went ahead and hit. And as soon as he finished, he ambled back to the Rays’ dugout without looking at the boy. And he popped back up and slapped a bat on the dugout and, with a big smile, pushed it towards the youngster, and raced off to shag fly balls before the boy or his mother could even say thanks.

OTHER EVENTS OF THE DAY, ILLUSTRATED:
IMG_3117.JPGManny Ramirez leads the Rays in humiliating skipping drills that the strength and conditioning staff insists are really some kind of exercise.
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The generations mingle during Pitchers’ Fielding Practice. If the gentleman on the right is not instantly recognizable, you missed the 50th Anniversary celebrations last October.
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Bill Mazeroski. Also on the field, the Pirates’ centerfielder in the ’60 World Series and later manager, Bill Virdon.

One more: Pitcher, Author, Autograph-signer and his friend.
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Lee: Great – McGee: Lights Out

Notes from the Philadelphia-Tampa Bay exhibition in Clearwater: The Rays’ dance card wasn’t exactly full – no Longoria, Ramirez, Damon, not even Ben Zobrist. But Cliff Lee didn’t break a sweat over four innings this afternoon in Cleveland: no walks, two singles, five strikeouts (including two in his last inning)…the Rays are trying to manage expectations but if you had to name the guy who’d lead them in Saves this year, you could do worse than predicting rookie Jake McGee. McGee not only struck out Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez in consecutive at bats in the 5th, but Victorino was so fooled that he lost the bat and it helicoptered fast enough that in the on-deck circle, Ibanez hit the deck and the bat continued twenty rows into the crowd…as mentioned Manny Ramirez wasn’t in the house but the Rays are impressed with his apparent revitalization. It’s as if somebody got a wake-up call that his career will not last forever and he wants “Manny being Manny” to sound a little more positive than it has the past three seasons…one of the Phillies’ two biggest problems was underscored in the second and third innings. They collected six hits and got a wild pick-off throw into centerfield, but scored IMG_3077.jpgonly three runs, and two of those were on solo homers by Howard and Schneider…To the left -this is not much of a picture of Rays’ catcher Nevin Ashley, back in camp for a second straight year and 0-for-2 in relief of Kelly Shoppach in his bid to make it as the back-up receiver – but that’s not the point. The point is that he married a woman named Ashley, and she decided to follow tradition and identify herself by her husband’s name. She is Ashley Ashley…An image that will disturb Cubs’ fans, even though he did start with the Phillies. They had their new AAA manager coach third base today. Fella named Ryne Sandberg:
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And greetings from Florida from one of baseball’s best minds, and best guys, and somebody who was fortunate enough to visit with him:
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Back-patting

A month in, some predictions I made here that I’m very happy about:

 Joel Pineiro might have been the off-season’s most overrated signing… 


Pineiro: 2-3, 5.76 ERA.

…just for good measure, Cliff Lee is not only hurt – he has the most nagging and unpredictable of injuries for a baseball player, ‘something in the abdomen.’

First appearance coincides with first discussion of his next team. Yikes.

What’s the psychological saw about repeating the same unsuccessful action with confidence that this time it will succeed? The Brewers are confident Dave Bush, Doug Davis, and Manny Parra and/or Jeff Suppan constitute three-fifths of a pitching staff.

Bush, Davis and Suppan are 1-6. Parra hasn’t started – yet – but he’s 0-1.

Here’s a silly little question for ARIZONA about Edwin Jackson. If he’s good enough for you to have given up on Max Scherzer, why is he pitching for his third team in as many seasons? 

1-3, 8.07.

Manny Being Just Manny (No PEDs) is a just slightly better offensive force than, say, Mark DeRosa. The McCourt Divorce may be a lot more interesting than the 2010 Dodgers, and a lot less painful to watch.

Your 2010 Dodgers, 11-14.

Matt Capps is likelier to be fine in Washington than Octavio Dotel is in Pittsburgh (he can’t get lefties out!)

