Manny's last laugh

Updated: April 9, 2011, 10:30 AM ET
By Buster Olney

BOSTON -- Manny Ramirez looks like a different guy this spring, we heard over and over. Wow, his bat speed looks so much better, scouts raved. The guy is in phenomenal condition, they said. He looks a lot stronger, they said.

The Red Sox players saw the same thing. After word broke Friday that Ramirez had retired instead of facing suspension, David Ortiz said that the Boston players talked in their dugout this spring about how good Manny looked, how quick his bat was. This was especially striking, because late last season, in his brief time with the White Sox, Ramirez's bat speed had all but disappeared, and evaluators from some teams were convinced he was finished.

But now he's gone, retiring abruptly after he was informed that he had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and faced a possible 100-game suspension.

Former teammates like Jonathan Papelbon and Ortiz and B.J. Upton and Andre Ethier spoke respectfully about what a good teammate he was, what an incredible talent he was. And Hall of Fame voters, like colleague Jayson Stark and I, will mention, fairly, the incredible numbers Ramirez compiled, the 555 home runs and the .312 career average, and we will weigh how the circumstances of his retirement will weigh in the rendering of his legacy.

And where is Manny in all of this? Well, he's probably laughing at everybody.