Monday, April 11, 2011

More thoughts on Manny Ramirez

First, an acknowledgement of error: I messed up in the print column. (The linked version fixes the error.)

Portrait of the athlete as a young Manny:
The pre-dreadlocked Ramirez in his days
with the Cleveland Indians early in his career.
I had the notion of stringing together a lineup of no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famers who didn't have, combined, as many World Series titles as Manny Ramirez.

The list we printed was Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Carl Yastrzremski, Rod Carew, Ernie Banks, Robin Yount, Pie Traynor and Gabby Hartnett. But Mays won a World Series in 1954, Aaron one in 1957, and Traynor in 1925. That's three, which is one more than Ramirez.

Traynor was pure oversight on my part — I somehow forgot that his career began that early. (That kind of thing may not be general knowledge, but it's something I expect myself to know without resort to reference books.) At one point in the writing process I replaced Aaron with Ty Cobb, who has zero. That, in my mind, brought the total to one (not really), and I made the sentence say that Manny had more titles to his credit than this group of illustrious players — and then, unaccountably, I dropped Cobb and restored Aaron to the list without further change.

I realized the Aaron error shortly after the press run, and we changed the on-line version to say the group had as many World Series wins as Ramirez, which still wasn't correct. I didn't think of Traynor's title until I started composing this post. (The linked version now replaces Aaron with Cobb and says the group won as many World Series as Ramirez, which is, finally, correct.)

Confused yet?

It wasn't all that good an idea to start with — this isn't basketball. No one player matters so much in MLB as in the NBA. Nobody thinks less of Banks (or Cobb or Ken Griffey Jr.) for the lack of a championship.

The larger point stands: Manny Ramirez's teams won a lot of games.


I want, also, to take note of the incredible lineup the Cleveland Indians assembled in the mid 1990s:

Kenny Lofton, CF
Omar Vizquel, SS
Carlos Baerga, 2B
Albert Belle, LF
Eddie Murray, DH
Paul Sorrento, 1B
Jim Thome, 3B
Manny Ramirez, RF
Sandy Alomar Jr. C

Murray's in the Hall of Fame. Vizquel and Thome are still active (and Ramirez, of course, was until Friday); those three have HoF credentials. So does Lofton, who is not yet eligible but is the kind of player the voters have historically been unkind to (as Tim Raines can attest, leadoff men are almost always overlooked). Belle and Baerga had short careers, but at their peak were legitimate middle-of-the-order threats.

Any lineup deep enough to have Thome and Ramirez — even the young versions of those two — hitting seven and eight is historically good.

It's probably not as good as the Big Red Machine's starting eight; those Cincinnati teams of the mid '70s had Gold Gloves at each up-the-middle position, and Baerga fell short of that standard. Thome wasn't good enough at third to stay there long, and Ramirez was no Ken Griffey Sr. in right.

Impressive as that lineup is, they also discarded the likes of prospects Brian Giles, Richie Sexson and Sean Casey and couldn't find room for such pass-throughs as Jeff Kent and Jeromy Burnitz. That Indians organization was just loaded with position players. Pitchers, that was another story.

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