The above may be an ultimate no-contest before June 1. Neal Huntington’s statement about the Pirates’ closer situation is the reason most people usually say “without equivocation.” The question about Evan Meek’s ascent seems to be only when (ok, a little bit “how” – like “how do the Pirates explain they wasted 99% of their free agent budget on an 8th inning guy?”)

Andruw Jones, Francisco Liriano, Fausto Carmona and even Eric Chavez are your seasonal comebacks…

Not bad, huh? I mean you even have to give partial credit because it’s May 2 and Chavez isn’t hurt yet.

Wow does BALTIMORE not have pitching…

Actually they’ve been a little better than that.

…keep the Ortiz thought in the back of your mind. What if the second half of ’09 was the aberration, not the first half? Will the Sox have to bench him? And if so, could the twists and turns of fate find them suddenly grateful that they had been unable to trade Mike Lowell?

We’ve already seen this play out in one direction, it may now be reversing – but long term this will not end happily for Big Papi.

I think Tampa ends up with the best record…This time I like the Rays to win the Series, five years after other owners seriously murmured about moving them or contracting them…


So far so good. Notice I have left out the prediction about Ike Davis not coming up before June 1. Or May 1. I’ll still stop now, I’ve strained something batting myself on the back.

2010 Forecasts: NL West


Here’s a
silly little question for ARIZONA about Edwin Jackson. If he’s good enough for
you to have given up on Max Scherzer, why is he pitching for his third team in
as many seasons? And why was the other guy you got in the trade a starter who
won his first major league start on September 1, 2007 – and hasn’t pitched well
since? Ian Kennedy’s rep in New York was as a guy who didn’t seem to want the
ball, and even if that was wildly untrue, there has to be some reason he went
from untouchable to throw-in in two years. On these two starters the
Diamondbacks’ season depends; they will get another acey season out of Dan
Haren and might even get a comeback from Brandon Webb, but if both
Jackson and Kennedy don’t produce,
there is nothing (Billy Buckner, Brian Augenstein, Rodrigo Lopez) for A.J.
Hinch to fall back on, and a truly potent line-up will have wasted a lot of
slugging.

COLORADO’s
line-up is so productive that it has come to this: if Todd Helton suddenly
decided to return to football (at age 37, for some reason) and they had to move
Brad Hawpe back to first base and go with some kind of Seth Smith/Ryan
Spilborghs combo, there would probably be no noticeable fall-off. There is no
reason to suspect that Jorge De La Rosa’s 2009, nor Jason Hammel’s second-half,
were flukes, and thus the Rockies offer rotational depth behind Jimenez and
Cook, and they have enough in the bullpen to back-fill for an injured Huston
Street without mentioning the dreaded words “Manny Corpas.” Franklin Morales
might just steal the job from him if Street is gone too long. This is a
well-rounded, deep team, and Troy Tulowitzki, batting clean-up, may reassert
himself this year on the path to being one of the league’s top ten hitters.

In LOS
ANGELES or anywhere else, I would trust Joe Torre with my wallet or my vote or
my house keys. But I think he’s in for a dreadful year. If anybody can get a
Number One starter kind of season out of Vicente Padilla, it’d be Joe; I’d
still bet it’s likelier that Padilla will achieve that rarest of feats – pitch
the opener and
wind
up being unconditionally released in the same season. My memory of Padilla is
him taking a no-hitter into the middle innings at Shea Stadium, and
sportswriters from two cities, in two languages, rooting against him because he
was surly in both English and Spanish. More over, what’s the message to Chad
Billingsley? Clayton Kershaw? What’s the message to Dodger fans that your fifth
starter battle involved both perpetual retreads named Ortiz? A great bullpen
cannot stay such if it has to start getting ready in the fifth inning, every
day. And the line-up is hardly as good as it looks. The Dodgers cannot get a full
season out of Ronnie Belliard, haven’t gotten one out of Blake DeWitt. They may
have burned out Russell Martin. And Manny Being Just Manny (No PEDs) is a just
slightly better offensive force than, say, Mark DeRosa. The McCourt Divorce may
be a lot more interesting than the 2010 Dodgers, and a lot less painful to
watch.

