Friday, September 3, 2010
Will Manny quit on the White Sox?
Will Manny Ramirez quit on the White Sox? Dan Shaughnessy sure thinks so:
On a daily basis, there's nothing evil or disruptive about having Manny on your team. He shows up most of the time, puts in the work, and produces. He keeps to himself for the most part and generally acts like your average 12-year-old kid. There's no evil force at work.
But he quits. He quit on the Red Sox twice. He quit in September 2006 for no apparent reason. In 2008 he was mad because the Sox were not extending his contract, so he acted out. He slapped Kevin Youkilis in the dugout. He toppled then-64-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick when he couldn't get a bunch of tickets for his friends an hour before gametime. He was asked to pinch hit on his day off, and took three strikes without moving the bat off his shoulder. Then he invented hamstring injuries to get himself traded. It was blatant. When he left, he spoke of how he "suffered" in Boston.
Manny's early days in Los Angeles were heavenly. He carried the Blue to the playoffs. He cultivated a few reporters and got great reviews. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said it was a pleasure to et to know Manny and put a charity "Ramirez Clause" in all Dodger player contracts.
Now Manny has quit on the Dodgers. After the early Manny Mania with "Mannywood" and Manny wigs and fawning fans and media, Manny quit again. He got himself suspended for taking female fertility drugs. In his final Dodger at bat last week, he was asked to pinch hit with the bases loaded in Colorado. After taking a called strike, he argued with the ump and got himself ejected. That was it for Manny in Los Angeles.
It's harder for Manny to hit now that it's harder to juice.
Testing is not his friend. Some of the power and skill is gone.
But he's still Manny. And it will end badly in Chicago, just as it did in Boston and Los Angeles.
Let's dismiss (for the moment, anyway) Shaughnessy's references to the juice, the testing, the power and the skill. Because I believe that Ramirez, when healthy, remains one of the more powerful and skillful hitters in the major leagues.
The rest of this seems right to me. When trying to understand the behavior of professional athletes who seem to behave immaturely, your starting point should be that they probably are immature. Athletes with Ramirez's talents don't have to grow up to get ahead in life. They just have to keep hitting, and Ramirez has been hitting since he was just a boy. So, yeah: "average 12-year-old kid" seems about right. Average spoiled 12-year-old kid. Why should he behave any differently at this point, when men like Frank McCourt are perfectly happy (for a while, anyway) to give him $45 million?
One thing I think Shaughnessy might be wrong about: It might end badly in Chicago, but it doesn't have to. I don't know if Manny is capable of staying healthy for one month, but I think he's capable of staying motivated for as long as the White Sox are still challenging the Twins. If they catch them, I think Manny's capable of putting on a big show in October.
But if the White Sox should fall out of contention before the last week of the season? It'll still be a show, but a completely different sort.