April 8th, 2011, a day that will live in infamy. It's the day Manny Ramirez officially decided to hang up the spikes.
This is neither a time to complain about Manny's faults nor a time to debate just how much Manny's legacy has been affected—it's a time to appreciate the career of one of the most feared right-handed hitters to ever step foot into a major league batting box.
There was a time when you literally couldn't pitch to this guy. RBI was his middle name.
His 165 RBI in 1999 was the most by a player since Hank Greenberg had 183 in 1937. He thrice topped 140 RBI in a season, topped 100 RBI 12 times, and only once played more than 130 games in a season without topping 100 RBI.
Manny hit 555 home runs in his career, walked 1329 times, hit over .300 11 times and finished his career at .312/.411/.585/.996 (average/on-base/slugging/OPS).
However, for all the numbers that Manny put up in his stellar career, it was never numbers that made him great. It was what made him different.
He always played the game with a smile on his face. Always. He would strike out and walk back to the dugout smiling. He would drop a fly ball, and then he would smile.
And there's something to be said about somebody who doesn't take the game too seriously.
He was truly a joy to watch and was always good for a laugh.
He once caught a fly ball, jumped, found the one Red Sox fan in the crowd (it was a road game), gave him a high-five, threw the ball back in and doubled the man off first.
Another time, he cut off a throw from fellow outfielder Johnny Damon on a David Newhan ball in the gap, leading to an inside-the-park home run.
He also skipped a visit to the White House after the World Series, made a phone call during the middle of a game (on his cell phone), took a bathroom break in the middle of a game and actually missed a pitch, made a song about getting high his walk-up song and told the Red Sox, "Gas is up and so am I," when asked about his future before free agency.
Yes, it's safe to say Manny Ramirez was an interesting fellow, but he was also a lovable one.
And while everybody else is bitching about how he cheated and how he tainted his legacy, just think about the man whose pine-tar-glazed helmet and signature dreadlocks made you smile for the last 19 years—I know I'll never forget.
Cheers to one of the greatest pure hitters of this quarter century. Have fun in Spain.
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