October 9, 2008

The Origins Of "Manny Forgot Which Knee Hurt"

Tim McCarver is still bothered by how Manny Ramirez acted during what ended up being his final weeks in a Red Sox uniform:
I mean, talk about wearing out your welcome in a town, and it was a long welcome with the Red Sox. But some of the things he did were simply despicable, despicable — like not playing, refusing to play. Forgetting what knee to limp on.
Ol' Second Inning*'s rant is probably best read in the voice of Daffy Duck.

But what of the specific claim that Manny forgot which knee was bothering him? It might be worthy of a chuckle if it did not come after more than 10 years of insults and unwarranted nastiness from both the Boston and national media.

Yesterday I tried to find out where it had originated from.

It turns out that McCarver was repeating that exact same story more than two years ago!

On July 10, 2006, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospects wrote that Ramirez had been
taking a disproportionate amount of heat for missing the [All-Star Game], even getting openly questioned on yesterday's Fox telecast. Tim McCarver said the worst thing about his knee injury was "remembering which leg to limp with."
(Carroll also reported Manny was "suffering from a small tear in the medial meniscus of his right knee", although the Red Sox denied that report a few days later.)

McCarver's comments were made on Saturday, July 8, 2006 -- during Fox's broadcast of the Red Sox's 9-6 win over the White Sox. That was two days before Bill Mahoney, who runs the parody site "Call Of The Green Monster" posted:
Media Confused About Which Knee Manny Injured

As he walked around the clubhouse before yesterday's game against the Chicago White Sox, Manny Ramirez had a big ice pack wrapped around his right knee. However, astute reporters noted that Ramirez, as he limped around, was actually favoring his left knee. "Hey Manny," a reporter asked, "which knee is the sore one?" Ramirez froze for a moment. "It's my ... uh," he looked down, and noted the ice pack, "my right knee, man. Can't you see that?" Then why was he limping on his left knee? Ramirez, now favoring his right knee, walked haughtily out of the clubhouse. "This is why I never want to talk to you guys, man. Can't a guy just have a sore knee without all these questions about which knee it is?"
I'm assuming that Mahoney heard McCarver's comment and used it as a springboard for his Onionesque post.

I should also note that more than a month later, on August 17, 2006, Boston sportswriters were confused about which of Alex Gonzalez's knees was bothering him. The Globe added that Terry Francona was "uncertain which knee is hurting the shortstop".

The first 2008 sighting of Manny's "which knee" story appears to be Gordon Edes's game story in the July 26 Globe of the Yankees' 1-0 win over the Red Sox:
He'd been sent to Massachusetts General Hospital during the game to have an MRI of both knees, the Sox evidently taking no chances that their slugger might have gotten confused about which one hurt.
Two days later, on July 28, Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wrote:
Convinced he was lying about his right knee, they sent him for an MRI on both knees (in case Manny suddenly tried to claim it was the left knee).
That same day, Bill Chuck wrote the following in his Billy-Ball online newsletter:
...[A]fter Manny's late scratch from the line-up, the Sox called Manny's bluff. They sent him to Mass General for not just an MRI on the knee he claimed was hurting, but on both knees just in case he forgot which one was bothering him ...
This was quickly picked up by MSNBC's Mike "Hat Guy" Celizic:
On Friday, Manny decided his knee was sore, and he couldn't play in what would be a loss to the Yankees. On Saturday, the team ordered him to get MRI's on both knees. That, quipped Bill Chuck, the author of the Billy-Ball newsletter, was just in case Manny forgot which knee was sore.
It's clear from Edes's "evidently", CHB's relegation of the remark to a parenthetical, and Celizec's labeling Chuck's comment a "quip" that there was no real source for this "story" -- it was simply a media guffaw/snide remark.

However, Peter Gammons repeated the story as fact three days later, in his July 31 ESPN column:
Ramirez tried to sit, citing his knee. ... If Ramirez hadn't forgotten which knee was bothering him, he would have been more convincing, but he got mixed up.
Gammons offered no source for his statement and because the entire column is nothing more than a bitter rant against Ramirez, I cannot accept it as fact.