SAN DIEGO
might catch lightning in a bottle, if Mat Latos and Kyle Blanks and Nick
Hundley get off to explosive starts and there is no need to unload Heath Bell
and Adrian Gonzalez. If not, you’re looking at Aaron Cunningham and Chase
Headley as the three and four hitters, and Mike Adams or Luke Gregerson
closing. Watch, hope; rent, don’t buy.

I don’t
much like SAN FRANCISCO’s outfield (maybe they should have given John Bowker’s
spring training resurgence more attention), and their third best all-around
player might spend most of the season backing up Bengie Molina, but that’s some
pitching staff Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti have to play with. After Lincecum,
Cain, Sanchez, and Zito, I think Todd Wellemeyer is a stop-gap and Kevin
Pucetas (or maybe Madison Bumgarner – and who ever went faster from prospect to suspect?) will eventually claim the fifth spot. The
bullpen has gone from wobbly to outstanding in two years (Dan Runzler might eventually make Brian Wilson expendable; more likely he’ll just make he and Jeremy Affeldt the top pair of left-handed set-up men in the league). I’d be happier if they’d invested in an
actual outfielder instead of Aubrey Huff, put DeRosa at third, and Sandoval at
first. But if Colorado falters, this is the West’s best bet.

PREDICTIONS:
Colorado in a runaway, unless the Giants put everything together early. The
Dodgers finish third, just ahead of the Diamondbacks – unless the Padres blossom early as mentioned above and
don’t trade everybody, in which case the three teams will place within a few games of each other.

TOMORROW NIGHT: The National League Central.

And Now An Editorial Reply

I’ve often been accused of being contrarian just for the sake of being contrarian, but I don’t know that I’ve ever gone this far

I hadn’t heard previously of Dan Steinberg and his blogs at The Washington Post and The Sporting News, but he goes a long way to defend Manny Ramirez and skewer me for what I wrote here Saturday (I think that’s what he’s doing – it’s not exactly clear; it seems to be snark, a medium in which I’ve worked for 35 years, and whatever it is, I think he’s doing it wrong). I criticized the juxtaposition of Fox’s celebration of Ramirez’s return and the MLB-wide official tributes to Lou Gehrig on the 70th Anniversary of his “day” at Yankee Stadium in 1939.

As if he were worth of being alive, Keith; of sharing the status of “human being” with Lou Gehrig. Manny Ramirez should have declined all offers of oxygen, on this day, and on every other day that is an anniversary of a day on which Lou Gehrig was alive.

I confess to being mightily impressed at the head of steam he builds up on the long trek he makes towards his great climactic accusation of hypocrisy on my part.

For shame, for shame, baseball fans. You should all be standing in line to forfeit your mindless baseball entertainment, on account of there having been rule-breaking in that industry, which is devoted primarily to occupying the minds of 30-something lawyers with expense accounts, middle-aged journalists and college kids making fictional “trades” at 3 in the morning while eating week-old pizza slices they found in their closets. Why, oh why, don’t you brainless masses boycott this farce in favor of a more wholesome, ethical and Gehrig-approved entertainment option?

I also confess to becoming afraid for him as he accelerates, the way we all used to become afraid for the Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoons, since we could see the edge of the mesa coming and he couldn’t.

I would argue further: that no one not named Gehrig should ever again be allowed to play baseball, even Strat-O-Matic. And that Manny Ramirez should be tasered every night for a year. And that the fans who have cheered for him should be tasered, too. And that Manny Ramirez is, pretty much, the Worst Person in the World. And that anyone who so much as cashes one check paid for with dirty baseball money from immoral cheering fans should be banished from civilized society.


Wait, Keith, why is there an MLB logo on your blog? 


Nooooooooooooooooooooo!


Umm… as anybody who reads the MLBlogs knows, baseball has no say over what is written here, by me, or anybody else. And, yes, this particular blog, MLB pays for. Only I don’t get checks to cash. The money gets split three ways: to St. Jude’s Hospital, to the Baseball Assistance Team, and to the education fund for the grandchildren of the former big leaguer and MLB.TV host John Marzano.


