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Manny Being Manny

Manny Being Manny
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12 Manny Being Manny
John Hart, the general manager of the Cleveland Indians when they drafted Manny Ramirez in 1991, remembered, “He was kind of a different kid.” Really? Never noticed.

Hart recalls that Ramirez had been late paying some bills during a stretch in his first season with the Indians and bill collectors were beginning to call the Indians’ offices. Hart decided to get to the bottom of it. “What we found was, Manny hadn’t cashed any of his paychecks for the season. We were about halfway through the year. They were all in envelopes in the glove compartment of his car. We asked him why and he just gave us that Manny shrug and said, ‘I don’t know,’” Hart recalled.

There are so many stories and so many episodes of Manny being Manny. The player even had a shirt made up with the “Manny Being Manny” mantra printed on it.

Ramirez was born in the Dominican Republic and spent his high school years in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood at George Washington High School. He was a shortstop when Hart first saw him play, but the most striking quality of his game was his hitting — it was like nothing Hart had ever seen before. The Indians planned to draft him in the second round, but Hart’s scouts predicted Ramirez would be long gone. So the Indians took him 13th overall, and they have no regrets.

Ramirez, a hitting savant, studies and practices his hitting ad nauseam. His ability to look at pitches going by before settling on an 0-2 pitch for a home run is legendary. Once during the ’07 season David Ortiz kidded, “Manny, are you just playing around with the pitcher?”

Ramirez signed an eight-year, $160 million contract with the Red Sox in the winter of 2000. Leaving Cleveland was painful for him, especially since they had actually offered him more money, but the deal wasn’t structured as well as Boston’s. To say anyone can live up to that contract would be silly. But Ramirez, who was the 2004 World Series MVP and followed that with a .348 average with four homers and 16 RBIs in 14 postseason games in ’07, has had a remarkable Red Sox career following his memorable time with the Indians.

Entering the 2008 season, Ramirez, without question a future Hall of Famer, will be 10 home runs shy of 500. His .593 slugging percentage is eighth all-time. His 1,604 RBIs are 28th and his 490 homers are 26th. He’s hit 133 homers at Fenway Park and 131 at Jacobs Field. That’s 250 homers in his home ballparks, with another 240 on the road. The ’08 season will be his eighth in Boston, after the eight he spent with the Indians.

Ramirez has always been the subject of trade talk. The John Henry ownership group put him on waivers in an effort to rid itself of his contract. During the off-season in ’03 they tried to deal him to the Texas Rangers — where, ironically, Hart had become the general manager — for Alex Rodriguez, but the deal fell through. Ramirez demanded trades in ’04, ’05, and ’06, but the Red Sox were unable to ever get proper compensation in return for him. In 07 the reluctant Ramirez declared that he wanted to spend the rest of his career with the Red Sox. It looks like he’ll get his wish.

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