So I was thinking about this the other day. As far as steroid users go there’s all this support for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to get into the Hall of Fame. There’s a couple of arguments for them. They would’ve been Hall of Famers without the steroids and they’re the best of their era. They probably won’t get voted in this year, but they are steadily making progress towards election and at this point it’s only a matter of if, not when with them.
However, another superstar from the same time (who based on his stats alone should be a no-brainer) isn’t getting that type of support. His name is Manuel Aristides Ramirez Onelcida and he's one of the best right-handed hitters ever.
So, the first comment you’re going to hit me with is that he got caught using PEDs…twice. True, but there was no testing when Bonds and Clemens were “using”. We pretty much know they used. So why does Manny get punished for this and not those two? Let’s take a closer look at what he accomplished in 19 (ish) big league seasons.
In his senior year of high school Manny hit .650 with 14 homers in 22 games. So yeah, he was pretty good even at a young age. This made him a first round pick by the Cleveland Indians in 1991 and he got to the big leagues just two years later.
Incredibly, the birth of "Manny being Manny" occurred on his very first major league hit, when he doubled but thought he homered. Remarkably, this probably doesn’t even crack the top 10 of ridiculous Manny moments from his career. His Cleveland days get overlooked, since he's more known for playing in Boston. However, young Manny was still dominant. The outfielder really came into his own at age 26 in 1998. Over the next three seasons (his last three with the Tribe) Manny finished 6th, 3rd, and 6th in the MVP voting. He led the league in slugging twice, OPS twice, OPS+ once, and RBIs once (when he drove in 165 in 1999!!!!)
Prior to 2001, as a free agent, Manny signed an eight-year contract worth $160 million. In baseball today we see tons of huge contracts like this get handed out. The overwhelming majority of these are busts, particularly when it comes to the later years. However, Manny is a shining example of arguably the best long term contract ever given. For years he not only produced, but along with David Ortiz absolutely carried the Red Sox offense, which would consistently rank among the tops in baseball. Between 2002 and 2006 Ramirez won a batting title, led the AL in homers, led in OBP three times, slugging once, and OPS once. He was a monster.
Boston is also the place where he became a mythical figure. Partly for being one of the 2004 self proclaimed “idiots” that broke the Curse of the Bambino. And partly for the insane off-field (and on field!) antics, such as cutting of Johnny Damon's throw, high fiving a fan while making a running catch in Baltimore, and pissing in the Green Monster during a pitching change. Unfortunately it ended badly with the Sox. After years of rumors that he wanted out, Manny got into a physical altercation with the team's traveling secretary over something stupid. Boston finally traded him at the 2008 deadline.
Manny then took his legendary status to a new level upon arriving to the Los Angeles Dodgers. It ended poorly in Boston, which is a shame because of how much he still means to the history of that franchise, but through the first 2/3 of 2008 he wasn’t even himself production wise. That changed in a hurry. A motivated, pissed off Ramirez hit an unholy .396/.489/.743 (WHAT THE FUCK) with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in 53 games for LA. He had such an impact in those 53 games that Ramirez finished 4th in the NL MVP voting that season!! Any goodwill for "Mannywood" was quickly wiped away, though. The following year he was suspended 50 games by MLB for testing positive for a women's fertility drug. This opened the door for skeptics to doubt the entirety of his production throughout his career.
Just as it ended badly for Manny in Boston it ended badly for him in baseball. In 2011 he signed a 1-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. The dude loves the game and basically just wanted to keep playing. Or maybe not. After 6 games he was 1-for-17, got busted AGAIN for PEDs, and retired instead of serving his 100 game suspension. Basically just said fuck it. He tried to come back in 2013 and played in the minors for the Oakland A’s, but never made it back to the show. The last big league at bat Manny Ramirez ever took was in a Tampa Bay Ray uniform. How strange.
THE HOF CASE
It's nuts to think that Manny was an absolute savant at the game of baseball, but that he was a complete dumbass everywhere else in the world. He is legitimately one of the (two?) best right-handed bats of a generation. Albert Pujols being the other. Ramirez did what you want your middle of the order bat to do - he hit homers (555, 15th all time) and drove in runs (1831, 19th all time). His .996 OPS is eighth all time. His 69.2 career bWAR ranks 106th all time.
Manny wasn't just a masher though. He hit for average and got on base too. For his career Manny slashed a beautiful .312/.411/.585. He wasn't a great defender but he led the league in outfield assists twice. It's weird he never won an MVP award but he played all his prime years with fellow stars such as Jim Thome, Nomar Garciaparra, and David Ortiz, which always made it tough to separate himself. He made up for it by becoming a 12-time all-star and winning nine silver sluggers.
Manny has a few speed bumps to get past in his journey to Cooperstown. The positive PED tests only occurred at the end of his career, but testing wasn't implemented until 2004. It's conceivable to think he was using before then. To some (like myself), steroids were just part of an era just as greenies were. Some others will never vote for "cheaters", however. Then there's the bad attitude Ramirez had at times throughout his career (and the ugly altercation with the traveling secretary). I still think Manny will get in eventually once voters care less about PEDs, but it's going to take a while. Manny received just 23.8% of the ballot last year, well short of the 75% needed for induction. His time should eventually come though. It's a unique case, just as Manny's entire career was.