That was a long way to run to wind up going off a cliff like that. At least Mr. Steinberg was good enough to provide his own sound effect at the end.

It Disgusts Me

When I think of Lou Gehrig, I see him in a hotel room somewhere in the summer of 1938. It is the middle of the night, nearly silent, sweltering in Cleveland or St. Louis or Washington. If there is any air conditioning it is feeble and no match for humidity sitting like a giant sweater on the city.

The pain has been growing, almost imperceptibly, for months, maybe years. Worse still his inability to make his body do what he wants it to do has deteriorated. The discomfort may have awakened him, but it’s something else that has caused him to reach for the alarm clock, and instead knock it to the floor with a sour ring. This may have been begun years earlier – his eventual successor Babe Dahlgren told me he was playing first for the Red Sox in 1935 when Gehrig rounded the bag, slipped, and just could not steady himself to stand up.
He has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and it will be months more of pain, and confusion, and fear, and denial, and dread, before he has even heard the phrase. And then the world will close in on him: in March, 1939, he will stagger through spring training. In May he will take himself out of the lineup. Weeks later he will be at the Mayo Clinic. In July he will be honored at Yankee Stadium and initially be asked not to speak to the heartbroken crowd, for fear that just the sound of his words, his acknowledgment of what is so terribly wrong, will reduce 60,000 people to tears. By the following spring, working for the underprivileged and troubled youth of New York City, he will pose, smiling, at an office desk. Only later will it be revealed that the pencil he holds had to be placed there, and his fist closed around it, by somebody else’s hand. Barely two years after the diagnosis, exactly 16 years after his legendary streak began, it will all end.
And yet in the Bronx 70 years ago today, Lou Gehrig composed himself in such a manner, with a strength that eclipsed even what he showed on the ballfields of the ’20s and ’30s, that he could give one final measure of himself with such honesty, with such courage, with such a simple and direct connection to the human condition, that it is quoted, somewhere, every day.
And when those who have followed him in the game he loves, honor him, and this country, and themselves, by having those words read in every ballpark in the major leagues on this 4th of July, they emphasize all that is good and brave, despite the unbeatable odds and ultimate “bad break” we all face eventually, about the game, about the nation, about life itself.
But first, let’s take you out to San Diego where Manny Ramirez is just back from a 50-game suspension. For cheating. For cutting corners. For breaking rules. For lying. For deception. For letting down his teammates. For contributing to suspicions against every honest player. For raising a giant middle finger to sportsmanship. For abusing the fans. For risking that for which Lou Gehrig would’ve given anything – his own health.
Ramirez, of course, homered today in his first at bat. And some people cheered. As if he were just back from an injury, or a death in the family. As if he were a hero. As if he were an honest man. As if he were somehow worthy of sharing the meaningfulness of this day with Lou Gehrig.
Credit to Fox’s Tim McCarver – who has never gotten enough of it for this one quality he has shown, often at such great risk to his own security and even employment – for his honesty in pointing out the inappropriateness of the reaction to Ramirez’s return. He is not making a comeback. He is out on parole and it will be years – if ever – before many of us will believe he did not do something illegal, improper, or immoral, this morning.

And shame on the broadcasters who decided to treat Ramirez’s return as if it were something to be trumpeted, rather than what it is – something to be ashamed of. This trumpeting is barely about Manny Ramirez – this applies to McGwire and Bonds and Palmeiro and Rodriguez and all the rest, caught or admitted.
This is Lou Gehrig’s day. The rest of the juicers may come back and play tomorrow and there will not be boycotts. The Dodgers will probably go to the World Series, carried in part by a great flaming fraud like Ramirez. And judging by the brainless response of fans who would cheer anybody if they hit the ball 425 feet for their team, and boo anybody if they hit the ball 425 feet for their opponents, there will not even be significant repercussions. 
But today, there should have been. Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez and the others of the PED era did not belong in baseball today, and that they did not show the requisite awareness of their own shame, only makes it worse. Lord, send us a ‘roider who has the presence of mind to say: “On this day I do my penance; I don’t yet belong on the field even with just the memory of this man, I hope you’ll forgive me and I can again earn your trust.”

