July 22, 2005

G95: Red Sox 6, White Sox 5

Back on June 20, John Tomase of the Eagle Tribune unloaded on Manny Ramirez. The story is in the Tribune's archives now, but BSMW quoted a chunk of it:
Players who care don't leave games after getting hit by pitches that wouldn't have hurt a Little Leaguer.

Players who care don't seek days off like the office hypochondriac.

Ramirez has done all of these things in a brazen affront to the organization and a metaphorical middle finger to its fans. The days of writing off his behavior as quirky are over. He's robbing the Red Sox and more than indirectly contributing to the cost of baseball's highest tickets. ...

So while the fans take out their frustration on players like Millar and Mark Bellhorn, who barely make $6 million a year between them, Ramirez coasts along, hitting .260, disappearing in the clutch and taking the occasional day off.
My perception is that Tomase was a decent writer, mostly free from the agendas that drive many Boston sportswriters. But after reading this piece last month (a lot of accusations and very few, if any, sources), I wasn't so sure. In his follow-up, answering readers' mail, Tomase laughed the whole thing off.

Tomase's article (or a slightly rewritten version) is getting a wider audience as the cover story of the July issue of Boston Baseball. There are gratuitous insults at Manny elsewhere in the magazine. A short paragraph about Trot Nixon begins with this sentence: "Manny Ramirez looks for reasons to leave the lineup." ... One other complaint about Boston Baseball: For every player on the Red Sox roster, BB lists uniform number, name, bat-throw information, height, weight, date of birth and salary.

I'm not in Boston, so I don't know if Tomase's hatchet job got a lot of attention or if it sparked a resurgence (among media or fans) in Manny-bashing. But at Fenway on Wednesday afternoon, several fans around me were quite freely ragging on Ramirez. They mentioned his salary (as though they actually pay it) and his trip into the scoreboard on Monday night. They called him lazy when Kevin Millar took over in left field in the fourth inning. (There was tightness in his hamstring and Tito wisely decided to rest him with the score 7-0 and the White Sox series coming up.)

Speaking of Monday night, Bruce Allen was at the game and has a different take than what the media is dishing out:
[I] saw Manny go into the wall, saw him come out, and didn't think it was nearly as close to Miller's next pitch as many media people are making it out be. If anything, his timing was just right. Trot Nixon and Johnny Damon were kneeling together in the outfield, midway between right and center field and they were settling back in to their positions at the same time Manny was getting to his. But ... this is Manny, so everything he does that's different is going to be magnified around here. There's been talk about his running out of the box ... last night, he hustled out of the box on a foul ground ball, on his home run, and even when he got walked."
I have a hard time seeing this -- and similar cracks about Pedro Martinez -- in any terms other than race. I wish I had more concrete examples of it. If any obsessive reader out there has saved some examples, send them in.

One obvious counterpoint to Manny is Trot Nixon. The pine-tarred, dirt dog has his head up his ass both in the field (forgetting how many outs there are, throwing to the wrong bases, taking poor routes on fly balls/hits) and on the bases (getting picked off second base was a recent bonehead play) pretty often. He is now wearing his uniform shirt with the top three buttons undone. Yet he gets about 1/20th of the shit Manny does.

So in watching my tape of last night's game (a sick dog forced me to use the VCR), I was glad to see Manny get the eventual game-winning hit in the top of the ninth. After Joe Crede dropped an easy foul pop near the third base stands, Manny pounded the next pitch into the left field stands for his 26th home run.

The blast broke a 5-5 tie and gave the Sox and Curt Schilling, who had blown the save in the previous inning, the win. ... Edgar Renteria went 3-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored and an RBI. Johnny Damon scored twice.

In Anaheim, Vladimir Guererro belted a seventh-inning grand slam off Tom Gordon to beat the Yankees 6-5. Boston leads New York by 1.5 games and Baltimore by 2.5.

Wakefield / Garland at 8:00.


redsock said...

At SoSH, Morassofnegativity has a thread called "Running The Bases" (if you can lurk, it is here).