In the aftermath of Ramirez's trade to Los Angeles, the tidbit gained traction (though it was never sourced, not even to the popular "anonymous source with knowledge of the situation"):

Jon Heyman, Sports Illustrated, August 4, 2008:
One landmark moment came when Ramirez complained of knee pain but couldn't recall which knee was hurting him. Red Sox doctors had to take the unusual step of evaluating both the right and left knee in an MRI exam.
Tim Brown, Yahoo! Sports, August 8, 2008:
Last [the Red Sox] saw of Manny, he was stumping for a trade. He was crab-walking to first base. ... He was trying to remember which knee hurt.
Tyler Kepner New York Times, October 5, 2008:
In the litany of Manny Ramirez controversies, it was not as egregious as reportedly forgetting which knee hurt when he visited a doctor this July. ...
At least Kepner hedged his bets and said Manny "reportedly" forgot which of his knees hurt. ... (It was also mentioned as a joke at The Spoof on August 19, 2008.)

Art Martone, the sports editor of the Providence Journal, told me the story
sounds awfully familiar, but I couldn't find it anywhere in our archives. It may be an urban legend that's been repeated so often it's accepted as fact.
I also sent emails to two Boston writers who have been reporting on the team since 2006, asking for any possible clarification of this story/rumor, but have not received any replies.

Based on what I have found so far -- the questionable accuracy of things said by Tim McCarver, the recurrence of McCarver's 2006 remark at the 2008 trade deadline, the frequent use of the remark as an apparent joke both by sportswriters and comedians -- I believe this story is a myth.

If I learn anything else, I'll post an update.

____________________________________
(*: "I used to call [Tim McCarver] 'Old Second Inning' due to his habit of having to take a dump in the john between the first and second inning of every game. He had the most reliable body clock in the world; we used to set our watches by him." Bill Lee, The Wrong Stuff, page 132)

29 comments:

L-girl said...

Great work!! Thank you for this.

tim said...

Good post! Shows how much of a fucking joke this (and McCarver) is. Ol Second Inning - I'll have to remember that.

Oh the topic of keen beat reporting by the Boston media, the Globe busts out some top-notch meaningful stuff right here...

Jere said...

I hope a lot of people read this.

tim said...

To continue the discussion from the last post, I too am enjoying these off-days. Got a bunch of things accomplished, and ready to go for Friday!

Just that I got this f'n wedding to go to Fri nite, so I'm gonna have to figure out what I'm going to do about game 1. Probably end up taping it and going in "ignore mode" until I get home from wedding and can watch it.

mugro said...

I am surprised that McMoron can even remember his own name, nevermind stories about Manny from several years ago.

Dr. Jeff said...

Everyone is lazy, but sportswriters are the laziest.

This happens in academia too, it's called "Propagation by textbook" when something false or misleading gets into one book, and then others repeat it in later editions.

Does this qualify as a meme?

tim said...

I would love love love to have McCarver's email address, to email him a link to this post. See what that smug son of a bitch says tonight. I hope Manny fouls a few into his face.

nixon33 said...

awesome post.
i cant believe this is still a story.

Woti-woti said...

Great post! I just don't understand why the writers who cover the Red Sox don't use their jealously guarded "access" to do research on these issues. They seem to think that organizing a few stats that anyone can find passes as "analysis". Most fans want to get to the bottom of controversial issues, not just hear biased half-truths flung back and forth. It's a sad day when the motive to "keep the story going" is stronger than finding out the facts. It's a sadder day when morons like McCarver get a forum to keep the bullshit flying.

Mike said...

As always, an amazing post. Nice work.

nixon33 said...

kay just said something i never thought of, nor have i heard anyone else say it.
if the dodgers end up facing the sox in the WS, manny gets a ring either way, and a share of $ for world series pay reward.
kinda funny if yr manny.

A Conformer said...

Oh the topic of keen beat reporting by the Boston media, the Globe busts out some top-notch meaningful stuff right here...

Tim, that is hilarious. You have to wonder if they're trying to take the idea of a "computer simulation"-type thing like PECOTA, and making it into something not quite stat-geeky. And it's also a commercial, so it's got it all- commercial, shallow, populistic. The only problem? Absolutely useless. Meaningless. Ridiculous.

That's why my Globe tab on Firefox is my least used one.

Jere said...