Manny Being Manny*

* With PEDs.

“U have no idea!” a Red Sox friend texted at the end of last July. “U haven’t heard half the stories. Ones u have r only half the truth.” The trade of texts ended with guesstimates of just how much the trade of Manny Ramirez had extended the lives of everybody in Boston from the team executives to the clubhouse attendants.
These stories constituted as wide a range of accused crimes and misdemeanors as any modern player has ever collected. But none I ever heard included a specific charge about performance enhancing drugs. That there is surprise at the 50-game suspension, at the perfect dagger through the heart of the Dodgers’ perfect start, is about the means, not ends. “Looks like a great team,” a Dodger told me not two months ago in Arizona. “Watch Manny screw it up. He got his money.”
The stories, dating back to Cleveland, ranged from unbelievable/nonsense to just unbelievable. He supposedly shirked, showed up late or not at all, forced the trade, tried to get it undone. Guys in the dugout said they saw him once picking at his nails, his glove under his arm, as a righty made contact and pulled the ball right to him (he made the catch). His personal hygiene was supposed to be indescribable. Teammates wondered if he was “all there.” As late as this spring a Dodger individual predicted a phony injury. His extraordinary natural gifts, they thought, gave him the ability to wallpaper it all. The near-.400 stretch with the Dodgers last year was an indication of what he could do if he was trying – and if he was scared.
There were some specifics. Last July 6th – maybe the first public indicator something was desperately wrong – the infamous Sunday Night game in New York when Ramirez didn’t start, and only appeared as a ninth-inning pinch-hitter against Mariano Rivera with two out and the winning run at second. Manny never took the bat off his shoulder. Not, he got called out on three Rivera cutters. He never moved. Went silently to the plate, left Boston’s last runner of the loss to fade away at second, left without comment for the clubhouse.
Last July 31st, the Red Sox and Pirates and Dodgers beat the deadline and Manny is gone. And the phone supposedly rings in Boston. It’s Manny, shocked into reality. He wasn’t happy, sure, but he was only doing what the agent suggested to get them to pick up his 2009 option (not that the agent suggested all this) and he was really sorry and he would play his heart out and he’d be there extra-early for BP and he was glad the trade hadn’t happened. And the person at the other end of the line needed several tries before he managed to get the idea through to Manny that the trade could not be undone, that he had to move to L.A., that time would not roll backwards just because Manny wanted it to.
That’s the thing that makes it surprising that we are all surprised today. All the stories about Ramirez could be total slanders. The claims about intelligence and hygiene and focus and selfishness could be utter nonsense spread to make those who survived him look better, gentler, more long-suffering. The Cookie Cutter Excuse No. 3 – my-doctor-prescribed-it-it-was-an-accident – could even be true. But the one continuous thread through every tale, true or false, is exactly the explanation for the PED user who gets caught – a presumption of invincibility and an inability to discern cause and effect.
Forgive the anonymity of the quotes – again – but this was in Glendale in March and a Dodger person (sorry) traded a greeting with Manny and then we watched as Manny joined a group stretching in the outfield. “Look at him wincing,” he said. “I’d be concerned but he told me, now that he had signed, and now that he had gotten his timing in the batting cage, since he hated spring training so much, he figured he’d pull a hamstring so he could get a few days off.” The Dodger person looked only at Manny. “He actually told me that. Look at him. He’s practicing looking hurt.”
I offered that he saw the new contract not as payment for services to be rendered, not as a lifeline to encourage a repeat of last year’s intensity, but as just desserts for what he did last year, that there when you were Manny Ramirez there were no incentives, no forward-thinking. The Dodger person squinted out towards number 99, and finally answered. “Yes. I think that may be it. But who (expletives deleted) knows. When they said that this was ‘Manny being Manny’ in Boston, we had no idea just how much that meant.”
Apparently none of us did.
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