There was once a time when Manny Ramirez was one of the best—if not the best—hitters in all of baseball. It was a while ago now, but for a few years there were only a handful of people as good or better at hitting baseballs than Manny. A common complaint lobbed at baseball is that it’s too slow and boring; but with Manny Ramirez, nothing was ever boring. Say what you want about his faults—and he had many—but there was no one like him.
It was just Manny being Manny, and it was magic. If you were watching a Red Sox game in the mid-2000s, you made sure you were in your seat or in front of your TV for his at-bats. There were no bathroom breaks or sandwiches being made when Manny was coming up, because you never knew what he was going to do next. He was captivating and brilliant; yet frustrating at the same time, because you would watch him do 20 amazing things in a row and then the next inning he would make the strangest mistake. And you would just think to yourself, “man, how can such a great player make that dumb of a mistake.” Manny was a hit-machine, clutch like no other, but also difficult to deal with.
And nothing can last forever, even Manny Ramirez. After a while Manny being Manny wasn’t entertaining and enjoyable to the people in the Red Sox dugout. The gaffes were harder to overlook, the jerky moves couldn’t be forgotten about, and all of a sudden they had had enough of Manny being Manny. It was time for him to go. And so he went, first to Los Angeles and then to Chicago and then to Tampa Bay—a final stop that lasted just five games in 2011 and something I had zero recollection of. Just like that he was gone from Major League Baseball.
Since then he’s had stints in Taiwan, the Dominican Republic and the minor leagues with affiliates of the Oakland A’s and Texas Rangers. But nothing has ever stuck—sometimes because he wanted to be closer to his family, and sometimes because he just wasn’t good enough at hitting baseballs anymore. The latter was the case last year, when Manny was released from the Rangers’ AAA team, the Round Rock Express. It seemed like that was the last we would hear of Manny. Guys over 40 years old aren’t improving their bat speed. Once that’s gone, it’s gone for good. And so was Manny—or so we all thought.
He was gone, but it turns out only for about a year. A week ago the Chicago Cubs announced out of nowhere that Manny was going to be joining their AAA affiliate, the Iowa Cubs, as a player-coach of all things.
And according to Manny, he’s not just returning to baseball; he’s returning to baseball as a new man. That’s what he told reporters the other day.
“To be honest, I’ve been in church now for almost four years, me and my wife. Now, I realize that I behaved bad in Boston. The fans, they were great. I also played great when I was over here. I really realize that I behaved bad. I apologize for that, but I’m a new man. That’s what Jesus said, and that’s what I believe.”
His days of making All-Star games and winning batting titles long over, it would appear Manny has found a new calling: serving God and trying to help younger players find their way in the stressful world of minor league baseball.
“That’s a blessing from God. “I can go over there and give those kids my testimony, what to do in the field and what not to do off the field. It’s going to be a blast. We’re going to go out and have fun out there.”
Despite all of his antics, baseball has always been a better place with Manny Ramirez around. And now he’s back—even if it is in Iowa and without the hope of returning to a major league roster—without any of the shenanigans. Manny being Manny was always a thrilling, memorable, and enjoyable experience for the fans. Hopefully this time around it will be for the people he’s working with as well.