August 23, 2006

The Manny Circus

Terry Francona was asked whether Manny Ramirez had to be talked into playing on Saturday -- and the media's description of his response was consistent: he "tap-danced around the question"; "Francona insisted (after much verbal tap-dancing)" that the report wasn't true; "Francona bobbed and weaved like Sugar Ray Leonard".

Why won't the media tell us more of what they know? What are they afraid of? That Manny won't talk to them anymore? (Pissing off the team sources can't be that much of a factor, considering the other things they write.)

This story -- and the team's overall dismal play -- is a dream come true for guys like Dan Shaughnessy. This morning, the CHB is in heaven:
It's always a story when Manny takes a day or two to rest his hammy. During Rami­rez's spectacular six-year stint with the Red Sox, he annually misses a few games with a sore hamstring. It works every time, because when it comes to tweaked hamstrings, only the patient truly knows how he's feeling. It's the athlete's equivalent of the fourth grade boy who won't go to school because he has a headache. There are no grounds for a challenge even if you have suspicions.
It's always a story because you make it a story. Many Red Sox players take a day off -- they are usually the more eumelanin-challenged guys -- and no one says a peep.

Name-calling shitstirrers like Dan give fans the impression that Manny begs out of games right and left every season. But like so much of the crap that gets tossed about by the media, it is not true (and easily verified as a lie).

Games Played by Manny:

2005 - 152 of 162 games - Only Ortiz (158) and Renteria (153) played more
2004 - 152 of 162 games - Led team in games played
2003 - 154 of 162 games - Only Nomar (156) played more
2002 - 120 of 162 games - Missed 39 games due to broken finger*
2001 - 142 of 162 games - Only Nixon (148) played more

* - If Manny had not broken his finger and played in 36 of those 39 games, he would have finished at 156, tied for the team lead with Nomar and Hillenbrand.

No matter how many sentences get written claiming the opposite, it is anindisputablee fact: During his Red Sox career, Manny Ramirez has played more games per season than almost any other teammate.

More Dan:
Manny hasn't had much to say this year, but this seemed like a time to give it a shot, so I strolled over to him as he inspected a crate of bats, and I asked him if he'd answer a few questions.

He said nothing. In fact, for a moment I thought I'd willed myself invisible like Wade Boggs. I felt a little like Patrick Swayze standing over Demi Moore in "Ghost." I hadn't experienced this kind of abject diss since trying to talk to Albert Belle back in the 1990s. After a few seconds, during which Manny continued to inspect the lumber and ignore me, he turned, smiled slightly, put his hand on my right shoulder and walked away.
Ha! The only way Manny could have said "F U" any better would have been to ruffle Bozo's curly hair rather than pat him on the shoulder.

What's funny is that Manny apparently was chatting quite freely with the Angels broadcasters before last night's game. Yet he avoids the Boston media like the plague. Isn't that odd.

Dan winds things up by dismissing those people who disagree with his assessment of Manny as "fanboys and sycophants" and writes:
Meanwhile, we wait until Manny is ready. And, as always, we wonder if he cares.
I was going to post some of Manny's fantastic numbers from this season -- he should be getting as much MVP talk as Ortiz, probably more -- but it's not worth it.

I'm asking any Boston sportswriters who might be reading:
Why don't you mention every player who merely jogs to first on a ground ball (it happens several times every night)? Or screws up on the bases? Or makes stupid plays in the field? Why does Manny get singled out? Is it because he doesn't talk to you? Is it because he agreed to play for a lot of money? Why?
The various patterns of who gets criticized (and for how long) and how those players are described in print leads me to believe it's race-related, not a shocking conclusion in Boston, and I've yet to hear an explanation that makes more sense.


Patrick said...

If race explains it, then why is Big Papi the the most popular player on the Red Sox and fawned on by the press?

I think the reason is the $20 million a year contract. A player making that kind of money is held to a ridicuously high standard. It's the same reason why A-Rod is treated so harshly in NY. I still think the treatment of Manny is unfair, because he has actually managed to live up to the contract.

Beth said...

i think an excellent treatise on the whole manny phenomenon by BSMW earlier this year hit the nail on the head as to why:

1) He won’t talk to them.
How many times do we need to read in a writer’s story that Manny refused to talk to them? Almost every day, some writer has a mention of it somewhere. Manny doesn’t fill up their notebooks with material, so he instead becomes an object of derision. This also ties in with point number two.
2) They know he won’t confront them
The same writers realize that they can write or say almost anything about Manny because he’s not going to confront them in the clubhouse. They’re free to generate “good copy” by ripping him to their heart’s content without fear of retribution.
3) It’s easier and better copy to write about his goofiness then to acknowledge his accomplishments.
It probably also sells more papers. It generates more outrage and talk and phone calls. They can be viewed as “edgy” and controversial. It might even lead to career advancement if they do a good enough rip job and get noticed by others.
4) For sports radio, it’s an easy “hot button” topic.
Again, a no-brainer. The hosts can throw around terms like “lazy” and “doesn’t care” and “disrespecting the fans and the game” and just wait for the phone lines to light up. They don’t have to do any further work or show prep, they can just feed off the fury for up to two weeks per incident.
5) His huge contract
Manny’s huge contract also makes him an easy target. “He’s making $20 million a season; he’d better hustle every single time down the first base line!”
6) The Red Sox attempts to trade him (and waive him in 2003).
For the most part, the Red Sox haven’t really helped take any of this off of their superstar. When they placed him on waivers following the 2003 season and then very publicly tried to trade him in a package for Alex Rodriguez that offseason, many in the media felt validation of their attacks on Ramirez. The reasoning was, the Red Sox don’t want him, he must really be a disruption and distraction to the rest of the team. The team has gotten better in this regard, with Terry Francona working very hard over the last year or so to defend Manny.
7) It feeds their inflated sense of self importance.
For some reason, a number of the media in Boston feel that they are guardians of the legacy of the game of baseball. They feel they must speak out on anything that could possibly tarnish the reputation of the game, and because of Manny’s many alleged “crimes against baseball” they must repeatedly point out these scandals. Of course, when steroids were being used by Jose Canseco in the Red Sox clubhouse, were these self-appointed guardians speaking out? I don’t remember it, if they were. Instead they were becoming buddies with Canseco, to the point that even now at least one Boston media member is considered a pretty close personal friend of Canseco, and exploits that friendship for interviews and ratings.

