Boston Red Sox legends: Power hitting left fielder Manny Ramirez

BOSTON - JULY 30: Manny Ramirez
BOSTON - JULY 30: Manny Ramirez /

Whether you view him as an incredible hitter, goofy outfielder, or lazy baserunner, there is no debating that Manny Ramirez is cemented as a Boston Red Sox legend.

Say what you will about his actions on and off the field, but there will never be another Manny Ramirez. The former Boston Red Sox left fielder was a unique talent, and boy could he play.

 So, despite a few character flaws, I’m going to paint Manny in an entirely positive light from a baseball standpoint.

I’ll begin with some statistics, because analytics are hot in the streets right now. In his career, Manny batted .312, with a .411 on base percentage and a .585 slugging. In his career with the Red Sox, his slash line was not much different. Excluding the 2008 season, Manny slashed .313/.412/.594. In other words, this man could hit.

His 555 home runs is 15th all time, while his slugging and OPS rank 8th all time. He is top 20 in extra base hits, RBIs, and intentional walks. From 2001-2007 with the Red Sox, he averaged 36 home runs per year, with a single season high of 45. He also holds the record for most postseason home runs with 29.

(Photo by J Rogash/Getty Images)
(Photo by J Rogash/Getty Images) /

There’s a reason he was an All-Star every season he was with the Red Sox and was awarded the Silver Slugger award every year from 1999-2006.

In my opinion, however, Manny is an entirely different beast than his stats and honors suggest.

“But Ben, this dude is on the leaderboard in just about every offensive category, how can he be better than his stats?”

I’m glad you asked. Curiosity is an important thing in this world. Never stop asking questions, it’s how we learn and grow as humans. But I digress.

Manny was so good not because of his picture perfect swing, but because of an extremely advanced approach which he mastered. Manny would do things at the plate that normal hitters just aren’t capable of. For instance, Manny would see a breaking ball and take a horrible swing on it. Way out in front. Totally fooled, right? That’s what the pitcher thought.

What the pitcher didn’t know is that Manny saw the pitch the whole way, and put an intentionally bad swing on the ball. When the pitcher came back with the same pitch later in the at-bat, or later in the game, he would hit the ball out of the park. That’s a next level approach, my friends.

"Former teammate of Manny and current Red Sox manager Alex Cora had this to say of Manny’s hitting abilities: “I don’t know if he’s setting people up or he knows what’s coming or what. He probably just sees something we don’t.”"

Alright, I admit it. I lied earlier. I said that Manny wasn’t good because of his swing, but who am I kidding. It is a thing of beauty. If framed gifs ever get invented, a gif of Manny’s swing should be hung up in the Louvre (it’s pronounced “jif”, by the way).

Manny’s swing doesn’t have a lot of frills. He’s not Josh Donaldson, he’s not Javier Baez. There’s not a whole lot going on, which allows him to identify the pitch and fire at any moment.

"Former MLB catcher Don Slaught put it simply, saying “He’s ready for 98 but is about to hit 88. That’s what is different about him. We never see him late on a great fastball, yet he can adjust to something slower. He can cover more pitch speeds and more pitch locations and be on time, better than anyone.”"

This swing perfectly captures what Slaught was describing. Watch Manny halt his body’s momentum before firing his hands faster than Lord Varys travels in Game of Thrones.

To perfect his swing, Manny spent hours upon hours watching film.

“Manny? Really? C’mon Ben, you’re a bright guy, but even you know that Manny was lazier than pre-Veronica-Vaughn Billy Madison!”

While I appreciate your acknowledgment of my brightness, and while you’re right about Billy, you aren’t considering all of the facts. Manny, contrary to popular belief was one of the most dedicated and hardworking hitters ever.

"“Some people won’t believe this, but I’ve never seen a harder worker than Manny Ramirez,” Said Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, “I’ve never seen someone more dedicated to understanding his body and the rhythm of hitting. If you ask David [Ortiz], he’ll tell you that he learned hitting from Manny.”"

Now that’s high praise. I can say all that I want about Manny’s hitting prowess, but my words will never carry the same amount of weight as Boston Red Sox legends Pedro Martinez and David Ortiz. When those guys are lauding someone’s hitting ability and work ethic, that’s serious.

Related Story: Boston Red Sox Legends: 2004 closer Keith Foulke

Finally, I can’t talk about Manny without citing how much fun he has when he plays. If you’ll notice, that sentence was in the present tense. Manny is still playing ball at the young age of 45. He loves the game and will play until he can no longer hold a bat. And as long as he’s on the field, he’ll rake.

When someone talks about Manny Ramirez, they often speak about Manny’s greatest blunders. Cutting off Johnny Damon’s throw. Starting a brawl with the Yankees over a pitch that wasn’t really close to his head. Never running out a ground ball. But the same sentence always comes up when discussing Manny Ramirez: “But man was he a good hitter”.

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Not good, buddy. Great. Incredible. A showstopper. The original laser show. Manny, if you’re reading this, I could use some tips heading into my college baseball season. You’re the best.

Next time you hear about “Manny being Manny”, I implore you to consider what that really means. It’s not showmanship, and it certainly isn’t laziness. It’s a guy having fun playing the game that he loves, and he’s really really really good at it.

Thank you, Manny, for making baseball fun to watch from 2001-2008. You brought us two World Series Titles, highlight reels, and many memories. I’m sure you’re in a batting cage right now or teeing off on hanger vs. some Japanese pitcher, and that says just about everything about you.

I could go on all day about Manny’s greatest moments (like his walk off home run vs. the Angels which is my phone’s lock screen), but I’ll spare you.

Next: The 5 Greatest Boston Red Sox Shortstops of All-Time

If you haven’t in awhile, I suggest going down the Manny Ramirez wormhole on YouTube. You won’t regret it.