Heard McCarver on Mike [without] the Mad Dog today. Tim said, "oh I'd say the Rays have to be favored in the ALCS." Many in Vegas (or I guess you have to say "offshore" now) would disagree.

Cyn said...

Manny admitted to dogging it during his last days in Boston:

//"I love to hit, to compete and would never do that; that's just people looking for stuff," he says, while admitting he now runs everything out in L.A., "and I don't even have to think about it."

That suggests he wasn't running everything out in Boston, and while he tries to explain, he's interrupted. There's no explanation for such behavior after signing a contract and being paid $20 million a year to give his all.

"You're right," he says. "You're right."//

McCarver is certainly an asshat. Doesn't make what Manny did right.

http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-simers28-2008sep28,0,948603,full.column

Bartman said...

I'm not a fan of McCarver, but he was a good one-liner. One game while I was seated near the Sox on deck circle McCarver struck out and was booed by a nearby season ticket holder. As he ducked back into the dugout, McCarver answered the heckler with reference to the poor fellow's wife, the exact details of which now escape me after some 30-odd years, but it was a classic put down.

9casey said...

Nice background work.....But I still love to know what went wrong from him stating he wanted to play out the rest of his career in Boston, to hiring Boras, and then finally making life uncomfortable for his teamates...........Something happened I hope it wasn't based on money and actually based on a true problem he had with the media or whomever......Someday we will know the truth , but it can't come from mainstream media it has to come from someone in that clubhouse....

tim said...

Posted a link to this on the comments of that Video Game Simulation thing posted by the globe, as well as ripped them for having another great meaningful story.

They censored me.

FenFan said...

Great post - a top ten! It amazes me (or maybe it doesn't) that the Boston media wants to continue dragging Manny's name through the mud more than two months after he last wore a Boston uniform.

The sad truth is that the "knights of the keyboard" have little credibility left but, so long as they sell papers or increase viewership, it doesn't matter. Save for people like redsock and some of his fellow bloggers, no one calls these people to task and, truthfully, very few people care to know the truth.

FenFan said...

Again, l-girl, I would take the TBS broadcasters over McCarver any day (although Joe Morgan is closing in on the honor of worst color commentator today)! :-)

ish said...

What I don't like about Joe Buck is how much he sounds like he's bored doing the game. He doesn't sound like someone who likes baseball much, but just does the game. He's been FOX's head pbp guy for the last 5+ years and these days during the season he does only the biggest FOX games, and of course the playoffs.

He sounds like he's above the game. Like he's seen everything before.

ish said...

Here come the MUMS.

ish said...

And by 5+ years, I meant 12. He's been broadcasting MLB games since 1996. NFL games since '94.

ish said...

McCarver: "This double play is good. The one that clinched the division for the Phillies was fabulous."

That's world-class analyzing there.

ish said...

Lowe looks like his girlfriend just broke up with him or something, after that home run. Or she told him he knocked her up...

9casey said...

ish said...
What I don't like about Joe Buck is how much he sounds like he's bored doing the game.


He's arrogant, for no reason, and believes he's funny ..very matter of fact ...I would still love to see playoof series with one lead guy(neutral) and then the 2 color guys form the 2 teams. the problem with the dodgers ,no color guy, shit just give us Scully. But you put the 2 guys in there tell them to be bias and root for their teams, I think it would be great tv...

ish said...

I love that idea, 9C. That's really the only way you can have a balanced broadcast with the most knowledge of the teams by both sides. That would be very cool.

ish said...

Never realized just how short Ken Rosenthal was until I've seen him standing next to Pat Burrell. Pat looks like a giant next to him.

Jake of All Trades said...

I got home from dinner tonight and turned on the Dodgers/Phillies game in the bottom of the 8th. I only saw a single pitch before hearing this from McCarver:

"Ryan Howard never swings on 3 and 0, but in this situation...Oh! I beg your pardon. It's 2 and 1. That first pitch was a strike."

Not like he misjudged the most recent pitch in his haste to tell his story, but the count was originally 0 and 1 yet he still starts into his 3 and 0 factoid in the same at bat...

And on another note related to you post, did you see this article at Baseball Prospectus that does some fact checking on McCarver?

Facts About Manny Ramirez

JS said...

Great post! I never believed most of that stuff.