He writes:

"What happened at the ASB that made this team, especially Trot Nixon, the worst base running team in years? Nixon has made so many boneheaded plays the last couple weeks I'm starting to wonder if he's braindead. In the Yankee series alone there were a couple times when he should of been standing at 3rd but was hanging around 2nd. I'm assuming his knee is ok enough since he did make it around the bases on the inside the park HR. Ortiz last night, the Sveum/Millar/Belli incident."

Smiling Joe Hesketh has two posts with which I wholeheartedly agree:

One: "It's becoming a pattern with Nixon. Last night, the failure to score in the 9th on Mueller's hit against the Yankees, getting picked off 2nd to kill a rally ... it goes on and on. Had those baserunning mistakes been made by our left fielder, he'd be getting ripped stem to stern on TV, newspaper, and the radio. I think it's a stunning indictment of the sad state of our local sports coverage that the media turns a blind eye to the mistakes committed by Nixon yet is quick to jump all over the same type of mistakes committed by our left fielder, who incidentally is a vastly more productive player than Nixon."

Two: "I think it's because our local sports media parasties are fundamentally incapable of viewing the players in anything but a pre-conceived, gift-wrapped way. To them, Manny is a flake, so anything he does is an example of that flakiness. To them, Trot Nixon is a dirt dog hustler, so anything he does only reinforces that perception. If either player does something that doesn't fit in to these narrow intellectual boxes, the event is discarded by the media like a used Kleenex, becuase their tiny little minds combined with their chronic lethargy will not allow them to say something about a player that doesn't match with that player's reputation. It's irresponisible, unethical, and a real disservice to the sports fans of the area. And it's a damning indictment of the pinheads who are the so-called 'experts' covering the teams."

Jack Marshall said...

I agree that Nixon's repeated brain farts on the bases and in the field are annoying and inexplicable; and that he gets less criticism than he should for this. It is because Trot is obviously more upset by his mistakes than anyone else, I suspect. But the suggestion that criticism of Manny is based on race is a spectacular example of knee-jerk liberal paranoia and arrogance. I love Manny, but he leads Nixon in fielding and base-running brain lock by about a 10-1 ratio. He genuinely seems to enjoy himself equally whether the team is winning or losing; he shrugs off his most egregious blunders, and does not bring any special intensity to big games (which actually may work to his advantage.) He's a flake's flake, but white flakes in Boston have attracted as much comment in the past (Steve Lyons, Bill Lee), and high-paid white superstars in left field (Williams and Yaz) have been subjected to far greater abuse.

Come to Manny's defense if you want; he's a great player and a true original, and I'll put up with the sloppy uniform and the water bottle in the pocket was long as he's producing. But crying racism for pointing out Manny's many quirks is ridiculous.

L-girl said...

But crying racism for pointing out Manny's many quirks is ridiculous.

It's not so ridiculous.

Studies have shown that sportswriters in all sports repeatedly, frequently describe dark-skinned players in different terms than white players.

For example, white athletes are overwhelmingly more likely to be praised for their hard work and dedication, while black players are more likely to be described as having natural talent. And guess who is most often described as lazy?

Once you tune in to it, you can see how common it is.

I'm not saying these writers and announcers are consciously racist. Most of them are probably not. But assumptions about people based on skin color and ethnicity are so ingrained, people often stereotype without realizing it.

As Smiling Joe Hesketh says above, once a player is pigeon-holed, everything is seen through that lens. It's entirely possible the original pigeon-hole is fashioned at least partially by assumptions about race.

But the suggestion that criticism of Manny is based on race is a spectacular example of knee-jerk liberal paranoia and arrogance

I'm not sure why you perceive this as a "liberal" issue. I would hope conservatives and liberals would both want people to be judged by their actions and words, and nothing else.

I also don't see why you feel the perception is arrogant. It's just an opinion, there's nothing arrogant about that.

Jason Adams said...