allan said...

Thanks for linking to that, Beth. It is excellent.

If race explains it, then why is Big Papi the the most popular player on the Red Sox and fawned on by the press?

It's not an either/or matter. Not all black players are vilified and not all white players get a pass. However, if you step back and look at the patterns, you will see that most of the players who are held to a higher standard -- under a stronger microscope -- are dark-skinned. And there are subtle racist code words are used.

Manny being referred to as stupid ("funny" quips like not even knowing what team he's playing against) and a manchild -- you'd never hear that about a white player.

Often announcers will describe a white guy as hard working while the black player has natural talent. ... During the WBC, someone at ESPN (I blogged about it at the time; Morgan?) described the Japan players as cool and calculating and the Cubans as fiery and emotional. !!!!!!!

Other times, it's more overt. Pedro got a ton of shit for what I believe was absolutely nothing. All he did was be the best pitcher in the history of baseball -- but, amazingly, that wasn't good enough for some people.

For awhile, I kept track (as much as I could during broadcasts) of when players would jog to first on grounders. Nearly every Red Sox player did it. But you only heard about it when Manny did it.

P.S. on Ortiz: Supposedly, when the Red Sox first signed Ortiz, Shaughnessy referred to him as a "piece of shit".

I do not have a source for that, however. (Perhaps it was on TV and not in print.) Can anyone help me out (or correct me)?

laura k said...

If race explains it, then why is Big Papi the the most popular player on the Red Sox and fawned on by the press?

Because he plays nice.

Typically, the sports media likes its dark-skinned athletes either bland, serious and compliant (Bernie Williams, Arthur Ashe) or happy-go-lucky (Ortiz, Ozzie Smith, Willie Mays). (I'm just using a couple of examples that come to mind - given time, I could make a long list.)

Once a dark-skinned player is labeled "surly", that's the kiss of death. Nothing they do or say will be seen any other way. The best current example of this, of course, is Barry Bonds, but there are many examples. Eddie Murray comes to mind as another.

White players with similar attitudes are described as moody, focused, gritty: Jeff Kent, Mike Mussina, for example.

I think all the reasons Beth points out are valid, but I don't think you can discount ethnic background as a factor. Especially since Manny is often accused of being selfish and lazy. Those buzzwords are often attached to Latin players - just as the expressions "natural athletic ability" and "hard-working and gritty" are used to contrast black and white players, respectively.

A JoS reader recently noted that he didn't think Manny would have half the trouble he has if his last name was Smith. I agree.

laura k said...

Redsock and I must have been typing at the same time. I didn't mean to repeat what he just said.

Jim said...

I think if Manny's last name were 'O'Reilly' and he had come up through the Sox farm system, the Boston media would annoint him as the second coming.

RichBrlsnFan said...

I don't know if I sign onto this being a race problem in the traditional sense but I do think there is a language issue. People who talk "funny" are often laughed at dismissively, even if it's just a southern drawl in Pittsburgh or a Brooklyn accent in Biloxi. But especially with a non-native English speaker, I think you see a lot of patronizing ridicule.

9casey said...

It has become commonplace for the media do kill all the heroes past and and present...

Sadly enough it seems to sell newspapers....

And ESPN is full of talking heads
telling us how people should fail.

Your blog , even though you trying to defend, is full of the Boston Media Bullshit..

There are two things I Do to keep baseball pure for me.......

1. I don't bet on it.
2. I never read the Red Sox columns after a loss....

You think Oprhan Annis and Bob " the stutterer" Ryan weren't rooting for a collapse in the 2004 world sreies. The only one I can say I will listen too or read is Gammons, because I know for a fact he wept like a little girl when the sox won in '04

allan said...

Gammons has his agendas, also.

During the Duquette era, he absolutely hated the Red Sox and ripped the organization any chance he got, even throwing in insults in stories that had nothing to do with the Sox.

On top of that, he started loving Steinbrenner (who he had been previously calling Phineus T. Bluster) and the Yankees.

Once the Duke was gone, Gammons changed his tune, and the insults disappeared.

Jere said...

Seriously. Growing up outside the Boston market, I only knew him from ESPN, and as a teenager, I would do my "impression" of Gammons: "The Red Sox...will lose." He's the one that led me to discover how negative the Boston media was.