Manny Ramirez is on the ballot for the fifth time this year. He earned his most votes last year (28 percent) after looking like he was trending down since his first year on the ballot. Will he get enough support even through his controversies to get in?
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Ramirez was an outstanding hitter over his 19-year career, most known for his time with the Cleveland Indians (1993-2000) and Boston Red Sox (2001-08). His exuburent personality and the constant controversy that swirled him were often famously referred to as just “Manny being Manny.”
Manuel Arístides Ramírez Onelcida was selected by the Cleveland Indians with the 13th pick of the 1991 MLB Draft out of George Washington High School. He had not even graduated high school yet when the Indians gave him a $250,000 signing bonus. Ramirez took just two years to get his call to the show, making his debut on Sept. 2, 1993. He went hitless in his first game, but the following day he went 3-for-4 with his first two career home runs. That was special to him because it came against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, just a couple of miles away from his high school.
Ramirez made the team out of Spring Training in 1994 as the Indians’ starting right fielder. He got off to a fiery start, hitting six home runs in the month of April. While the season ended early because of the 1994 MLB strike, Ramirez wound up finishing runner-up for the American League Rookie of the Year award (Bob Hamelin). He slugged .521 with 17 homers, 22 doubles, and 60 RBI in 91 games.
The first 18 games of 1995 were wiped out due to the strike. After that, Ramirez broke out in a big way as he made his first All-Star Game as a reserve. He finished the year with a slash line of .308/.402/.558 with a 147 OPS+, 31 HR, and 107 RBI. This earned him his first Silver Slugger award and a 12th-place finish for MVP. The Indians wound up coasting to an AL Central title to make the playoffs for the first time since 1954. In Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Seattle Mariners, Ramirez went 4-for-4 with two home runs to pace the Indians to victory. Cleveland lost to the Atlanta Braves in the World Series, but Ramirez still earned a four-year, $10.15 million contract from the Indians.
Ramirez was Mr. Consistency for the Indians over the next five years, as only Edgar Martinez (160) had a higher OPS+ than his 158 among American League batters with at least 1,000 plate appearances. The Indians made the postseason every year except 2000 while Ramirez was there. Ramirez was selected to his second All-Star Game in 1998 and slugged an impressive 45 home runs and 145 RBI. He hit two homers against both the Yankees in the ALDS and the Red Sox in the ALCS.
He earned a sixth-place finish for MVP and finished with a third-place MVP finish in 1999 after he led the league with 165 RBI. This broke the Indians’ single-season RBI record (previously 162 by Hal Trosky in 1936) and was the highest MLB total since Jimmie Foxx had 175 in 1938. He already had 25 home runs and 95 RBI by the All-Star break.
Ramirez led the league with a 1.154 OPS and smashed 38 bombs in 2000 before becoming a free agent. His services were sold to the highest bidder, the Red Sox, for an eight-year, $160 million fee. The Red Sox mostly used Ramirez as a designated hitter his first few years with the team. He made eight more All-Star Games while in Boston and won six more Silver Sluggers. He earned five more top-10 MVP finishes, including third place in 2004 and fourth in 2005.
The Dominican-born superstar led Boston to a playoff appearance in 2003 with a 160 OPS+ and 37 homers. He then led the American League in home runs (43) and slugging percentage (.613) in 2004. Ramirez earned World Series MVP honors by slashing .412/.500/.588 with a home run and four RBI. This led the Red Sox to breaking their 86-year drought after overcoming a 3-0 ALCS deficit in the ALCS against the Yankees to make the World Series.
Ramirez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates following the 2007 season, as Manny “was Manny” one too many times. He instantly became a favorite of the Dodger faithful, hitting .396 with 17 HR and 53 RBI in just 53 games. He finished fourth in MVP voting and had two more productive years with the Dodgers.
After that, he moved around from the Chicago White Sox to the Tampa Bay Rays but faced a 100-game suspension after a second violation of the drug policy.
Ramirez was one of the most consistent hitters for most of his 19 seasons in the big leagues. His career 81.8 offensive WAR ranks fifth among all left fielders. This puts him behind only Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson, and Pete Rose. Even with horrid advanced defensive metrics, he is still eighth in overall WAR among left fielders. There have been 282 players with 8,000-plus plate appearances and Ramirez ranks top-15 in slugging (.585), OPS (.996), and OPS+ (154) among them. Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas are the only players to debut in the last 50 years and log at least 8,000 plate appearances that have an OPS+ higher than Ramirez’s 154.
For starters, Ramirez wasn’t a very good defensive outfielder, albeit with a strong arm. He had a career dWAR of -21.7 and a -90 DRS since it started to be recorded in 2002. Just like a number of the candidates on the ballot, the career of Ramirez didn’t come without controversy. As far as Ramirez is concerned, he failed two drug tests and was handed down suspensions for his use of these substances. He served his time for those mistakes, however, and they both came towards the end of his career which was already in decline.
Everyone makes mistakes and Ramirez served his time. He lost the extra 100 games to add to an already-good stat line. In a sense, he tried to enhance himself in order to not have such a fast and abrupt decline. If he didn’t use steroids, he would have declined quickly, and perhaps his longevity would come into question. Someone like Andruw Jones had an outstanding 10-year peak but declined fast. Ramirez’s steroid usage does not make him a more appreciated player, yet the voters have to put certain things into question. Both of them (Jones and Ramirez) belong in the Hall.
It is not the “Hall of Integrity.” Ramirez, along with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, was a Hall of Famer without the PEDs. Once Bonds and Clemens get in, others like Ramirez will have the door opened for them. The answer is yes to letting Manny Ramirez in.
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