"knee-jerk liberal paranoia and arrogance"...that's too funny. I suppose you bought into all the Bush knee-jerk conservative WMD paranoia and arrogance about Iraq too, Jack. How come whenever you conservatives are confronted with an idea about the media you disagree with you scream "liberal"? Is it your way of trying to reinforce the misconception that the media is still liberal when anyone with half a brain knows it no longer is? Sheesh...

But whatever.

That play the other night where Rent was on 3rd, Papi on 2nd, sac fly scored Rent but only because he hustled home before Papi was gunned down trying to take 3rd was a gentle reminder of how much of a boob Trot is since he's been caught lollygagging home several times throughout the years and didn't score because the runner behind him was tagged out for the 3rd out before he touched the plate. (He did it twice in one season! After the first time, he swore it would never happen again but of course, it did.)

Frankly, they're both equally idiotic on the basepaths but Manny gets on base more to increase his chances of screwing up.

And until Trot has a dozen outfield assists before the end of July, everyone needs to get off Manny's back and take a hard look at Nixon's defensive shortcomings. (The most assists he's ever had in a season is 8. Granted RF at Fenway is a whole 'nother world than LF but Manny did throw out 19 in right for Cleveland in '96.)

And of course everyone remembers the times Manny (in NY with Pedro on the mound) and Trot (at Fenway) forgot how many outs there were after making a routine catch and tossed the ball into the stands. But Trot's f*ck up cost the Sox two runs where Manny's didn't cost them anything.

I kind of agree with one thing Jack says: He genuinely seems to enjoy himself equally whether the team is winning or losing; he shrugs off his most egregious blunders, and does not bring any special intensity to big games.

This is the vibe Manny gives off and no doubt it's partly why he takes more heat than Trot because as Smiling Joe Hesketh says, "Trot Nixon is a dirt dog hustler". Not only that but he displays more remorse after one of his colossal blunders and therefore gains more undeserved pity. This is baseball. There's no crying in baseball.

I was at this game in NY a few years ago when Nixon let a base hit to RF go between his legs all the way to the wall which allowed the Yanks to win the game. I've never forgiven him since.

Jack Marshall said...

Jason, you show me one conservative that jumps at every opportunity to deflect legitimate criticism of an "athlete of color" as "racist," and I'll officially recant "liberal" in my comment. "Liberals" see racism in every nuance and critique, and "conservatives" tend to pretend it doesn't exist. You dispute this?
And spare me the "studies" I-girl. That has nothing to do with THIS criticism of THIS outfielder. He averages about one meat-headed moment per game (enjoy his adventures in left today, did you?)

Stating that as a fact isn't racist; believing that a 20 million dollar a year player might make a teeny effort to be a little professional isn't "racist". Noting that he's a liability on the bases and in the field isn't "racist," and recognizing that blunders and all, Nixon is a better baserunner and fielder isn't "racist."

Defend Manny on his strenghths, which are considerable, but pretending he isn't one of the A-1 space cadets in recent major league history requires wilful ignorance or denial.

And I'll stick to arrogance as an apt description of efforts to attack critics making a legitimate point by accusing them of moral deficits.

The Boston press is brutal on the flaws of all its baseball team's players, white and black. Until the early 70s, there was a strain of racism in the criticsm of black Sox stars like George Scott (Called "Chicken George" by some writers) and Reggie Smith, who was covered as if he was some kind of a Black Panther. Once Louis Tiant hit town, that changed rapidly. Today the Boston media is still awfully tough, but race has nothing to do with it.

redsock said...

Once Louis Tiant hit town, that changed rapidly.

You might want to ask Jim Rice and Ellis Burks about that.

L-girl said...

And spare me the "studies" I-girl. That has nothing to do with THIS criticism of THIS outfielder. He averages about one meat-headed moment per game (enjoy his adventures in left today, did you?)

I think it has everything to do with it. I often "enjoy" Trot's misadventures in right field, but I don't see the media labeling him spacey and lazy. That's generally reserved for Latinos.

