The two men will be forever linked as the offensive catalysts for the 2004 and 2007 Boston Red Sox World Series Championships.
They will also be forever linked by the appearance of their names on the infamous ’03 performance-enhancing drug tests.
But with David Ortiz staying behind in Boston and Manny Ramirez taking his antics to Hollywood, each former superstar heads into this October looking to contribute to a World Series run for his respective team.
So who will make more of an impact in the postseason?
Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon talked about this question for a moment on "Pardon the Interruption" yesterday, and I thought it was a great jumping off point for this postseason considering that ESPN and FOX are foaming at the mouth with the thought of a Boston-Los Angeles World Series that pits Ramirez against the Sox and Ortiz.
Each man will head into October with a far different situation than anytime in the past, as Ramirez has been struggling mightily since his return from a 50-game suspension this season and Papi is coming off a difficult season.
Before the ban, Ramirez was batting .348 with eight home runs and 20 RBI (27 games).
More notably, he had 26 walks and just 17 strikeouts.
Since his return, his average has dropped off tremendously, down to .290 for the season overall. He is hitting .269 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI in 77 games back, and over that stretch he has walked 45 times and struck out 64 times.
Last season the Dodgers surged with the addition of Ramirez to the lineup to come from behind and win the NL West, but this year the story was much different as Manny’s struggles manifested in a near-collapse by the Boys in Blue.
Ramirez drove in 53 runs in 53 games down the stretch for LA in ’08, catapulting him into a dominant postseason, where he played eight games and hit .520 (13-for-25) with four home runs and 10 RBI.
In his 53 regular season games with the Dodgers last year, Manny walked 35 times and struck out 38 times, numbers far more similar to his pre-suspension splits. This is an indicator of how poorly Manny is approaching his at-bats this season.
He is showing little discipline and poor pitch selection at the dish, resulting in fewer walks and more strikeouts.
As for Big Papi, he had a forgettable postseason in ’08, hitting just .186 (8-for-43) with one home run and five RBI in 11 games.
To make this worse, Papi got off to a mind-numbingly bad start this season, batting just .196 with three home runs and 24 RBI until June 10 (53 games).
But Ortiz, who used to be the most clutch hitter in baseball, turned things around for the final three-and-a-half months of the season.
His average improved to .264 over the next 97 games, and he hit 25 home runs while tallying 75 RBI. Overall, and this may surprise some people, he actually increased his totals for doubles, home runs, and RBI from last season.
So that leads us to the present situation, with each slugger heading into his respective divisional series in opposite directions.
Yet there is one main issue that is going to separate the two former teammates: mental toughness.
Ramirez is absolutely fried mentally, but it’s a different type of shutdown mode than he has gone into in the past.
Throughout his career, Ramirez has been able to rely on his God-given talent and ability to get by and break him out of slumps. Don’t get me wrong, the guy works hard in batting practice and game planning, but it was always his freakishly strong hands and pinpoint eye for balls and strikes that kept him going strong.
This season, he was faced with numerous issues, including the suspension and an injured hand.
By all accounts, the hand is just fine, yet he still hasn’t recovered from that time away due to suspension.
His timing is nowhere near what it once was, and Ramirez consistently misses fastballs down the middle of the plate. Average pitchers can now challenge him with a heater, and most of the time the pitcher will come out on top.
This has affected Ramirez’s mental state because he has become so frustrated with being unsuccessful, and he is so used basking in success, that he isn’t mentally tough enough to persevere through this tough season.
For this reason, I have to give the edge in the postseason to Big Papi.
Remember when Papi spoke to the media after an awful day at the plate early in the season, and he was on the verge of tears because he was so ashamed about his performance?
That’s the kind of mental toughness a ball player needs.
Not necessarily breaking down emotionally, but showing that he cares about the game, about the outcome, and about his effect on the team.
Papi was distraught because he knew the Red Sox needed him to turn things around and spark the middle of the lineup, while Ramirez has not once shown an inch of emotion as his regressing stat-line contributed to a second-half slump for the Dodgers.
So, stats aside, Papi has the advantage because he fought through early season struggles to at least find his power stroke; Manny is content slapping singles to right field and taking called third strikes with runners in scoring position.
I wouldn’t expect Papi to have an explosive October, but for a man who used to thrive in the postseason atmosphere, he has the tools and mental approach to make a solid impact on the Red Sox lineup.
While Ramirez has the tools, his approach at the plate is terrible, and not much can be expected from him as the Dodgers make a push for the World Series.