Manny Ramirez officially retired today. He clearly didn’t want to retire, but did so after apparently testing positive yet again for a banned substance. Were he to stick around, Ramirez would have been forced to endure a 100-game suspension.
When I was covering baseball for Sports Illustrated back in the late-90s and early-2000s, Ramirez was in his prime—and absolutely frightening. From that era of my life, there were two ballplayers who flat out terrified opposing pitchers. Gary Sheffield was one. Ramirez was the other.
When I use the word “Terrify,” I don’t mean solely with a bat. Hell, there were other hitters out there with scary numbers—Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Giambi. But Manny and Sheff both swang with an unbridled violence. They didn’t merely hammer the baseball—they killed it. Smashed it. I loved watching their at-bats, because it was akin to witnessing a violent automobile collision, sans the blood and guts.
Now, however, we sorta have to believe that, with both men, it was largely bullshit. Sure, they could play. And hit. But how much was natural talent, how much was chemical enhancement?
It’s sad, because Ramirez is now yet another stat freak who’ll likely miss the Hall of Fame.
PS: Based on the Rays’ history of retiring uniforms, I expect No. 24 to be hanging from the Trop rafters by summer 2012!