I'm not talking about Boston media. I see this in the national media, too.

I don't say Manny is a perfect player. He's obviously not! But I think his image as a fuck-up is all out of proportion to reality, while white players who have similar issues are cut slack.

These are my observations. I mentioned studies only to note that this phenomenon has been widely observed and quantified.

Jason Adams said...

"Liberals" see racism in every nuance and critique, and "conservatives" tend to pretend it doesn't exist. You dispute this?

I don't dispute this at all. In fact, that's one of the reasons why I'm a liberal: I don't kid myself into thinking that racism is dead in this country.

But you make it sound like liberals are out of their minds with your "knee-jerk liberal paranoia and arrogance" comment.

Let's face it, Manny is a flake on the field but so is Trot and yet the media only give Manny a hard time.

Your assumption that Trot is better in the field and on the basepaths is WAY off base (pun intended). That's the point of this whole discussion.

Their career fielding percentages are nearly identical but Manny throws out more batters than Trot per game and yet you somehow think he's worse in the field.

Not only that, how many times does Manny's bat more than make up for his fielding/baserunning compared to Trot's? Tonight's game is a case in point. Sure, Manny looked stupid on one play, but he hit a two-run jimmy-jack to the opposite field off a guy who throws 85 mph tops. He's the anchor of the offense and gets paid to rake, not to win gold gloves.

You say: Today the Boston media is still awfully tough, but race has nothing to do with it.

I might start to believe your argument when John Tomase writes a cover story for Boston Baseball about all of Trot's f*ck ups.

L-girl said...

I don't kid myself into thinking that racism is dead in this country.

Exactly. I find when I speak to conservatives, they are willing to acknowledge past racism or sexism, but seem to need to believe that inequality is all in the past.

I always wonder where they draw the line of demarcation between the US's racist past and the gloriously egalitarian present. I suspect it's a moving target. Noting Luis Tiant is the perfect example. Ellis Burks say hi.

Again, I don't think this is peculiar to Boston. Nor is it unique to baseball. Baseball is only (as always) a reflection of society.

Jack Marshall said...

Well, those posts prove it: you guys are deluded, or you don't watch much baseball. 1) Ellis Burks was criticized his first time around because he never reached his obvious potential and kept getting injured. Fred Lynn got the same rap. There was only racism in it for people (like you) who were looking for it. 2) Jim Rice was criticized as a surly SOB because he was a surly SOB. Ask any Boston writer. Ask any baseball writer. Or are they all "racist?" 3) Have you ever watched Manny play RIGHT FIELD? Have you ever seen Trot run out into the field with a plastic water bottle in his pants? Do you really think there is ONE scout, coach or manager in all of baseball who thinks that Manny is as good an outfielder as Trot Nixon, much less a BETTER one, as you are saying? Have you ever lOOKED at left in Fenway? Do you think it's the innate skill of the Sox left-fielders that they are almost always high up in the outfield assist categories? Did it ever occur to you that it has something to do with the short throws to third and second? Trot has played a serviceable center in the past...would you dare try that with Manny? Really?
Hace you ever, ever, seen Nixon go through a clown act like Manny on that fly yesterday? FIELDING PERCENTAGE??? Manny's missed fly testerday didn't affect his fielding percentage at all. Your pal Ken Harrelson led the majors in 1968 with his 1.000 fielding percentage in right for the Sox BECAUSE HE DIDN'T CATCH ANYTHING. Check the Stats range factor figures on Manny compared to other left fielders and then tell me what a good fielder he is. Then again, maybe the Stats people, and that Klansman Bill James, are racists too.

Is Joe Castigione being racist when he says, as he did this week about Manny, "sometimes all you can do is scratch your head?" Or was that just "insensitive"?

Nixon's far from a perfect player, and I wouldn't trade Manny for three of him. But the attention Manny gets for his eccentric behavior is his own doing, NOT society's, NOT John Tomase's ,and NOT Trot Nixon's.

