Sunday, July 08, 2007

So, What's Wrong With Manny Ramirez?

I wrote this article yesterday over at The Red Sox Times, one of the two Red Sox fan sites I write for.

I keep waiting. I keep waiting for Manny Ramirez to go on one of those superhuman rolls he’s been known for. Back in April when Manny was hitting below .200, you had to figure it was the weather, or just a slow start to the year, and that by the midway point of the season, Manny would be putting up numbers in the 20 HRs, 65 RBI range.

As I write this, Manny’s numbers are: 11 HRs, 45 RBI, with a .289 average.

So, what’s wrong with Manny?

He seemed to be in better spirits as the season began. He may not be talking to reporters, but Manny hasn’t done that for years. We haven’t heard any more reports about illnesses in his family (especially now that it is the All-Star break). This year he really wants to play in the game. Manny’s played a better left field in 2007, and has been hustling more and more. (Remember that belly-flop he did on that double at Fenway last month: “SuperManny!”) We haven’t heard about any injuries to him, real or imagined. (And you know, from all of Manny’s detractors in the press, that we’d hear about them if they had any basis in fact.)

So again, what’s wrong with Manny?

One thing few people are talking about with Manny is: his age. He hit 35 this past May 30, and you have to wonder if age could actually be catching up to him. This season he seems to be taking way more good pitches, looking at too many called third strikes, and now leads the Red Sox in hitting into double plays with 14. (That’s saying something with two of the slower guys in the AL, Mike Lowell and David Ortiz on the team.)

I can’t honestly say that Manny doesn’t seem to care or is playing lackadaisically. His contract is up after 2008, and a rapid decline in his numbers surely won’t benefit him when he’s looking for a new deal.

I watched him hit into double plays tonight in Detroit, and he just doesn’t seem to be the same threat at the plate he’s always been. His numbers are stagnant right now, and it will take a monumental effort in the second half for him to reach 35 home runs and 100 RBI, numbers we as Red Sox fans have come accustomed to him reaching, even in his sleep.

Manny’s going to the All-Star Game this year, as he was elected by the fan vote. The Red Sox fans rewarded him with their support, as usual. It’s good to see Manny wants to play this year, but it’s ironic that this is happening in a season he really doesn’t deserve to go.

And now I don’t think it’s too early to ask this question: should the Red Sox let him walk as a free agent after the 2008 season, even if he wants to return? (I know, I know, Manny changes his mind about that as often as the average person changes their socks.) I really believe that question will be asked more and more often, especially if Manny puts up below-par numbers for the final three months of 2007.

It’s time for Manny to be Manny for the second part of 2007. The team continues to play well and have a double-digit lead in the AL East. But it’s time for him to put his exclamation point on this season.

But Father Time maybe catching up to our favorite loony left fielder.

I sure hope that isn’t the case. Go get ‘em ManRam.

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