But I will say this: Manny is lucky to have such loyal fans that they'll make the arguments you are making. If a sportswriter made them, he'd end up working for Weekly Reader.

L-girl said...

If a sportswriter made them, he'd end up working for Weekly Reader.

Funny you should say that. I actually write for Weekly Reader. I'm proud to say that their many fine publications do not engage in racist stereotyping. However, most of the sportswriters in the country couldn't meet their writing standards.

Once again, you have utterly missed the point. Which just further proves the point Allan, Jason and I have been making.

By the way, none of is are deluded. We simply see things differently than you. And I'm guessing we all watch baseball just about every day from April to October.

redsock said...

Again with the water bottle.

It reminds me of Yankee fans who cannot -- CANNOT -- stop talking about Varitek not taking his mask off before feeding Slappy a leather sandwich.


I have no idea if any of the Boston or national baseball media are racists.

I have emailed with a few of them, met one of them personally -- and I'd fall over in shock -- literally -- if I discovered he was a serious racist. (We all have racist or bigoted thoughts from time to time, by the way, myself included. The smart ones among us are aware of that and try hard to have as few of them as possible.)

Castig is merely repeating an existing attitude. "Manny is a flake" -- and "Manny will always be a flake" -- no matter what he does in the future. ... He has been fitted for that straightjacket by the media and he'll wear it forever.

Ramirez's incidents are blown out of proportion. Many players do stupid things on the field. They are human. Many Sox act like morons on the bases or hack at the first pitch after two four-pitch walks. But we hear about Manny more than most Why? Because "Manny is a flake."

Nixon's grimy cap and excessive pine tar is as much as affectation as a water bottle. And honestly, I don't care if Nixon has a water bottle in his pocket, a rolled-up copy of Newsweek or one of his wife's bras.

Just play well and play smart.

Jack Marshall said...

Even I can't find fault with that last statement.

And I apologize for casting aspersions on the Weekly Reader, which I subscribed to, summer and all, for many years.

And redsock is right: I can't get over the water bottle in the hip pocket. It has what Bill James calls "signature significance"...a one- time event that still tells you something important about a player. You can't imagine Willy Mays, Amos Otis, Orel Hershhiser, Jason Veritek, and any number of other impeccable pros doing such a thing. They wouldn't and couldn't, even once. The fact that a player could so it...even once...shows that he is on a different plane of consciousness from those types of players, the pros with their heads in the game...ditto Steve Lyons (a TRUE idiot) pulling his pants down at first base, or Jimmy Piersall running the bases backwards. You can disagree, and I'll defend to the death your right to be wrong, but a guy who can do that kind of thing, even once, is NOT the victim of media exaggeration.

He's a flake.

And I promise to shut up about this from now on. "Talk amongst yourselves."

L-girl said...

And I apologize for casting aspersions on the Weekly Reader, which I subscribed to, summer and all, for many years.

I thank you. :) Somehow people always use children's publications to represent supposed bad writing. You can't imagine how challenging it is to write for those little buggers.

ditto Steve Lyons (a TRUE idiot) pulling his pants down at first base

That was priceless. I'll never forget it.

Have a good day.

Anonymous said...

The notion that fans don't pay Manny's salary (as espoused here) is a joke. It (salary) shows up in the exhorbitant ticket prices that fans pay for uncomfortable seats in a cramped little ballpark. We're talking about the highest prices in baseball.
Ramirez may be a great hitter. He's also a first class turd.

redsock said...

I do not believe that if players' salaries went down, ticket prices (and beer and hot dog prices) would also fall. Do you?

Those prices are at the upper most limit of what the market (fans inside Fenway) will bear.

If beer sales drop 50% or the Sox start drawing only 10,000 per game, then prices will go down. Even if players' salaries stay at their current level.

For what it's worth: I'm 5-11 and I've been way more cramped in seats at other parks (Milwaukee, Yankee Stadium) than I have been at Fenway.

Also: Bruce Allen reports that John Tomase recently said on WEEI that his article on Ramirez was "needlessly over the top".